November 2014 Must Reads in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction

Here are the  books that I’m especially looking forward to in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for November (it’s a FANTASTIC month for mystery!) Enjoy!


blackkarmaBlack Karma by Thatcher Robinson (Seventh Street-Nov. 4th )

Synopsis –Bai Jiang—San Francisco’s best-known souxun (“people finder”)—is hired to track down the mysterious Daniel Chen. Police inspector Kelly suspects Chen of being involved in a botched drug heist that resulted in the death of an officer. Bai has her own suspicions. She thinks the police just want to see Chen dead.

Her investigation leads Bai into deadly intrigue as she finds herself caught between international intelligence agencies and merchants of war, who deal in death, drugs, and high-jacked information.

To make matters worse, she’s thirty-something and dating again. It’s not easy juggling a suitor with family connections, a brazen young man who finds her irresistible, and her ex–the father of her child.

World conflict and family strife explode as adversaries face off in San Francisco’s Chinatown, a world away from the one we know.


treatuslikedogsTreat Us Like Dogs and We Will Become Wolves by Carolyn Chute (Grove/Atlantic-Nov. 4th)
Synopsis-It’s the height of summer, 1999, when local newspaper, the Record Sun, receives numerous tipoffs from anonymous callers warning of violence, weapons stockpiling, and rampant child abuse at the nearby homeschool on Heart’s Content Road. Hungry for a big break into serious journalism, ingénue columnist Ivy Morelli sets out to meet the mysterious leader of the homeschool, Gordon St. Onge—referred to by many as “The Prophet.” Soon, Ivy ingratiates herself into the sprawling Settlement, a self-sufficient counterculture community that many locals fear to be a wild cult. Despite her initial skepticism—not to mention the Settlement’s ever-growing group of pregnant teenaged girls—Ivy finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gordon.

Meanwhile, across town, Brianna, a gifted and disturbed teen with wild orange hair, paints her political and personal visions. At the behest of her brothers, Brianna joins the community. As her complicated, awkward relationship with Gordon unfolds, Brianna reveals herself to be a shy, yet passionate, individual, with a strange and troubling sexual past.

As the newcomers are drawn deeper into Settlement life, Gordon’s powerful magnetism and strange duality are exposed, and those rumors that led to his initial investigation seem, at times, to be all too possible realities. When the Record Sun finally runs its piece on Gordon, the exposure has a startling and unexpected effect on Settlement life and the world beyond it.


badcountryBad Country by CB McKenzie (Minotaur-Nov. 4th)
Synopsis-The newest winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize, a debut mystery set in the Southwest starring a former rodeo cowboy turned private investigator, told in a transfixingly original style.

Rodeo Grace Garnet lives with his old dog in a remote corner of Arizona known to locals as El Hoyo. He doesn’t get many visitors in The Hole, but a body found near his home has drawn police attention to his front door. The victim is not one of the many undocumented immigrants who risk their lives to cross the border in Rodeo’s harsh and deadly “backyard,” but a member of a major Southwestern Indian tribe, whose death is part of a mysterious rompecabeza—a classic crime puzzler—that includes multiple murders, cold-blooded betrayals, and low-down scheming, with Rodeo caught in the middle.

Retired from the rodeo circuit and scraping by on piecework as a bounty hunter, warrant server, and divorce snoop, Rodeo doesn’t have much choice but to say yes when offered an unusual case. An elderly Indian woman from his own Reservation has hired him to help discover who murdered her grandson, but she seems strangely uninterested in the results. Her attitude seems heartless, but as Rodeo pursues interrelated cases, he learns that the old woman’s indifference is nothing compared to true hatred, and aligned against a variety of creative and cruel foes, the hard-pressed PI is about to discover just how far hate can go.

CB McKenzie’s Bad Country is a noir novel that is as deep and twisty as a desert arroyo. With confident, accomplished prose, McKenzie captures the rough-and-tumble outer reaches of the Southwest in a transfixingly original style that transcends the traditional crime novel.


mermaidsMermaids in Paradise by Lydia Millet (WW Norton-Nov. 3rd)
Synopsis-Mermaids, kidnappers, and mercenaries hijack a tropical vacation in this genre-bending sendup of the American honeymoon.

