Friday, June 30, 2023

Five thrillers where the setting becomes a pivotal character

Catherine McKenzie was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. A graduate of McGill in History and Law, Catherine practiced law for twenty years before leaving the practice to write full time. An avid runner, skier and tennis player, she’s the author of numerous bestsellers including Hidden, Fractured, The Good Liar and I’ll Never Tell. Her works have been translated into multiple languages and Please Join Us and I’ll Never Tell have all been optioned for development into television series.

[My Book, The Movie: You Can't Catch Me; The Page 69 Test: You Can't Catch Me; The Page 69 Test: Hidden; My Book, The Movie: Hidden; The Page 69 Test: Spin ; My Book, The Movie: Spin]

McKenzie's new novel is Have You Seen Her.

At CrimeReads she tagged five thrillers where the setting becomes a pivotal character, including:
The Guest List by Lucy Foley and Her Dark Lies by JT Ellison

Setting: An island off the coast of somewhere

Did Agatha Christie do this first in And Then There Were None? I’m not a book historian, but certainly, ever since that book, the idea of a group gathered on an island with a potential killer among them has had a constant appeal. Two recent, and great, entries into this field are The Guest List and Her Dark Lies. Both novels use their setting to great effect—the boat ride to the island, the dark nooks and crannies that islands have, the isolation.

Because how long does it take for you to get cut off from the mainland? And how easy is it for the thin veneer of civilization to be stripped away?

Both books also use a wedding as a device. In Her Dark Lies, it’s the protagonist’s impending wedding that’s threatened, by the island itself, it seems. Or is it by her almost-to-be-husband’s family?

And in The Guest List, it’s the guests that are under threat, as a body is found during the reception, and the guests discover just how alone they are.

I read these two novels back-to-back and they’re great companion pieces to one another.

So next time you read a book—one of mine or someone else’s—ask yourself whether the setting is a character and whether it should be. It will take you great places.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Her Dark Lies is among Anna Snoekstra's eight top taut thrillers set over three days or fewer and Amanda Jayatissa's seven best thrillers set at weddings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Top 10 summer love stories

David M. Barnett's novels include Calling Major Tom and The Handover (US title: Same Time, Same Place).

His new novel is There Is a Light That Never Goes Out. "Though a slow-burner set over 10 years," he writes, "the pivotal action takes place during the summer months."

At the Guardian Barnett tagged ten favorite sizzling summer love stories, including:
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2015)

I wanted to include Daisy Jones & the Six here, because the artfully veiled story about Fleetwood Mac feels drenched in faded Polaroid 1970s Californian sunshine. But Reid’s earlier novel is far more appropriately summery. After drifting through life, Hannah Martin is faced with an apparently simple choice in a bar one night: go home with her best friend and flatmate or take a ride with her high school boyfriend, back on the scene. She does both, in alternating chapters that show how split-second decisions can have huge repercussions.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Maybe in Another Life is among Phoebe Fox's seven books to help you cope with heartbreak.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Seven titles about gripping family secrets

Thao Thai is a writer living in Ohio with her husband and daughter. Her work engages with tangled family relationships and the intersections of motherhood and identity. She’s been published in Cup of Jo, Eater, Catapult, Sunday Long Read, and more. A recipient of the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, she has also been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes and earned fellowships in creative writing. She received her MFA from The Ohio State University and her MA from The University of Chicago.

Thai's debut novel is Banyan Moon.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven books "that explore the dark spaces between families—all that’s unsaid." One title on the list:
Black Candle Women by Diane Marie Brown

Four generations of Montrose women all have one thing in common: the mysterious curse that dooms the people they fall in love with to die sudden deaths. Little is known about this curse, except that it originated in New Orleans nearly half a century ago, in a world of powerful hoodoo. In present-day California, Willow and Victoria live in peace with Victoria’s daughter Nickie, until the day Nickie brings a young man home for dinner. This unleashes a series of events that shakes the core of the family, scattering all three women across the country, toward their destinies. Their only hope of reunification is to break the curse, but that means unlocking their silent matriarch Augusta’s past—a near impossible task.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Ten top Prohibition-era books

Katharine Schellman is a former actor and one-time political consultant. When not writing about mystery, history, and other improbable things, she can be found in her garden or finding new ways to skip steps while baking.

