Tuesday, December 10, 2019

“Silent Patient” Makes Some Noise

Cyprus-born author Alex Michaelides’ first novel, The Silent Patient (Celadon), has been chosen through online voting as the winner of this year’s Goodreads Choice Award for Best Mystery and Thriller novel. Also included among the finalists were Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer (Doubleday), Alex North’s The Whisper Man (Celadon), and Adrian McKinty’s The Chain (Mulholland).

There were 20 categories of contenders in this year’s Goodreads competition. You’ll find all of the winners and their rivals here.

Michaelides’ novel was previously selected by Amazon as its own “best mystery and thriller of the year.” Amazon owns Goodreads.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Our Favorite Crime Fiction of 2019

There’s been no shortage of new books churned out this year. Over the last 12 months, in four separate seasonal reports (here, here, here, and here), we have highlighted more than 1,500 crime, mystery, and thriller works worth investigating. Some of those (even a few by prominent, best-selling authors) ultimately proved to be disappointing, and many others managed to be diverting and sufficiently satisfying without ever being memorable. However, a much smaller number of novels in this genre not only caught our attention, but held it—and we went on to recommend them to fellow readers.

Admittedly, we had neither the time nor manpower to tackle and judge every newly published title that drew our eyes. So we won’t maintain that our preferences represent the incontestable “best” of new crime, mystery, and thriller releases on offer in 2019. Yet we think they’re as valid as anyone else’s, and certainly worth sharing. So below, four regular Rap Sheet contributors present their favorite discoveries in this genre from the last twelvemonth. Each critic has briefly reviewed one novel of particular merit, and thereafter listed several additional choices they found to be outstanding. Almost all of the titles mentioned here first appeared in bookstores during 2019. And except where noted, the publishers mentioned are American.

* * *

Kevin Burton Smith is the Montreal-born founder and editor of that essential 21-year-old resource, The (New) Thrilling Detective Web Site, as well as the Web Monkey for The Private Eye Writers of America and a contributing editor of Mystery Scene. He lives in Southern California’s High Desert region, where he’s still working on a non-fiction book about married detective couples with his wife, mystery author D.L. Browne (aka Diana Killian and Josh Lanyon).

Save Me from Dangerous Men, by S.A. Lelchuk (Flatiron):

Is there anyone out there who’s actually for violence against women? If so, please leave the room. But how about violence by women?

It’s a hot-button topic these days, in some crime-fiction circles. I guess we can blame it all on Lisbeth Salander (star of the best-selling The Girl Who Tattooed “Rapist” on a Dude series), arguably the first modern-era heroine to lay a little hands-on justice on a man who just doesn’t get it. But author Stieg Larsson was a dude himself, so does that even count? Since then, though, there have been several female protagonists, all delivering their own versions of rough justice, utilizing everything from judo chops and brass knuckles to carving knives, on deserving male members of the species (and sometimes on the members of those members). A swift kick to the balls is also quite popular.

Which brings us to troubled private investigator/avenger Nikki Griffin, created by the gender-neutral (but revealed to be male) S.A. Lelchuk, cast by some as the perfect vigilante hero for the #MeToo age. Her powerful, if at times disturbing debut comes in Save Me from Dangerous Men, a ballsy mash-up of agitprop and vengeance porn; a cautionary tale (or cheap thrill read) full of sadistic, abusive men (Boo! Hiss!), with a violent, possibly unbalanced woman who often makes Ms. Salander (slyly name-checked several times) look like a pillar of mental stability (Hip-Hip-Hooray?).

“I’m not some psycho. There are people in this world who need help,” Nikki says, but her firm proclamation of sanity would go over better if it wasn’t in response to a question asked by her court-ordered therapist. Nonetheless, it’s moments like these, plus Nikki’s own self-doubts, that suggest both she and her creator may have many more depths yet to plumb.

So is this tale a socially sensitive call-to-arms, or opportunistic ca-ching? Or both? I’ve read plenty of books this year, and possibly better ones, but Save Me’s the one that really begs a sequel. And answers.

Other 2019 Favorites: Bellini and the Sphinx, by Tony Bellotto (Akashic); The Bitterest Pill, by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam); The Butterfly Girl, by Rene Denfield (Harper); Metropolis, by Philip Kerr (Putnam); A Time to Scatter Stones, by Lawrence Block (Subterranean); and Your House Will Pay, by Steph Cha, (Ecco).

* * *

Ali Karim is The Rap Sheet’s longtime British correspondent, a contributing editor of January Magazine, and the assistant editor of Shots. In addition, he writes for Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, Crimespree, and Mystery Readers International.

