September 2015 Must Reads in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction

Here are the  books that I’m especially looking forward to in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for September Enjoy (all synopsis are from B&N or Amazon)!


Hollow Man by Mark Pryor (Seventh Street-Sept. 1)

Synopsis-Dominic is a prosecutor, a musician, and an Englishman living in Texas. He’s also a psychopath.

His main goal is to hide his condition and lead a seemingly normal life in hopes to pay off his debts and become a full-time musician in Austin’s club scene. But on one lousy day his carefully-controlled world starts to shatter: he’s demoted at work and accused of stealing a fellow musician’s song.

He also meets a beautiful woman in a lime green dress–perhaps the biggest threat to his safety of all. At her urging, Dominic hatches a plan to steal a van he knows will be filled with cash. He picks two friends as accomplices, insisting on no guns and no violence. But a security guard catches them in the act and simple theft turns into capital murder.

Cracks start to show in the conspiracy and, with no allegiance to anyone but himself, Dominic has to decide whether to stick by his partners in crime, or let his true nature come out to play.



Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart (HMH-Sept. 1)

Synopsis-From the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.


Is Fat Bob Dead Yet by Stephen Dobyns (Blue Rider Press-Sept. 1)

Synopsis-Stephen Dobyns–whom Stephen King has described as “the best of the best”–is back with his newest novel Is Fat Bob Dead Yet?, a comic suspense novel about a small-time con operation, a pair of combative detectives, and the pride, revenge, and deception that guide us all–Richard Russo meets Elmore Leonard.

In the seaport city of New London, Connecticut, and newcomer Connor Raposo has just witnessed a gruesome motorcycle accident on Bank Street. At least he thinks it was an accident. But then he sees a familiar man–who else would wear an Elvis pompadour in this day and age?–lurking around the crime scene. Where does Connor know him from? And why does everyone he knows keep showing up dead?


The Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg (NAL-Sept. 1)

Synopsis-A troubled, young widow hikes from Yosemite Valley deep into the wilderness on the John Muir Trail to elude her shameful past in this emotionally gripping story from the author of House Broken.

With her thirtieth birthday looming, Liz Kroft is heading for the hills—literally. Her emotional baggage weighs her down more than her backpack, but a three-week trek promises the solitude she craves—at least until her boyfriend, Dante, decides to tag along. His broad moral streak makes the prospect of confessing her sins more difficult, but as much as she fears his judgment, she fears losing him more. Maybe.

They set off together alone under blue skies, but it’s not long before storms threaten and two strange brothers appear along the trail. Amid the jagged, towering peaks, Liz must decide whether to admit her mistakes and confront her fears, or face the trail, the brothers and her future alone.


The Telling by Jo Baker (Vintage-Sept. 1)

Synopsis-A ghost story of the most unusual kind, The Telling is a thrilling—and sometimes chilling—tale about two women, separated by almost two centuries, grappling with change and loss.

After her mother dies, Rachel sets off alone to pack up and sell off the remnants of her family’s isolated country house. But from the moment she steps through the front door, she feels that the house contains more than she had expected. Generations earlier, a young housemaid, Lizzy, called the same dwelling home. On course for a life of service no different from her mother and her mother’s mother before her, Lizzy’s world is upended by the arrival of a mysterious lodger. Interweaving the two narratives, Jo Baker—best-selling author of Longbourn—brings these women, both struggling against their stations and their duties, vividly to life.


The Vienna by William S. Kirby (Forge-Sept. 1)

Synopsis-It started as nothing more than a one-night stand . . .

Justine is an A-list fashion model on a photo shoot in Europe. Adored by half the world, she can have whomever she wants, but she’s never met anyone like the strange English girl whose bed she wakes up in one morning.

Vienna is an autistic savant, adrift in a world of overwhelming patterns and connections only she can see. Socially awkward and inexperienced, she’s never been with anyone before, let alone a glamorous supermodel enmeshed in a web of secrets and intrigue.

When Justine’s current beau is murdered in the bathroom of her hotel room, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a deadly conspiracy focusing on a set of antique wooden mannikins-the same ones that are the centerpieces of the photo shoot.

What secret do the mannikins hide, and why is it worth killing over?

Drawn together by an attraction neither of them can explain, Justine and Vienna are pursued across Europe by paparazzi, tabloid headlines . . . and the mystery of Vienna’s own shadowy past, which holds the key to everything.

Inspired by a classic Sherlock Holmes story, William S. Kirby’s Vienna reimagines Holmes and Watson for the 21st century.