On the grounds of a Caribbean island resort, newlyweds Deb and Chip—our opinionated, skeptical narrator and her cheerful jock husband who’s friendly to a fault—meet a marine biologist who says she’s sighted mermaids in a coral reef.

As the resort’s “parent company” swoops in to corner the market on mythological creatures, the couple joins forces with other adventurous souls, including an ex–Navy SEAL with a love of explosives and a hipster Tokyo VJ, to save said mermaids from the “Venture of Marvels,” which wants to turn their reef into a theme park.Mermaids in Paradise is Lydia Millet’s funniest book yet, tempering the sharp satire of her early career with the empathy and subtlety of her more recent novels and short stories. This is an unforgettable, mesmerizing tale, darkly comic on the surface and illuminating in its depths.


theburningroomThe Burning Room by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown-Nov. 3rd)
Synopsis-The new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly follows Detective Harry Bosch and his new partner as they investigate a recent murder where the trigger was pulled nine years earlier.

In the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die almost a decade after the crime. So when a man succumbs to complications from being shot by a stray bullet nine years earlier, Bosch catches a case in which the body is still fresh, but all other evidence is virtually nonexistent.

Now Bosch and rookie Detective Lucia Soto, are tasked with solving what turns out to be a highly charged, politically sensitive case. Beginning with the bullet that’s been lodged for years in the victim’s spine, they must pull new leads from years-old information, which soon reveal that this shooting may have been anything but random.

You can read my Library Journal review here if you’re curious


fleshandbloodFlesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell (HarperCollins-Nov. 11th)
Synopsis-It’s Dr. Kay Scarpetta’s birthday, and she’s about to head to Miami for a vacation with Benton Wesley, her FBI profiler husband, when she notices seven pennies on a wall behind their Cambridge house. Is this a kids’ game? If so, why are all of the coins dated 1981 and so shiny they could be newly minted? Her cellphone rings, and Detective Pete Marino tells her there’s been a homicide five minutes away. A high school music teacher has been shot with uncanny precision as he unloaded groceries from his car. No one has heard or seen a thing.

In this 22nd Scarpetta novel, the master forensic sleuth finds herself in the unsettling pursuit of a serial sniper who leaves no incriminating evidence except fragments of copper. The shots seem impossible, yet they are so perfect they cause instant death. The victims appear to have had nothing in common, and there is no pattern to indicate where the killer will strike next. First New Jersey, then Massachusetts, and then the murky depths off the coast of South Florida, where Scarpetta investigates a shipwreck, looking for answers that only she can discover and analyze. And it is there that she comes face to face with shocking evidence that implicates her techno genius niece, Lucy, Scarpetta’s own flesh and blood.


forthedeadFor the Dead by Timothy Hallinan (Soho-Nov. 4th)

Synopsis-After seven years in Bangkok, American travel writer Poke Rafferty finally feels settled: his family is about to grow larger, and his adopted Thai daughter, Miaow, seems to have found her place at junior high school at last. All that is endangered when Miaow helps her boyfriend buy a stolen iPhone that contains photographs of two murdered police officers. As Miaow’s carefully constructed personal life falls apart, Rafferty discovers that the murders are part of a conspiracy that reaches the top rungs of Bangkok law enforcement and beyond. Miaow’s discovery threatens the entire family, and in order to survive, they may ultimately have to depend on someone who has betrayed them in the past.


gb84GB84 by David Peace (Melville House-Nov. 4th)
Synopsis-Never before published in the U.S., GB84 will be launched in 2014 alongside two other novels by David Peace: The Damned Utd and Red or Dead

In taut and gripping prose that often feels like the relentless text of a surveillance report, GB84 tells the story of the British coal miner’s strike of 1984—including the actual bombings, riots and protests that brought the country to the brink of civil war.

Called by its author “fiction based on fact,” the book depicts a real-life 1984 more violently dystopian than even Orwell imagined. Slowly starving strikers find themselves pitted against a prime minister—Margaret Thatcher—determined to crush them . . . a police force willing to use infiltration and violence to achieve her will . . . and equally hungry scabs who need a job . . .