Schellman currently lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her family and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering. Her books include Last Call at the Nightingale and The Last Drop of Hemlock.

At The Strand Magazine Schellman tagged ten Prohibition-era books, including:
The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

During Prohibition, the Tammany Hall political machine ran New York through a system of bribes, favors, and outright corruption. Their control extended to the coroner’s office—until their appointee became so embroiled in scandal that even they couldn’t keep him in power. His replacement was Charles Norris, one of the pioneers of forensic medicine.

Blum’s account of Norris and his colleagues is set against the proliferation of easily accessible poisons in the Jazz Age, from arsenic to chloroform. It reads like science fiction, examining both poisoning crimes and the many bizarre ways that scientists solved them—including, sometimes, dosing themselves with the poisons they were learning to detect. With its litany of famous, infamous, and often baffling murders, it touches on the life and experience of nearly every social, ethnic, and racial group that lived (or sometimes, didn’t live) through New York City’s Jazz Age.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 26, 2023

Five thrillers unfolding in wooded isolation

Kate Robards holds a degree in journalism and works in communications at a nonprofit organization. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and children.

Her new novel is The Three Deaths of Willa Stannard.

[My Book, The Movie: The Three Deaths of Willa Stannard]

At CrimeReads Stannard tagged "five thrillers that use a secluded, wooded setting to lead you into dark tales," including:
Final Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy Carpenter is the sole survivor of a mass murder at a remote cabin in the woods. Branded a “final girl” by the press, she buries her trauma. But when another final girl, a survivor of a sorority house massacre, dies by apparent suicide, Quincy is forced to confront her spotty memories of that fateful night.

The flashbacks to Pine Cottage are reminiscent of scenes from classic horror movies: a secluded cabin in the Poconos, a gaggle of college-age kids, an attacker, and a bloody run through the woods. Final Girls plays off the slasher-in-the-woods trope, and it delivers a twisty, gripping story of surviving an attack while isolated in the woods.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Final Girls is among Aurora Lydia Dominguez's eight top serial killer thrillers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Twelve titles for fans of HBO’s "Succession"

At Gina Chen tagged twelve books for fans of HBO’s Succession, including:
There Must Be a Pony in Here Somewhere, by Kara Swisher

When AT&T announced the suspicious offloading of HBO parent company WarnerMedia to a surprise merger with Discovery, Inc., was it witty or inevitable that nearly all news outlets included an image from Succession to accompany their coverage of the media mayhem? Was the introduction of GoJo and the “merger of equals” a direct reference to the infamous union of plucky digital technology and old-media behemoth? Step back into the time machine of meta-narratives and mergers with Pivot co-host (and official Succession podcast host) Kara Swisher’s definite saga on the 2000 AOL–Time Warner merger implosion for a look at how dramatic and devastating the effects of faulty strategy, poor execution, and petty men can be.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: twenty-one books for fans of HBO’s Succession.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Seven obsessive love affairs in literature

Bronwyn Fischer is a graduate of the University of Guelph’s MFA program in creative writing. She also holds a BA from the University of Toronto. She now lives in Toronto with her wife, Emma.

Fischer's debut novel is The Adult.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven books that
encase the intensity of obsessive love. They are at times, devotions to a beloved, they are relics of love’s overwhelm, they are attempts by lovers to stop loving, to remember a different answer to the always-there question— how should life be?
One title on the list:
Simple Passion by Annie Ernaux, translated by Tanya Leslie

“I had no future other than the telephone call fixing our next appointment. I would try to leave the house as little as possible—forever fearing that he might call during my absence.”