Entry Island by Peter May (Quercus-Sept. 15th)

Synopsis-When a murder rocks the isolated community of Entry Island, insomniac homicide detective Sime Mackenzie boards a light aircraft at St. Hubert airfield bound for the small, scattered chain of Madeline Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as part of an eight-officer investigation team from Montréal.

Only two kilometers wide and three long, Entry Island is home to a population of just more than 100 inhabitants, the wealthiest of whom has just been discovered murdered in his home. Covered in her husband’s blood, the dead man’s melancholy wife spins a tale for the police about a masked intruder armed with a knife.

The investigation appears to be little more than a formality–the evidence points to a crime of passion, implicating the wife. But Sime is electrified by the widow during his interview, convinced that he has met her before, even though this is clearly impossible.

Haunted by this strange certainty, Sime’s insomnia is punctuated by vivid, hallucinatory dreams of a distant past on a Scottish island 3,000 miles away, dreams in which he and the widow play leading roles. Sime’s conviction soon becomes an obsession. And despite mounting evidence of the woman’s guilt, he finds himself convinced of her innocence, leading to a conflict between the professional duty he must fulfill and the personal destiny he is increasingly sure awaits him.


The Child Garden by Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink-Sept. 8th)
Synopsis-Eden was its name. “An alternative school for happy children.” But it closed in disgrace after a student’s suicide. Now it’s a care home, the grounds neglected and overgrown. Gloria Harkness is its only neighbor, staying close to her son who lives in the home, lighting up her life and breaking her heart each day.

When a childhood friend turns up at her door, Gloria doesn’t hesitate before asking him in. He claims a girl from Eden is stalking him and has goaded him into meeting near the site of the suicide. Only then, the dead begin to speak—it was murder, they say.

Gloria is in over her head before she can help it. Her loneliness, her loyalty, and her all-consuming love for her son lead her into the heart of a dark secret that threatens everything she lives for.


Metro by Stephen Romano (Pocket Star-Sept. 14th)

Synopsis-The acclaimed author of Resurrection Express breaks all the rules in this non-stop suspense thriller packed with killers, comic books, drug lords, and film nerds.

For the last five years, Jollie, Andy, and Mark have lived together in a crazy bohemian crash pad in Austin, Texas, immersed in an endless summer of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But one of them is not what they seem to be. And when that person finally blows a decades-long cover during a violent attack on a powerful Austin dope dealer, all hell breaks loose in the bloody, bullet-riddled aftermath. As the façade of the normal world sizzles away, revealing an ominous shadow league of endemic spies and assassins known only as METRO, Jollie, Andy, and Mark must run like hell into a very dark night, where love and friendship will bind them, a terrifying hatchet man will close in to kill them, and the pitch black truth about everything will be revealed, again and again…


The Scribe by Matthew Guinn (W. W. Norton & Company-Sept. 14th)

Synopsis-A reckoning with the persistence of evil in post–Civil War Atlanta.

After leaving Atlanta in disgrace three years before, detective Thomas Canby is called back to the city on the eve of Atlanta’s 1881 International Cotton Exposition to partner with Atlanta’s first African American police officer, Cyrus Underwood. The case they’re assigned is chilling: a serial murderer who seems to be violently targeting Atlanta’s wealthiest black entrepreneurs. The killer’s method is both strange and unusually gruesome. On each victim’s mutilated body is inscribed a letter of the alphabet, beginning with “M.” The oligarchy of Atlanta’s most prominent white businessmen―the same men who ran Canby out of town, known more openly before Reconstruction as “the Ring”―is anxious to solve the murders before they lose the money they’ve invested in both the exposition and the city’s industrialization, even if resolution comes at the expense of justice.

After Canby’s arrival the murders become increasingly disturbing and unpredictable, and his interference threatens to send the investigation spinning off in the wrong direction. As the toll of innocent victims rises, Canby must face down enduring racism, and his own prejudices, to see clearly the source of these bloody crimes. Meanwhile, if he can restore his reputation, he might win back the woman he loves.

With scrupulous attention to historical detail, Edgar Award finalist Matthew Guinn draws readers into a vortex of tense, atmospheric storytelling, confronting the sins and fears of both old South and new.


The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shimada (Pushkin Vertigo-Sept. 15th)

Synopsis-Astrologer, fortuneteller, and self-styled detective Kiyoshi Mitarai must in one week solve a macabre murder mystery that has baffled Japan for 40 years. Who murdered the artist Umezawa, raped and killed his daughter, and then chopped up the bodies of six others to create Azoth, the supreme woman? With maps, charts, and other illustrations, this story of magic and illusion, pieced together like a great stage tragedy, challenges the reader to unravel the mystery before the final curtain.