Mixing real events and characters with the voices of the increasingly desperate strikers, the book becomes a stirring saga of courage against overwhelmingly sinister forces, and paints a searing and haunting portrait of events that changed the course of British history.


pathofneedlesPath of Needles by Allison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher Books-Nov. 4th)
Synopsis-When an expert on fairy tales is called in to consult on the investigation of bizarre murders, her premonition and insight causes suspicion; she must solve the case—and fast—to prove her innocence.

Alice Hyland is an expert on fairy tales—lecturing on the well-known stories and their lesser-known variants—and the natural choice for Police Constable Cate Corbin to consult when a dead girl is found in the woods dressed up as Snow White. Especially when the girl’s grieving mother receives a parcel containing a glass bottle of blood stoppered with the dead girl’s toe. Cate’s boss, Detective Superintendent Heath, isn’t convinced of the connection to folklore until a second girl is found, this time dressed as Red Riding Hood and with claw marks gouged into her flesh, like a wolf had been at her.

As she dives deeper into the case, Alice beings to sense a supernatural pull connecting her to the murders. A series of uncanny events seem to be pointing her in the right direction, but she’s not the only one noticing; By the time a third girl is found in the local castle, Heath begins to wonder if their fairy tale expert knows too much, and Alice finds herself no longer an asset, but a suspect. But she can’t stop following the clues, and her determination to solve the mystery herself and prove her innocence may lead her somewhere she can’t return from.


whattheladywantsWhat the Lady Wants by Renee Rosen (Penguin-Nov. 4th)
Synopsis-In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair.

The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watches the flames rise and consume what was the pioneer town of Chicago, she can’t imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world are about to change. Nor can she guess that the agent of that change will not simply be the fire, but more so the man she meets that night.…

Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterie—including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation.

But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago is transformed into the gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893.


bedofnailsBed of Nails by Antonin Verenne (Quercus-Nov 11th)
Synopsis-Winner of the Prix Quai du Polar, Antoin Varenne is a rising star in the exciting new wave of French crime fiction. Hard-boiled Paris police lieutenant Richard Guerin thought he knew the depths of human tragedy and perversion during his years investigating suicide cases—not to mention his childhood, raised by his prostitute mother (who left him nothing but her foul-mouthed parrot).

But when a slew of cases that are way too bizarre to be straightforward suicides end up on his desk, Guerin begins to suspect that he is up against a nihilistic evil beyond anything he’s encountered before.

First, there is Alan Musgrave, an American man who bleeds himself to death on stage during a sick S&M show in an underground Paris nightclub. Another runs naked into traffic with arms outstretched and is splattered to pulp by a heavy truck. Yet another hurls himself from a museum balcony to death by impalement on a whale skeleton.

Guerin’s corrupt police colleagues ridicule his determination to find the connections between these horrifying deaths. Yet he presses on, plunging into the seamy sadomasochistic underbelly of the City of Lights that most never see.

Unexpected help comes from a friend of Musgrave’s, an eccentric and resourceful rich American named John Nichols who has recently arrived in Paris toting a bow and arrows. The bloody trail leads them to the upper reaches of both the Parisian police force and the American embassy, while Guerin begins to suspect that the ultimate answer may lie somewhere in Nichols’s past.

In Bed of Nails, Varenne does for Paris what James Ellroy did for vintage Los Angeles: He expertly throws a bright light on a fashionable city’s hideous hidden face.


bluelabyrinthBlue Labyrinth by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central-Nov. 11th)
Synopsis-A long-buried family secret resurfaces when one of Aloysius Pendergast’s most implacable enemies shows up on his doorstep as a murdered corpse. The mystery has all the hallmarks of the perfect murder, save for an enigmatic clue: a piece of turquoise lodged in the stomach of the deceased. The gem leads Pendergast to an abandoned mine on the shore of California’s desolate Salton Sea, which in turn propels him on a journey of discovery deep into his family’s sinister past. But Pendergast learns there is more at work than a ghastly episode of family history: he is soon stalked by a subtle killer bent on vengeance over an ancient transgression. In short order, Pendergast is caught in a wickedly clever plot, which will leave him stricken in mind and body…and may well end with his death.