Told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, Simple Passion is an incisive reflection on a two-year affair with a married man named “A.” Ernaux describes how life transforms itself to accommodate and sustain the affair with “A”, composing an intimate revelation of obsession and passion. Though Ernaux’s novella revolves around “A”, there is a great sense in which her work is not about “A” as an object of love, but rather about the current of feelings experienced by the one who loves. Ernaux gives attention to obsession and love not only as feelings to describe but as ideas to think about. This is a brief and forceful look at a person consumed.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 23, 2023

Six thrillers about modern rebels

Wendy Heard is the author of the acclaimed YA novels Dead End Girls and She's Too Pretty to Burn, which Kirkus Reviews praised as “a wild and satisfying romp” in a starred review, as well as the adult thrillers The Kill Club and Hunting Annabelle. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America, and is a contributor at and Writer's Digest. Heard lives in Los Angeles, California.

Her new novel is We'll Never Tell.

At CrimeReads Heard tagged six "favorite stories about adventurers, bohemians, nomads, runaways, and other modern rebels." One title on the list:
Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda

Set in my hometown and embodied with a trademark Los Angeles grittiness I don’t often see executed so successfully, Wonder Valley begins with a man running along the congested rush hour freeway, completely nude. One of the witnesses, a man on his way to white-collar drudgery, finds himself inspired and takes off running after the naked jogger. The book follows a handful of such oddballs, those living in unusual circumstances, and we find ourselves connecting with folks from Skid Row to the desert. I found the passages about homelessness especially interesting, as well as the storyline of Tony, our would-be runner. As much about connection and shared humanity as it is about its setting, this book felt adventurous by nature.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Wonder Valley is among Johnny Shaw’s ten California crime novels not set in Los Angeles or San Francisco.

The Page 69 Test: Wonder Valley.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Top 10 adventure stories for girls

Kim Sherwood is an author and creative writing lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, where she lives in the city. Her first novel, Testament (2018), won the Bath Novel Award and Harper’s Bazaar Big Book Award. It was longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize and shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Pick. In 2019, she was shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Her second book, Double or Nothing (2022), is the first in a trilogy commissioned by the Ian Fleming Estate to expand the world of James Bond. Her latest novel, A Wild & True Relation (2023), was described by Dame Hilary Mantel as “a rarity – a novel as remarkable for the vigour of the storytelling as for its literary ambition. Kim Sherwood is a writer of capacity, potency and sophistication.”

At the Guardian Sherwood tagged ten favorite adventure stories for girls, including:
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (2018)

While much adventure fiction begins with a privileged white man escaping boredom (see John Buchan’s 39 Steps), the genre is at its most powerful when the protagonist is reaching for adventure as the opposite of tyranny. That’s the case in this blistering novel following George Washington Black, born into enslavement on a Barbados plantation run by the English Wilde brothers. Beginning with a hot-air balloon escape, the novel is globe-hopping in the vein of Jules Verne, and shares DNA with Robert Louis Stevenson in its fraught coming-of-age dynamic between a boy and a father-figure. But overlaying these is the terror and brutality of slavery. Edugyan asks what freedom means in a mind and body haunted by trauma.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Washington Black is among Kai Thomas's seven novels about Black characters in the 19th century and Annie Lampman's ten women-authored novels set in remote and forgotten places.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Seven scandalous betrayals in fiction

Ore Agbaje-Williams is a British Nigerian writer and book editor from London.

The Three of Us is her first novel.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven literary betrayals etched in her memory, including:
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

If you haven’t read this, one of the most critically acclaimed books of all time, then you absolutely should. Things Fall Aparttells the story of a man loyal to his people and traditions and loyal to a specific idea of himself. Ultimately though, things… fall apart, but the question is whether Okonkwo—the titular character, is betrayed by his people and their unwillingness to fight alongside him, or whether he betrays himself. Personally, I’m still undecided, but read it and see what you think.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Things Fall Apart is among Claire Fuller's top ten novels set in villages, Jeff Somers's twenty-five books you probably should have read already, Barnaby Phillips' top ten books about Nigeria, Pushpinder Khaneka's three best books on Nigeria, Hallie Ephron's ten best books for a good cry, Helon Habila's three books to help understand Nigeria, and Martin Meredith's ten books to read on Africa.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Seven dystopian mysteries

Claire Fuller's five novels are: The Memory of Animals (2023); Unsettled Ground (which won the Costa Novel Award 2021, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction); the critically acclaimed Bitter Orange (longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award); Swimming Lessons (shortlisted for the Encore Prize for second novels, and Livre de Poche Prize in France); and Our Endless Numbered Days (winner of the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction). They have been translated into more than twenty languages.