Cari Mora, by Thomas Harris (Grand Central):

Like his 1975 debut, Black Sunday, Harris’ sixth novel is a standalone, so does not feature his singular character, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Instead, Cari Mora offers a furtive glance into something considerably worse: the very best, and the very worst of the people and monsters that surround us. And at both extremes, they wear our skin.

We are introduced here not only to tall, hairless, and sadistic criminal Hans-Peter Schneider (an ex-medical student, who’d been “asked to leave on ethical grounds”), but also to those clients he provides with unspeakable entertainment and horrific services—namely, the mysterious Mr. Gnis of Mauritania and Mr. Imran (both of whom remain mostly off-stage, or are mentioned only in dispatches). When we do see Mr. Imran, he’s accompanied by a burly bodyguard, one who keeps his distance and wears “archery armguards” under his tailored suits. (Schneider remarks at one point that “Mr. Imran was a biter.”)

Brought into this tale, too, is Jesus Villarreal, a dying man in Colombia who knows about some $25 million in gold bars—a secret legacy of the late drug lord Pablo Escobar—concealed in a Miami Beach residence. Villarreal needs to provide for his family, so in exchange for help, he tells the story of that gold to Schneider, but also to Don Ernesto, the head of a Colombian crime syndicate. And he warns both men that those riches are locked in a solid steel safe, booby-trapped with plastic explosives.

Now enter the eponymous Caridad “Cari” Mora, a young South American woman, clinging to her life in Miami by the thread of a precarious immigration status. A former kidnapped child-soldier, she managed to survive (and escape) the clutches of a ruthless militia, but not without “scars on her arms. Truly,” writes Harris, “they are only snaky lines on her clear brown-gold skin. The scars are more exotic than disfiguring. Like cave paintings of wavy snakes. Experience decorates us.”

Apart from the gold, Hans-Peter Schneider also wishes to capture the lovely Ms. Mora, for he has designs, unspeakable desires that are detailed on a sketch pad, and have been shared with Mr. Gnis and Mr. Imran. And there hangs this tale, a cat-and-mouse game between the Colombian criminals and the creepy Schneider.

Cari Mora lends credence to the axiom that “less is more” when a narrative is in the hands of a master. Judiciously edited, this extraordinary novel puts Harris’ ability to craft truly nightmarish villains on full and frightening display.

Other 2019 Favorites: Elevator Pitch, by Linwood Barclay (Morrow); My Sister, the Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic UK); No Mercy, by Martina Cole (Headline UK); The Warehouse, by Rob Hart (Crown); and The Whisper Man, by Alex North (Celadon). Plus, from the non-fiction shelves—Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, by Barry Forshaw (Oldcastle UK).

* * *

Jim Napier is a crime-fiction critic based in Quebec, Canada. Since 2005, his reviews and interviews have appeared in several Canadian newspapers and on various crime-fiction and literary Web sites, including January Magazine and his own award-winning review site, Deadly Diversions. His debut crime novel, Legacy, was published in the spring of 2017, and the second book in that series, Ridley’s War, is scheduled for release in the spring of 2020.

Night Watch, by David C. Taylor (Severn House):

On a September morning in 1956, Detective Michael Cassidy (NightLife, Night Work) is having his share of problems. He’s suffering from nightmares dating back to the Second World War, and to make matters worse, someone is trying to kill him—but not before tormenting him first. Cassidy discusses the threat with his police partner, Tony Orso, over breakfast, but they realize they have nothing to go on: it’s just a matter of wait and see.

So Cassidy continues doing the work for which he’s paid, and it’s not long before the cauldron that is New York City spits out a new case to capture his attention. On the southern fringes of Central Park, near Columbus Circle, a corpse has been discovered in the early morning mist. It’s the body of a middle-aged man, and he has been murdered. Although at first glance it seems like a simple mugging—the victim’s wallet is missing—the autopsy reveals that he’s been stabbed in the skull, an extremely thin, sharp blade having penetrated his brain not once, but several times. On the face of it, the victim is an unlikely target, an immigrant who takes tourists around Central Park in his carriage. Not a wealthy man, then. Cassidy is handed the case … and his investigation will lead him to a complex conspiracy involving people in the highest echelons of political power, endangering his own life and the lives of those around him.

David Taylor’s writing is simply superb, deftly capturing the noir atmosphere of postwar Manhattan, and sweeping the reader through the story line until the final page. And it’s not all plot—the atmosphere is gripping, too:
Cassidy hated the night watch. The worst of people seeped out during the night. They did things they would not do in daylight, as if darkness could hide their actions: children were thrown against the wall for not finishing dinner, women were beaten for changing the channel, rapists and muggers, stick-up artists, the perverted, and the weird, they all slid out of the shadows looking for prey. Cassidy remembered the magazine photographs of zebras and antelope gathered around a waterhole at night. The flash revealed the glowing eyes of predators waiting in the bushes—New York City after midnight.
Hammett and Chandler would have been well pleased. Readers seeking a compelling, finely honed series that is rooted in history and perfectly captures the immediacy of those deceptively placid times simply cannot do better than to grab this novel.