missingreelsMissing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme (Overlooks-Nov 13th)
Synopsis-The utterly winning, wholly delightful, totally cinematic debut novel of young love, old movies, and an epic search for a long-lost silent film

New York in the late 1980s. Ceinwen Reilly has just moved from Yazoo City, Mississippi, and she’s never going back, minimum wage job (vintage store salesgirl) and shabby apartment (Avenue C walkup) be damned. Who cares about earthly matters when Ceinwen can spend her days and her nights at fading movie houses—and most of the time that’s left trying to look like Jean Harlow?

One day, Ceinwen discovers that her downstairs neighbor may have—just possibly—starred in a forgotten silent film that hasn’t been seen for ages. So naturally, it’s time for a quest. She will track down the film, she will impress her neighbor, and she will become a part of movie history: the archivist as ingénue.

As she embarks on her grand mission, Ceinwen meets a somewhat bumbling, very charming, 100% English math professor named Matthew, who is as rational as she is dreamy. Together, they will or will not discover the missing reels, will or will not fall in love, and will or will not encounter the obsessives that make up the New York silent film nut underworld.


thesilentgirlsThe Silent Girls by Eric Rickstad (HarperCollins-Nov. 25th)
Synopsis-With the dead of a bitter Vermont winter closing in, evil is alive and well …

Frank Rath thought he was done with murder when he turned in his detective’s badge to become a private investigator and raise a daughter alone. Then the police in his remote rural community of Canaan find an ’89 Monte Carlo abandoned by the side of the road, and the beautiful teenage girl who owned the car seems to have disappeared without a trace.

Soon Rath’s investigation brings him face-to-face with the darkest abominations of the human soul.

With the consequences of his violent and painful past plaguing him, and young women with secrets vanishing one by one, he discovers once again that even in the smallest towns on the map, evil lurks everywhere—and no one is safe.

Morally complex, seething with wickedness and mystery, and rich in gritty atmosphere and electrifying plot turns, The Silent Girls marks the return of critically acclaimed author Eric Rickstad. Readers of Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbø, and Greg Iles will love this book and find themselves breathless at the incendiary, ambitious, and unforgettable story.


happiestpeopleThe Happiest People in the World by Brock Clarke (Algonquin-Nov. 4th)
Synopsis-The absurdity and distortion of reality that made Brock Clarke’s previous two novels–the bestselling An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England, and Exley, picked by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best books of the year–so outrageously funny and yet so moving are on full display in his new novel, The Happiest People in the World.

Adapting the format of the political thriller and subverting it to tell his story of innocence corrupted, Clarke has delivered a biting and controversial satire on the American obsession with security and the conspiracies that threaten it, along with a challenging reassessment of individual freedoms inherent in our “pursuit of happiness” at all costs.


somethingrichandstrangeSomething Rich and Strange: Selected Stories by Ron Rash (HarperCollins-Nov. 4th)
Synopsis-From the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of Serena and The Cove, thirty-four of his finest short stories, collected in one volume

No one captures the complexities of Appalchia—a rugged, brutal landscape of exquisite beauty—as evocatively and indelibly as author and poet Ron Rash. Winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, two O. Henry prizes, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Rash brilliantly illuminates the tensions between the traditional and the modern, the old and the new south, tenderness and violence, man and nature. Though his focus is regional, the themes of Rash’s work are universal, striking an emotional chord that resonates deep within each of our lives.

Something Rich and Strange showcases this acclaimed master’s artistry and craftsmanship in thirty-two stories culled from previously published collections and two available for the first time in book form: “Outlaws” and “Shiloh.” Each work of short fiction demonstrates Rash’s dazzling ability to evoke the heart and soul of this land and its people—men and women inexorably tethered to the geography that defines and shapes them. Filled with suspense and myth, hope and heartbreak, and told in language that flows like “shimmering, liquid poetry” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), Something Rich and Strange is an iconic work from an American literary virtuoso.