At Lit Hub Fuller says there are surprisingly few "dystopian mysteries or mysterious dystopian novels," and she tagged seven of her favorites. One title on the list:
Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake

Atwood drip-feeds the reader small amounts of information throughout this dystopian novel, until about two thirds of the way through we learn something that keeps us in suspense until nearly the very end. Snowman finds himself on the shores of a land where most humans have been wiped out by a man-made pandemic. He remembers his friend Crake, as well as Oryx, the sex-trafficked woman he fell in love with, but no one is really who they seem.

It’s complex and convoluted and an interesting allegory for how our world could end up.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Oryx and Crake is among Lincoln Michel's ten strangest sci-fi dystopias, Kerstin Hall's five books featuring terrible monsters that tug on our human heartstrings, Ezekiel Boone's top five classic novels about when technology betrays us, Jeff Somers's six books in which the internet helps destroy the world, Chuck Wendig's five books that prove mankind shouldn’t play with technology, S.J. Watson's six best books, James Dawson’s list of ten ways in which writers have established barriers to love just for the sake of a great story, Torie Bosch's top twelve great pandemic novels, Annalee Newitz's top ten works of fiction that might change the way you look at nature and Liz Jensen's top ten environmental disaster stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 19, 2023

Eleven westerns that break all the rules

Claudia Cravens grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a BA in Literature from Bard College and is a graduate of Catapult's Twelve-Month Novel Generator.

Lucky Red is her first novel.

At Publishers Weekly Cravens tagged eleven "subversive works [in which] people who are often denied agency in traditional westerns—women, people of color, LGBTQ people—insist on telling their own stories." One title on the list:
The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin

Sometimes, the best thing an author can do for an underrepresented character is to let them have a rip-roaring, violent, thrilling adventure all their own. The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu is exactly this: an action-packed tale of magic, star-crossed lovers, and much-needed revenge starring Ming, the orphaned child of Chinese immigrants. Raised as a deadly enforcer in a California crime syndicate, Ming falls in love with Ada, the daughter of a railroad magnate. Soon after, Ada is kidnapped by her father’s henchmen and Ming is pressed into service on the Central Pacific Railroad. Ming partners up with the prophet, a blind clairvoyant, and they set out to rescue Ada and exact revenge. Lin’s novel not only rejects stereotypes of Chinese immigrants as anonymous, passive workers, it pushes back hard with an explosively inventive tale.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Seven unlikely friendships in crime fiction

Robyn Harding is the author of numerous books, including the international bestseller The Party, The Swap, which was an instant #1 Globe and Mail (Toronto) and #1 Toronto Star bestseller, and The Perfect Family.

[Coffee with a Canine: Robyn Harding & Ozzie; The Page 69 Test: The Arrangement; My Book, The Movie: The Swap; The Page 69 Test: The Perfect Family]

Harding's new novel is The Drowning Woman.

At CrimeReads she tagged seven of her favorite works of "crime fiction [featuring] unlikely platonic pairings," including:
Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby

Ike Randolph is an ex-con, a black man who has overcome his violent past to build a solid, middle-class life. Buddy Lee is a white alcoholic with a criminal history of his own. The two men have little in common besides the dark chapters they’ve put behind them, and the fact that their sons – who were married to each other – have been murdered. This action thriller sees an unlikely friendship form between the two men as they seek to find out who committed the heinous slayings and exact their vengeance. As bullets fly and blood is spilled, the pair must grapple with personal and societal issues like homophobia, racism, and their shortcomings as fathers.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Razorblade Tears is among Lesley Kara's six crime novels about settling old scores and Liz Nugent's top ten first lines in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Top 10 sapphic love stories

Lily Lindon is a writer and editor living in London. She studied English Literature at Cambridge University, where she was involved with the Footlights comedy group. She was an Editor at Vintage, Penguin Random House, before joining the creative writing school The Novelry.