Other 2019 Favorites: Broken Ground, by Val McDermid (Atlantic Monthly Press); One False Move, by Robert Goddard (Bantam Press UK); Run Away, by Harlan Coben (Grand Central); and The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

* * *

J. Kingston Pierce wears more hats than his head can firmly hold. He is the editor of both The Rap Sheet and Killer Covers, the senior editor of January Magazine, a contributing editor of CrimeReads, and a columnist with Down & Out: The Magazine.

Blood & Sugar, by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Mantle UK):

It’s the summer of 1781, and a young man is found hanging cruelly from a hook at Deptford Dock, on the River Thames east of London, his body displaying signs of torture and the brand of an Atlantic slave trader. Not long afterward, a widow named Amelia Bradstreet calls at the townhouse of Captain Henry Corsham, an aspiring politician and hero of Britain’s unsuccessful wars to hold onto its American colonies. She is the disgraced sister of Thaddeus “Tad” Archer, a barrister and fervent anti-slavery campaigner who was once Corsham’s closest friend. It seems Tad disappeared after traveling recently to Deptford, a town notorious for its role in the highly remunerative commerce involving African bondservants, and Amelia wants Corsham to go in search of him. She’s particularly concerned, because her sibling had told her before heading off that he’d discovered a secret capable of finally destroy the slave trade.

Not surprisingly, that Deptford lynchee was Tad, and his slaying provokes Corsham to begin searching for the killers. In order to succeed, the captain must reconstruct his old chum’s investigation into an appalling incident on board a trans-Atlantic slave ship. This leads him, further, to clash with men—wealthy, powerful, ruthless—who will do anything, conspire in any way necessary to perpetuate the selling of human flesh. Assailed by threats and alarmed by the spread of death in his wake, Corsham pursues the truth in Tad’s stead, despite it endangering his life, his family’s stability, and his prospects as a future member of Parliament; and despite fears that it will force him to reckon with a secret from his own past that he’d prefer remain concealed.

Although this is Shepherd-Robinson’s first novel, Blood & Sugar is extraordinarily sophisticated in its plot construction and most confidently written. Her portrayal of Georgian England, both its wealthy and wanton extremes, is deftly and convincingly executed (I can only imagine how many history books she must have enlisted in this endeavor!). Her characters are provided with full, sometimes surprising, dimensions. And she hesitates not for a moment to display the moral depravities of the slave trade in all their rawness. Let’s hope Shepherd-Robinson has a sequel in the works.

Other 2019 Favorites: The Darwin Affair, by Tim Mason (Algonquin); Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman (Morrow); Metropolis, by Philip Kerr (Putnam); and The Wolf and the Watchman, by Niklas Natt och Dag (Atria). Plus, from the non-fiction shelves—The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Another Nero for Mosley

New York City author Walter Mosley, best known for penning the esteemed Easy Rawlins mystery series, has won the 2019 Nero Award for Down the River unto the Sea (Mulholland), which marked the 2018 debut of another protagonist, police investigator-turned-prisoner-turned private eye Joe King Oliver. That announcement was made during the 42nd annual Black Orchid Weekend, which took place from December 6 to 8 in Manhattan.

The Nero has been presented annually, ever since 1979, by the New York-based Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin fan organization, The Wolfe Pack, to “the best American mystery written in the tradition of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe stories.” This was the second time Mosley has taken home that prize. He previously captured the 2004 Nero for Fear Itself, the second book in his Fearless Jones series.

Also over this last weekend, the Wolfe Pack presented its 2019 Black Orchid Novella Award—more familiarly known as the BONA—to author Ted Burge for his story “The Red Taxi.” That honor includes the publication of Burge’s novella in a future issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, which co-sponsors the BONA.

(Hat tip to Classic Mysteries.)

Saturday, December 07, 2019

PaperBack: “Angel Eyes”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

Angel Eyes, by “Robert Dietrich,” aka E. Howard Hunt (Dell, 1961). Not to be confused with this new novel of the same title, Hunt’s Angel Eyes was the sixth of 10 hard-boiled tales, all penned by that CIA officer and future Watergate co-conspirator, and all featuring Steve Bentley, a gun-toting accountant (and later tax attorney) in Washington, D.C. Cover art by Robert McGinnis.

No Shortage of Opinions

The “best crime and mystery fiction of 2019” lists continue to proliferate over the Web. At this link, you’ll find New York Times critic Marilyn Stasio’s 10 top picks. They were pretty predictable, though she does step off the beaten track just far enough to applaud Lisa Sandlin’s The Bird Boys and James Sallis’ Sarah Jane. And click here to look over Oline Cogdill’s choices for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among them Owen Laukkanen’s Deception Cove, Jamie Mason’s The Hidden Things, and Allen Eskens’ Nothing More Dangerous.