Her novels are Double Booked and My Own Worst Enemy.

At the Guardian Lindon tagged ten "books that affirm that Sapphic love can be one of life’s greatest pleasures." One title on the list:
Infamous by Lex Croucher

You might think the most unhappy sapphists are those living in past historical eras, but that’s not the case in Croucher’s riotous romps. In Regency-era Infamous, 22-year-old Eddie is so busy trying to impress a charismatic rival of Lord Byron with her writing that she doesn’t realise regular “kissing practice” with best friend Rose might not be completely platonic. Expect charmingly bonkers characters, irreverent escapism, and non-stop witticisms.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 16, 2023

Seven titles about friendships in your 20s

Katherine Lin is an attorney and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area and a graduate of Northwestern University and Stanford Law School.

You Can’t Stay Here Forever is her debut novel.

At Electric Lit she tagged seven books that have
friendships that, even if begun in childhood, remained significant in the early years of adulthood. The books remind me of my own friendships in my 20s, the ways we did right by each other, and the ways we let each other down. They remind me of racing to happy hour, finding your friend already waiting for you at the bar, and then spending the rest of the night talking about the person you hope to be. They remind me of growing up.
One title on the list:
Stay True: A Memoir by Hua Hsu

Stay True, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction, is heart-wrenching, brilliant, unforgettable. Hua Hsu writes about his unlikely friendship with Ken, whom he met as an undergraduate student at Berkeley. Hsu values obscurity, measures himself in defiance to popular culture and the mainstream. Ken is in a fraternity and once made Hsu wait with him at a mall for an Abercrombie and Fitch store to open so he could snag a jacket that was sold out everywhere else. Although Ken dies unbearably young, at twenty, Ken leaves an indelible mark on Hsu’s life—the kind made only possible by those rare friendships that shape your outlook on the world.

Stay True is a beautiful portrayal of coming of age, of a time where you were both overconfident and insecure, exploding with cynicism and hope, moving through the world under the spell that, maybe, unlike the generations before, you and your friends will figure it all out.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Top 10 books about missing persons

Una Mannion’s debut novel is A Crooked Tree.

Her new novel, Tell Me What I Am, is due out in the US in August 2023.

At the Guardian Mannion tagged ten books about missing persons -- "interrupted stories, in fiction and real life, [that] are powerfully moving and key into a universal anxiety." One title on the list:
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Jewell’s psychological thriller moves between timelines and narrators to create a complex and disturbing story about a missing girl. Ellie Mack disappears just weeks before her GSCEs. Her mother Laurel can’t get past her “raw need to keep the search going” and, a decade later, finds herself completely alone, her husband and other children living their own lives elsewhere. Then Laurel meets a man whose nine-year-old daughter bears an uncanny resemblance to Ellie. The tension is intensified by Jewell’s use of multiple narrators, two of whom narrate in the first person and know something about Ellie’s disappearance.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Nine novels with complex female friendships at their core

Sian Gilbert was born in Bristol, UK. She studied history at the University of Warwick, before teaching at a comprehensive school in Birmingham for almost five years. She now lives in Cambridge with her partner.

Gilbert's new novel is She Started It.

At CrimeReads she tagged nine "novels encapsulate many different facets of female friendship, both positive and negative: loyalty, mentorship, laughter; obsession, jealousy, anger; and everything in between." One title on the list:
How To Kill Your Best Friend by Lexie Elliott

An apt title, How To Kill Your Best Friend focuses on three female friends—Georgie, Bronwyn and Lissa—and the inevitable dynamic of who the closer pair are that always comes with a trio. When Lissa drowns off the coast near the luxury hotel she owns, Georgie and Bronwyn return to the area for her memorial service. An experienced swimmer, it’s obvious there is more to Lissa’s death than meets the eye. Every three chapters are interspersed with ‘How-To’ methods for killing your best friend: from a simple accident, to poison, to increasingly nefarious deeds, culminating in what really happened. The book exposes the comparisons that are so easily drawn in female friendships: the weighing up of each other’s lives to see who is winning, the regularity of jealousy, but also the dependency on one another and the vicious betrayal that comes with finding out a friend is not who you thought they were.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Ten top books about American birthmothers

Julia Franks is the author of The Say So and Over the Plain Houses.