A couple of mystery-fiction bookshops, both of them now operating exclusively online, are expressing their opinions on these matters, too. Aunt Agatha’s Bookstore, once prominent in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has named a dozen works of merit published over the last 12 months. Among that bunch: James R. Benn’s When Hell Struck Twelve, Melanie Golding’s Little Darlings, and S.J. Rozan’s Paper Son. Meanwhile, Portland, Oregon’s Murder by the Book offers this list of noteworthy crime novels, which includes Tim Johnston’s The Current, Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky, and Blake Crouch’s Recursion.

One final set of selections comes from the British “social cataloguing” Web site Dead Good. It asked 19 different authors, all of whom are well known in this genre, to recommend novels that first appeared this year. Gillian McAllister, for instance, suggests The Turn of the Key, by Ruth Ware. Abir Mukherjee touts Joe Country, by Mick Herron. And Jane Corry nominates The Family Upstairs, by Lisa Jewell.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Gathering Evidence

• A dramatic and promising trailer for the 25th James Bond film, No Time to Die, showed up yesterday, answering some fan questions while raising new ones. This event followed the spread of new character posters promoting the movie, which will star Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux (the “Bond girl” from 2015’s Spectre), Ana de Armas, and Rami Malek. No Time to Die is scheduled to premiere in UK theaters on April 2 of next year, and should reach American screens by April 8.

I mentioned on this page last month that Max Allan Collins would soon begin work on the first new novel he’s written about professional thief Nolan since 1999, when his series prequel, Mourn the Living, first saw print. Now we have a title for the forthcoming new Hard Case Crime publication: Skim Deep. In his latest blog post, Collins also provides a cover for that paperback—complete with a very Lee Van Cleef interpretation of its protagonist—plus covers for the Hard Case re-releases of all the Nolan yarns, which are to be published in a two-per-book format with art by British artist Mark Eastbrook.

• Meanwhile, Martin Edwards reveals that his next novel, a 416-page sequel to 2018’s acclaimed Gallows Court, is due out from UK publisher Head of Zeus in April 2020. Titled Mortmain Hall, its story will be set in 1930 and again star Fleet Street journalist Jacob Flint—this time, framed for murder. The cover artist is Edward Bettinson.

• Check out this piece I wrote for my other blog, Killer Covers, about Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre’s new book, Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980 (PM Press). It comes complete with a dozen fine selections from among that volume’s more than 350 vintage cover images.

• For those people who are keeping track, it was two years ago today that then 76-year-old Texas mystery novelist and raconteur Bill Crider, who had been writing a most entertaining blog ever since 2002, posted his final entry on that page, concluding: “It saddens me to think of all the great books by many writers that I’ll never read. But I’ve had a great life, and my readers have been a big part of it. Much love to you all.” Crider died two months later of prostate cancer.

• I was saddened to hear last week that 71-year-old mystery fiction historian Willetta Heising had died at her Dearborn, Michigan, home on April 25. (Yes, I know that was a while ago, but the news has apparently been very slow in spreading.) Jiro Kimura provides this short Heising bio in his blog, The Gumshoe Site:
The former financial planner was well-known in mysterydom as the mystery list-maker of Detecting Women: A Reader’s Guide and Checklist for Mystery Series Written by Women (1995) … and Detecting Men: A Reader’s Guide and Checklist for Mystery Series Written by Men (pocket edition, 1997; large-size trade paperback edition, 1998), an Agatha winner in the non-fiction category. [The updated] Detecting Women 2 (1996), an Edgar nominee, won the 1997 Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards, while Detecting Woman 3 (1999) won an Anthony.
I can’t claim to have known Heising at all well, but we did engage in correspondence over the last decade, and I have copies of both Detecting Women and Detecting Men on my reference shelves. They were terrific resources at the time of their publication.

• In British TV news … The BBC One crime drama Shetland, which takes its inspiration from stories by Ann Cleeves and stars Douglas Henshall as Scottish Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, has been renewed for two more series. That same channel’s six-part presentation of The Trial of Christine Keeler, starring Sophie Cookson and Grantchester’s James Norton in a plot based on the infamous 1963 Profumo Affair, is set to begin broadcasting on Sunday, December 29. And we finally have a date on which Wisting, based on Norwegian author Jørn Lier Horst’s best-selling novels, will begin broadcasting: Saturday, December 28, on BBC Four. We can only hope all of these productions someday make their debuts across “the pond.”

• By the way, I recently stumbled across the only small-screen flick made from one of Jonathan Valin’s books starring Cincinnati, Ohio, private eye Harry Stoner: 1989’s Final Notice, headlined by former Buck Rogers star Gil Gerard. At least for the time being, you can watch that two-hour mystery here.

• And CrimeReads today posted a most entertaining essay about “the evolution of the femme fatale in film noir,” penned by Los Angeles writer Halley Sutton.

Monday, December 02, 2019

What You Should Have Read This Year

We have a fresh handful of works boldly purported to be the “best books of 2019.” First up are Laura Wilson’s crime and thriller nominees in The Guardian. Among her picks: Philip Kerr’s Metropolis, Attica Locke’s Heaven, My Home, Adrian McKinty’s The Chain, and Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party.

Next up are Kristopher Zgorski’s 16 choices for BOLO Books, almost all of them written by women. Included are Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, Ann Cleeves’ The Long Call, Tara Laskowski’s One Night Gone, and Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient.

Finally comes The New York Public Library’s 100 Books of the Year list. “This one is noteworthy to me,” opines Literary Hub’s Jonny Diamond, “because it reflects, shall we say, a more direct engagement with people who read books outside of professional exigencies, who are neither critics nor writers nor editors nor vampiric media types always conjuring listicles, the better [to] destroy literary culture as we know it.” Fiction and non-fiction are covered in 13 different categories. The 10 “Mystery and Suspense” choices take in Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy, Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier, Tim Johnson’s The Current, Lara Prescott’s The Secrets We Kept, and more.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving from The Rap Sheet!

Wild Turkey, by Roger L. Simon (Arrow UK, 1976; back cover here). Originally published in 1974, this was Simon’s second novel starring Los Angeles private eye Moses Wine. The character had been introduced in 1973’s The Big Fix.

Cover illustration by Michael Johnson.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

No Violence Against Women, Please

The Bookseller, a British magazine covering the publishing industry, brings word that “Samantha Harvey’s The Western Wind (Vintage) has won the £1,000 2019 Staunch Book Prize. The medieval mystery thriller follows priest John Reve as he tries to resolve the death of a wealthy villager under the suspicious eye of the regional dean.”

Also competing for that award were Liar’s Candle, by August Thomas (Simon & Schuster); Only to Sleep, by Lawrence Osborne (Vintage); Honey, by Brenda Brooks (ECW Press); and The Godmother, by Hannelore Cayre (Old Street).

In Reference to Murder reminds us that the controversial Staunch Prize, “now in its second year, is for a thriller novel in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered.” The £1,000 award was set up in 2018 by author Bridget Lawless. Last year’s winner was On the Java Ridge, by Jock Serong.

Headline Grabbers

In a follow-up to its declaration, made earlier this week, of what it believes to be “The 10 Best Books of 2019”—none of which can strictly be described as a crime novel—The New York Times has now announced its list of “100 Notable Books of 2019.”

Again, the crime, mystery, and thriller selections are frustratingly few. But at least they exist, including Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy, Stephen King’s The Institute, Hannalore Cayre’s The Godmother, Helen Phillips’ The Need, and W.M. Akers’ Westside.

Click here to see the paper’s full 2019 “notables” inventory.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Revue of Reviewers, 11-25-19

Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Click on the individual covers to read more.

How About Some Books with Your Bird?

With only days left now before Thanksgiving, check out Mystery Fanfare’s list of more than 100 associated mystery and crime novels. The choices (mostly on the cozy side) run from Deb Baker’s Murder Talks Turkey and Sammi Carter Goody Goody Gunshots to Ralph McInerny’s Celt and Pepper and Delia Rosen’s One Foot in the Gravy. With luck, you’ll find something to distract you while you’re waiting for the turkey and fixings to finally be served.

READ MORE:Killer Feast: 13 Deadly and Delicious Thanksgiving Mysteries,” by Kelsey McConnell (Murder & Mayhem).

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Recent Reading Recommendations

It’s that time of year again, when newspapers, magazines, and Web sites of all sorts start publishing their lists of the “best” crime, mystery, and thriller novels issued during the preceding 12 months. We will try to keep track of them on this page as they appear.

Early out of the gates is The Washington Post, which last Thursday published its selections of 10 books not to be missed. Among the choices are Kate Atkinson’s Big Sky, Liam McIlvanney’s The Quaker, Swedish author Malin Persson Giolito’s Beyond All Reasonable Doubt, and Andrea Camilleri’s The Other End of the Line.

Concurrently, Kirkus has posted its own top choices. Among those: C.J. Box’s The Bitterroots, Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay, Attica Locke’s Heaven, My Home, and Adrian McKinty’s The Chain.