The latter was a debut novel that was listed among NPR’s Best Books, included in many “best of” lists, and the recipient of five different prestigious literary prizes (The Townsend Prize, The Thomas Wolfe Award, The Southern Book Prize, Georgia Author of the Year, and The IPPY Gold).

At Lit Hub Franks tagged ten books "about birthparents that ring true to me," including:
The Kindest Lie by Nancy Johnson

It’s 2008 and Ruth Tuttle has it all: a great career, membership in Chicago’s Black elite, and marriage to a kind, successful man. The problem is that he wants to start a family, which brings her face to face with the lie at the center of her life. At first it’s easy to assume the “lie” is the history she’s hidden from her husband, but by the end of the novel it’s clear that the bigger deception comes from a memory she’s repressed: the newborn her grandmother whisked away from her, and then… what? That well-intentioned theft is especially poignant because it likely happened in many Black families striving to get a piece of the American dream.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 12, 2023

Eight titles about the lives of women writers

Logan Steiner is a litigator and brief-writing specialist at a boutique law firm. She graduated summa cum laude from Pomona College and cum laude from Harvard Law School. She lives in Denver with her husband and daughter.

After Anne is her first novel.

At Electric Lit Steiner tagged eight books that "showcase the lives of women writers. Each of these accounts moves and inspires, and can help those of us balancing creative work with life’s other commitments to feel less alone." One title on the list:
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett

In this memoir, Ann Patchett paints a raw and beautiful portrait of a twenty-year friendship between two writers—Pulitzer-prize-winning novelist Patchett and Lucy Grealy, who wrote the critically acclaimed memoir Autobiography of a Face about her battles with childhood cancer and its aftermath. Patchett tells the story of the intersection between two writers’ journeys, tracing back to their time together at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and continuing through Lucy’s death of a heroin overdose at age thirty-nine. Their friendship was close but not easy, and Patchett’s memoir is all the more powerful for telling the many sides of it.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Six top thrillers featuring manipulative mom-friends

Ashley Audrain’s debut novel, The Push, was a New York Times, Sunday Times (London), and number-one international bestseller, and a Good Morning America Book Club pick. It has sold in more than forty territories, and a limited television series is currently in development. Audrain previously worked as the publicity director of Penguin Books Canada, and prior to that she worked in public relations. She lives in Toronto, where she and her partner are raising their two young children.

Audrain's new novel is The Whispers.

At CrimeReads she tagged six "stand-out thrillers featuring manipulative mom-friends at their best." One title on the list:
The Herd by Emily Edwards

Edwards’ debut pits a group of mom friends against each other over the very timely topic of vaccines, after a harmless white lie at a child’s birthday party has catastrophic consequences for everyone. Edwards does a skilled job of pitting mom against mom in a way that will make you see all sides of the story. This book asks big moral questions and the emotional tensions are high—the perfect pick for a book club of mom friends who want to go deep.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 10, 2023

Ten top titles for National Crime Reading Month

The UK-based Crime Writers' Association is now celebrating National Crime Reading Month. For the Waterstones blog ten CWA authors recommended one of their favorite page-turning reads. Steve Cavanagh's pick:
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith’s most famous creation is the grifter, con-man, art connoisseur and killer – Tom Ripley. I keep coming back to this book for two reasons. First, so that I can enjoy Ripley’s various schemes and so that I can try to understand how Highsmith pulled off such an amazing premise. In any other novel, Ripley would be a villain who we would delight in being vanquished at the end of the story, but in this one – he is our hero. And not only do we want him to get away with his dastardly plans, we also want him to be happy. A masterpiece.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Talented Mr Ripley is on Nathan Oates's list of eight of the best bad seed novels, Lizzy Barber's list of seven titles about wealthy people behaving badly, Charlotte Northedge's top ten list of novels about toxic friendships, Elizabeth Macneal's list of five books that explore the dark side of fitting in, Saul A. Lelchuk's nine great thrillers featuring alter egos, Emma Stonex's list of seven top mystery novels set by the sea, Russ Thomas's top ten list of queer protagonists in crime fictionPaul Vidich's list of five of the most enduring imposters in crime fiction & espionage, Lisa Levy's list of eight of the most toxic friendships in crime fiction, Elizabeth Macneal's list of five sympathetic fictional psychopaths, Laurence Scott's list of seven top books about doppelgangers, J.S. Monroe's list of seven suspenseful literary thrillers, Simon Lelic's top ten list of false identities in fiction, Jeff Somers's list of fifty novels that changed novels, Olivia Sudjic's list of eight favorite books about love and obsession, Roz Chast's six favorite books list, Nicholas Searle's top five list of favorite deceivers in fiction, Chris Ewan's list of the ten top chases in literature, Meave Gallagher's top twenty list of gripping page-turners every twentysomething woman should read, Sophia Bennett's top ten list of books set in the Mediterranean, Emma Straub's top ten list of holidays in fiction, E. Lockhart's list of favorite suspense novels, Sally O'Reilly's top ten list of novels inspired by Shakespeare, Walter Kirn's top six list of books on deception, Stephen May's top ten list of impostors in fiction, Simon Mason's top ten list of chilling fictional crimes, Melissa Albert's list of eight books to change a villain, Koren Zailckas's list of eleven of literature's more evil characters, Alex Berenson's five best list of books about Americans abroad John Mullan's list of ten of the best examples of rowing in literature, Tana French's top ten maverick mysteries list, the Guardian's list of the 50 best summer reads ever, the Telegraph's ultimate reading list, and Francesca Simon's top ten list of antiheroes.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 9, 2023

Seven books about people feeling out of place

Jeff Boyd is a former public-school teacher from Chicago and a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he received the Deena Davidson Friedman Prize for Fiction. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his partner and child.

His debut novel is The Weight.

Jess Walter called The Weight "wondrous ... [a] moving, comic and prodigious debut."

At Electric Lit Boyd tagged seven books about "finding belonging in an environment of otherness," including:
No One Left to Come Looking for You by Sam Lipsyte

As a budding punk rock bassist, Jack Shit is reminded on multiple occasions that he is an outsider, a wannabe; that New York was not made for him. But Jack doesn’t want to go back home to the suburbs, he wants to be in on the action. He wants his band back together, but that’s not possible because his bass guitar and lead singer have both gone missing. And without those two things, who is Jack Shit, anyway? No One Left to Come Looking for You is a page turning mystery set in the lively music scene of early 1990s Manhattan.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Seven titles featuring musicians & the lure of rock stardom

Matthew Norman was born in Omaha, Nebraska. His debut novel, Domestic Violets, was nominated in the Best Humor category at the 2011 Goodreads Choice Awards. Since then, he’s written four other novels. We’re All Damaged was an Amazon bestseller, Last Couple Standing was named one of the best books of 2020 so far by Esquire, All Together Now was one of the New York Post’s best books of the summer in 2021, and Charm City Rocks.

At LitHub Norman tagged seven of his "favorite novels that feature musicians and the seductive lure of rock stardom." One title on the list:
Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked

This list wouldn’t be complete without Nick Hornby, because as far as I’m concerned—and again, I’m in charge here—Nick Hornby is a rock star, and Juliet, Naked is a freaking delight. It features a reclusive, Dylan-like singer-songwriter named Tucker Crowe, a Tucker Crowe superfan named Duncan, and Duncan’s jilted partner, Annie. Things get interesting quickly when Annie begins an email relationship with Tucker, and they get even more interesting when Tucker and Annie meet in real life.

Smart, funny, and full of music, this is Hornby at his best.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Juliet, Naked is among Brian Boone's six notable fictional musicians. Susann Cokal called it "a wonderfully funny, wistful, hopeful book about second chances and reasons to live."