Tell us if you spot “best of the year” lists we may have missed.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Shorts and Heels Make for Eventful Night

Last night in the city of Melbourne, Sisters in Crime Australia handed out its 26th annual Scarlet Stiletto Awards for short fiction “written by Australian women and featuring a strong female protagonist.” Although I have not yet been able to locate a press release declaring which books and authors won, I have sought to piece together a complete list (below) based on information featured on the organization’s Facebook page. If there are any errors here, I shall correct them once there’s official word of the winners.

Swinburne University Award 1st Prize: “At Length I Would Be Avenged,” by Blanche Clark

Simon & Schuster Award 2nd Prize: “Dead End,”
by Philomena Horsley

The Sun Bookshop/Wild Dingo Press Award 3rd Prize: “The Fossil Hunters,” by Bridgette Cummings

Melbourne Athenaeum Library Award for Best “Body in the Library” Story: Winner—“At Length I Would Be Avenged,” by Blanche Clark. Runner-up—“Death in the Catacombs,” by Kelly Gardiner

International Association of Forensic Linguists Award for Best Forensic Linguistics Story: “Marie’s Voice,” by Jaimee Sharrett

Kerry Greenwood Award for Best Malice Domestic Story:
“Screwed,” by Caroline de Costa

Every Cloud Productions Award for Best Mystery with History Story: “Loose Lips,” by Eugenie Pusenjak

Writers Victoria Crime and Punishment Award for the Story with the Most Satisfying Retribution: “Plenty More Fish,” by Kristin Murdock

HQ Fiction Award for Best Romantic Suspense Story: “Sweet Baby Dies,” by Sandi Wallace

Clan Destine Press Award for Best Cross-genre Story:
“Manny,” by Natalie Conyer

Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival Award for Best Bushranger Story: “The Emerald Lady,” by Missy Jane Birch

Liz Navratil Award for Best Story with a Disabled Protagonist: “Dead End,” by Philomena Horsley

Scriptworks Award for a Great Film Idea: “Lifeboat,” by Janette Ellis

Elephant Tree Publishing Award for Best Young Writer: “Death by Couch,” by Lyra Philp

If you’d like to see this year’s Stiletto Awards entry form (PDF), telling how much money is given to each prize winner, click here.

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Record 10 Years in the Making

What were the highest quality—or most interesting—crime, mystery, and thriller novels published during the last 10 years? As we rush toward the beginning of a new decade, it’s understandable that various publications have already or will soon consider that question. The latest to do so is CrimeReads, which earlier this week published a feature titled “The 10 Best Crime Novels of the Last Decade.”

Setting aside the reality that any such compilation is subjective, and the word “best” in this context makes a promise it cannot hope to keep, the fact is that the top works cited by CrimeReads all have their fans, even if I didn’t read or wasn’t particularly enamored of every one. (I actually found many more to appreciate in the “Notable Selections” section at the bottom of the feature—and was reminded by that list of several books I’d forgotten about over time.) I look forward to other Web sites and blogs assembling their own, undoubtedly dissimilar end-of-decade choices. Between them all, some agreement might (I repeat, might) be found on which crime-fiction yarns readers will still recognize 20, 50, or perhaps 100 years on.

Meanwhile, the CrimeReads piece sent me back to look over which novels I have mentioned as personal favorites during every twelvemonth since 2010.

As you will see by clicking on the year-by-year links below, I started out posting these sorts of picks in January Magazine (to which I have contributed since 1997), but moved from there to Kirkus (which asked for top-10 tallies), and eventually to The Rap Sheet and CrimeReads. Studying the 78 titles here, I find myself smiling at memories of those that once held me in singular thrall, such as Peter May’s The Blackhouse, Antonia Hodgson’s The Devil in the Marshalsea, Derek B. Miller’s Norwegian by Night, and Steven Price’s delightful doorstop, By Gaslight. And I confess to being rather puzzled now by my decisions to not also include such exceptional tales as House of the Hunted, by Mark Mills (2012); Solo, by William Boyd (2013); The Stone Wife, by Peter Lovesey (2014); Invisible City, by Julia Dahl (2014); The Storm Murders, by John Farrow (2015); and the long-overdue Bertha Cool/Donald Lam private-eye novel, The Knife Slipped, by Erle Stanley Gardner (2016). The time or space pressures that forced that cataloguing economy must have frustrated me, indeed.

(see here and here)

The Anniversary Man, by R.J. Ellory
City of Dragons, by Kelli Stanley*
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin*
The Death Instinct, by Jed Rubenfeld
Gone ’til November, by Wallace Stroby
Peeler, by Kevin McCarthy*
A Razor Wrapped in Silk, by R.N. Morris

(Works marked with asterisks above were reviewed by others in January Magazine that year. I’d have liked to applaud them, too, but did not in order to avoid duplication.)

City of Secrets, by Kelli Stanley
The Cut, by George Pelecanos
The End of Everything, by Megan Abbott
Field Gray, by Philip Kerr
The House of Silk, by Anthony Horowitz
The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Stealing Mona Lisa, by Carson Morton
Stolen Lives, by Jassy Mackenzie
White Heat, by M.J. McGrath
A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion, by Ron Hansen

The Blackhouse, by Peter May
Broken Harbor, by Tana French
The Candle Man, by Alex Scarrow
Disappeared, by Anthony Quinn
Dominion, by C.J. Sansom
The Gods of Gotham, by Lyndsay Faye
The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen L. Carter
The Paris Deadline, by Max Byrd
Prague Fatale, by Philip Kerr
The Yard, by Alex Grecian

A Commonplace Killing, by Siân Busby
The Confessions of Al Capone, by Loren D. Estleman
Dead Man’s Land, by Robert Ryan
Death on Demand, by Paul Thomas
Irregulars, by Kevin McCarthy
Little Green, by Walter Mosley
A Man Without Breath, by Philip Kerr
Norwegian by Night, by Derek B. Miller
Perfect Hatred, by Leighton Gage
Tatiana, by Martin Cruz Smith

After I’m Gone, by Laura Lippman
Children of the Revolution, by Peter Robinson
Darkness, Darkness, by John Harvey
The Devil in the Marshalsea, by Antonia Hodgson
The Lewis Man, by Peter May
An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris
Really the Blues, by Joseph Koenig
The Secret Place, by Tana French
Sometimes the Wolf, by Urban Waite
Sweet Sunday, by John Lawton

The Axeman, by Ray Celestin
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
Inspector of the Dead, by David Morrell
A June of Ordinary Murders, by Conor Brady
A Killing in Zion, by Andrew Hunt
The Lady from Zagreb, by Philip Kerr
Little Pretty Things, by Lori Rader-Day
The Mulberry Bush, by Charles McCarry
Quarry’s Choice, by Max Allan Collins
The Whites, by Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt

Beloved Poison, by E.S. Thomson
Better Dead, by Max Allan Collins
By Gaslight, by Steven Price
Charcoal Joe, by Walter Mosley
Darktown, by Thomas Mullen
Heart Attack and Vine, by Phoef Sutton
The Invisible Guardian, by Dolores Redondo
Little Sister, by David Hewson
The Other Side of Silence, by Philip Kerr
Underground Airlines, by Ben H. Winters
You Will Know Me, by Megan Abbott

The Dry, by Jane Harper
The Force, by Don Winslow
If We Were Villains, by M.L. Rio
Lightning Men, by Thomas Mullen
Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz

American by Day, by Derek B. Miller
Greeks Bearing Gifts, by Philip Kerr
The Ruin, by Dervla McTiernan
Gallows Court, by Martin Edwards
Sunburn, by Laura Lippman

(My choices in 2018 were limited to five. But two other works really deserved to be included: A Gentleman’s Murder, by Christopher Huang; and The Second Rider, by Alex Beer.)

I’m currently struggling to narrow down my candidates for “favorite crime novels of 2019,” without which my final assessment of the decade’s top-notch entries to this genre cannot be achieved. Watch for those on this page in early December.

While you wait, contemplate the question: Which crime, mystery, and thriller novels—first released during the last 10 years—do you remember most fondly? Please let us all know your answers in the Comments section at the bottom of this post.

READ MORE:The Crime Fiction Series That Defined the Last
” (CrimeReads).

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Just a Handful of Short Takes

• We’ve now entered the concluding round of Goodreads’ voting process to select the winners of its 2019 Choice Awards. The 10 finalists in the Best Mystery and Thriller category include Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key, Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient, Jane Harper’s The Lost Man, Sally Hepworth’s The Mother-in-Law, and Harlan Coben’s Run Away. Click here before December 2 to make your preferences known. Winners in this and 19 other book categories are supposed to be announced on Tuesday, December 10.

• Meanwhile, Amazon has chosen The Silent Patient as its “best mystery and thriller of the year.” That site’s top 20 picks are here.

• I’m very pleased to hear that British social historian Hallie Rubenhold has won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-fiction for her book The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper. It’s an excellent work that overturns some of our most common beliefs about the Ripper’s “canonical victims.”

• Max Allan Collins mentions, in his most recent blog post, that he’s concocting a follow-up to his 1987 novel Spree, which has long been the penultimate entry in his series about professional thief Nolan. That protagonist last appeared in 1999’s Mourn the Living.