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Seven new classics in Southern noir

Polly Stewart grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, where she still lives. She graduated from Hollins University and has an MFA in fiction and a PhD in British literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Her short fiction has appeared in literary collections and journals, including Best New American Voices, The Best American Mystery Stories, Epoch, and the Alaska Quarterly Review. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, CrimeReads, and Poets & Writers, among other publications.

Stewart's new novel is The Good Ones.

At CrimeReads she tagged "seven great novels that celebrate the beauty and the magic of [the South], while also acknowledging it’s not always an easy place to call home." One title on the list:
Attica Locke, Bluebird, Bluebird

I don’t know Locke’s East Texas the way I know the settings of some of the other novels on this list, but her writing is so vivid and immersive that I feel like I’ve been there. Bluebird, Bluebird is the story of Darren Matthews, a Black Texas Ranger investigating two murders in the small town of Lark. Locke captures the ambivalence of feeling tied to a place known mostly in the outside world for a tragic history of violence, as in this scene when Darren remembers his law school classmates talking about the lynching of James Byrd: “he felt a hot rage at the students and professors around him, most of them white northerners, clucking their tongues and whispering Texas in a way that suggested both pity and disdain for a land that Darren loved, a state that had made him a gentleman and a fighter in equal measure.” Locke asks crucial questions about who gets to claim a Southern identity, and what that identity might mean in a more equitable future.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Bluebird, Bluebird is among L. Alison Heller's eight crime novels in which a small town is the perfect incubator, Janice Hallett's five gripping mysteries set in small towns, and Katie Tallo's top ten crime novels about returning home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Nine titles honoring women’s unseen contributions to science

C. E. McGill was born in Scotland and raised in North Carolina. Their short fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine and Strange Constellations, and they are a two-time finalist for the Dell Award for Undergraduate Excellence in SF/F Writing. They now live in Scotland with their family, two cats, and a growing number of fake succulents (the real ones keep dying).

Our Hideous Progeny is their first novel and they have begun writing their second.

At Electric Lit McGill tagged nine novels honoring women’s unseen contributions to science, including:
The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan

This novel follows another Elizabeth, the recently widowed Elizabeth Rocheid, who arrives in Edinburgh in the 1820s. An eager botanist and artist, she offers her services as an illustrator to capture the once-in-a-lifetime flowering of the Agave Americana plant in the city’s brand-new Botanic Garden. Along the way, Elizabeth strikes up a touching friendship with Belle Brodie, a fellow botany enthusiast (whose interest in the rare flower, however, runs in a far more commercially-exploitable direction). With plenty of cameos from famous scientists and thinkers of the era, Sheridan skillfully captures the buzz and excitement of this period of scientific history, painting a fascinating portrait of the Botanic Garden and Georgian Edinburgh as a whole.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 5, 2023

Six top mysteries about motherhood & crime

Nicole Hackett is a reader, writer, and below-average toddler negotiator. She lives with her husband and two kids in a small town just outside Baltimore, Maryland, where she works as a biochemical patent agent.

Her debut novel is The Perfect Ones.

At CrimeReads Hackett tagged her six favorite mysteries about motherhood and crime. One title on the list:
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Let’s start with the queen of mom-mysteries: Liane Moriarty. She has authored several winners, but I think Big Little Lies sits at the top. The story follows a group of upper-class mothers after the shocking death of a fellow parent at their children’s prestigious elementary school. As the mystery unfolds, the web of the mothers’ sometimes shocking, sometimes shockingly ordinary personal lives begins to tangle. Liane Moriarty is known for her laugh out loud humor, and this novel is no exception, but where this novel really shines is the balance between these upper-class antics and deeper conversations about motherhood.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Big Little Lies is among Janice Hallett's five notable gripping mysteries set in small towns, Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman's six riveting titles of ultra-competitive parents, Pamela Crane's five novels featuring parenting gone wild, Michelle Frances's eight top workplace thrillers, and Jeff Somers's ten novels that teach you something about marriage.

--Marshal Zeringue