• Brash Books publisher Lee Goldberg reports on Facebook that a never-before-published 13th installment in the Ralph Dennis’ Jim Hardman crime series is set for release early next year. He explains:
For decades, it was believed there were only 12 books in the late Ralph Dennis’ legendary and acclaimed Hardman series, which was published in paperback in the 1970s and that inspired a generation of crime writers, including Joe R. Lansdale (Hap & Leonard) and screenwriter Shane Black (Lethal Weapon). But this summer, we discovered an unpublished 13th Hardman manuscript, written by Dennis in London in 1977, that was stashed away decades ago in a cardboard box in an attic in Chapel Hill, NC.

Brash Books is publishing the novel,
All Kinds of Ugly, in February 2020 with an afterword that details the exciting discovery and editing of this final, long-lost adventure in the Hardman series.
• I probably watched the entire run of Don Johnson’s second TV crime drama, Nash Bridges, but I never expected to see any more than that show’s original 122 episodes. Now comes this item from B.V. Lawson’s In Reference to Murder:
Don Johnson, set to reprise the title role in USA Network’s upcoming Nash Bridges revival, confirmed today that longtime co-star Cheech Marin will be back for the reboot reprising his role as Inspector Joe Dominguez. The original series, which ran on CBS from 1996 to 2001, starred Johnson as an investigator in an elite Special Investigations Unit of the San Francisco Police Department.
Hmm. Johnson will turn 70 years of age this coming December 15. Might that not make him a tad too old to again be chasing through the Bay Area after big-time criminals? You can watch the main title sequence from the original Nash Bridges here.

• Oh, no. Not a Columbo revival too. Can’t we just be happy with Peter Falk’s long-running classic series? Yes, at least for now. Apparently, Steven Moffat—the co-creator of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock—was hoping to reboot Columbo for new viewers, but was “thwarted by red tape,” according to The Columbophile.

As I mentioned previously on this page, I’ve been looking forward to watching BBC Two’s three-part production of Vienna Blood, based on Frank Tallis’ Max Liebermann/Oskar Rheinhardt novels. So I was disappointed to read The Killing Times’ take on Episode 1 of the show, which calls it “pretty much a compendium of clichés, handsomely dressed but fairly pedestrian” that “doesn’t do much original with its source material.” The review continues: “All the expected components are present and correct—a bit of psychoanalysis, a bit of hypnotism, a bit of fascism—and the authentic locations bring something to the party, but neither lead performance is compelling, and we feel we’ve found out everything there is to know about the two characters (one insecure and driven, the other grief-stricken by the death of his daughter). … So will Vienna Blood prove to have hidden depths of meaning in the next two episodes? Well, as Sigmund Freud famously probably didn’t say, ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’”

• The Killing Times also brings news that British performer Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Child 44) will star as the politically incorrect and flagrantly flatulent Jackson Lamb in an Apple TV+ adaptation of Mick Herron’s modern espionage series. To be called Slow Horses (the title of Herron’s first book in that series), it will follow “a team of British intelligence agents who serve in a dumping ground department of MI5—Slough House. Lamb is the brilliant but irascible leader of the spies who end up in Slough House due to their career-ending mistakes.” No word yet on a premiere date.

• And here is the trailer for Dare Me, the USA Network program based on Megan Abbott’s 2012 novel of that same name. Dare Me, which will follow the lives of some competitive high school cheerleaders in “a small Midwestern town,” is set to debut on December 29, with Abbott as one of its executive producers.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Will Gittes’ P.I. Practice Be Revived?

As someone who really loves period private-eye dramas, I want to have hope for this project. But I remain skeptical. From Deadline:
Netflix has closed deals with Robert Towne and David Fincher to work up a pilot script for a prequel to the 1974 classic film Chinatown, sources tell Deadline. Towne won an Oscar for scripting a drama that mixed fact and fiction to tell the story of a private eye hired to expose an adulterer who instead uncovers far more unsavory things.

Fincher will be executive producer along with Towne and Josh Donen. The idea behind the prequel series would be to focus on a young Jake Gittes (played in the film by Jack Nicholson) as he plies his business in a town where the wealthy and corruption involves areas like land, oil and gangs. The hope is that Fincher might direct the pilot, but that is not part of the deal which at this point covers a pilot script. Roman Polanski directed the original film and the late Robert Evans produced it.
Between this potential series and HBO-TV’s coming Perry Mason prequel, with Matthew Rhys, it seems we’ll soon be treated to multiple views of life and crime in 1930s Los Angeles.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

PaperBack: “TV Tramps”

Part of a series honoring the late author and blogger Bill Crider.

TV Tramps, by Walter Dyer (Midwood, 1962). As observed on the Vintage Paperback & Book Covers Facebook page, not much is known about author Dyer (if that was even his real name). However, I should mention that Joy Vay, a vocalist and guitarist with TV Tramps, a “female-fronted punk band” from Asbury Park, New Jersey,” got the name for her group from this fictional exposé. Cover illustration by Robert Maguire.