Minute Zero by Todd Moss (G.P. Putnam’s Sons-Sept. 15th)

Synopsis-In the life of every country, at a moment of extreme national disruption, there is a brief period of breakdown, when everything is uncertain, events can turn on a dime. That is the moment to act, to shape events how you want them to go. That is Minute Zero.

Fresh off the harrowing events of The Golden Hour, State Department crisis manager Judd Ryker is suddenly thrown into a quickly developing emergency in Zimbabwe, where a longtime strongman is being challenged for the presidency. Rumors are flying furiously: armed gangs, military crackdowns, shady outside money pouring in, and, most disturbing for the United States, reports of highly enriched uranium leaking into the market.

And that’s all before Ryker even lands in the country. It gets much worse after that. If he can’t get control, shape his Minute Zero, a lot of people are going to die—not least of all himself.


The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths ( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt-Sept. 15th)

Synopsis-In the first installment of a compelling new series by Elly Griffiths, a band of magicians who served together in World War II track a killer who’s performing their deadly tricks.

Brighton, 1950. The body of a girl is found cut into three pieces. Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is convinced the killer is mimicking a famous magic trick—the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old war friend of Edgar’s. They served together in a shadowy unit called the Magic Men, a special ops troop that used stage tricks to confound the enemy.

Max is on the traveling show circuit, touring seaside towns with ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. He’s reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate, but advises him to identify the victim quickly — it takes a special sidekick to do the Zig Zag Girl. Those words come back to haunt Max when the dead girl turns out to be Ethel, one of his best assistants to date. He’s soon at Edgar’s side, hunting for Ethel’s killer.

Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max are sure the answer to the murders lies in their army days. And when Edgar receives a letter warning of another “trick” on the way — the Wolf Trap — he knows they’re all in the killer’s sights.


The Body Snatcher by Patricia Patricia Melo (Bitter Lemon Press-Sept. 8th)

Synopsis-This tightly plotted novel by Brazil’s best-selling crime author is a tale of drug dealing gone wrong, police corruption, and macabre blackmail, set in a heat-soaked town in the vast untamed Brazilian lowlands bordering Bolivia. One bright Sunday, alone on the banks of the Paraguay River, the narrator witnesses the fatal crash of a small plane. He finds a kilo of cocaine in the dead pilot’s backpack and pockets it along with the pilot’s expensive watch. Thus begins the protagonist’s long slide into corruption.

When police locate the crash site, the pilot’s body is missing and a large-scale search ensues. Our hero, now involved in a busted cocaine deal, ends up owing a Bolivian drug gang so much money that blackmailing the wealthy family of the dead pilot seems to be the only way out. When the family secretly agrees to pay serious money to recover the body of their son, our hero, who does not have the pilot’s body, decides someone else’s will do. . . . Or so he thinks.


Killers by Howie Carr (Forge-Sept. 15th)

Synopsis-Whitey Bulger is gone from Boston, but Bench McCarthy is here to take his place.

Bench McCarthy is a thug’s thug, a hitman, an underworld jack-of-all-trades running his own mob out of Winter Hill in Somerville while simultaneously handling “wet work” for Sally Curto, a half-demented, totally obscene mob boss.

After years of gangland peace, Bench and Sally suddenly find themselves clay pigeons for unknown hit crews coming at them from every direction. The motives are as murky as the hitmen themselves, but all roads seem to lead back to the State House, where corrupt pols are battling over a bill to legalize billions of dollars’ worth of new casinos.

In order to stay alive as he puts an end to the uprising, the wisecracking Bench must set aside his objections and enlist the help of Jack Reilly, a dodgy ex-cop turned private investigator. The hunter has become the hunted.

Killers is a thrilling ride through the dark underbelly of Boston crime and politics that could only have been written by the man novelist James Ellroy calls “the Bacon-Banging Boston Bossman”-Howie Carr, the newspaper columnist on whom Whitey Bulger first put out a contract and then called as a defense witness during his 2013 murder trial in Boston.


The Killing Kind by Chris Holm (Mulholland-Sept 15th)

Synopsis-A hitman who only kills other hitmen winds up a target himself.

Michael Hendricks kills people for money. That aside, he’s not so bad a guy.

Once a covert operative for a false-flag unit of the US military, Hendricks was presumed dead after a mission in Afghanistan went sideways. He left behind his old life–and beloved fiancée–and set out on a path of redemption…or perhaps one of willful self-destruction.

Now Hendricks makes his living as a hitman entrepreneur of sorts–he only hits other hitmen. For ten times the price on your head, he’ll make sure whoever’s coming to kill you winds up in the ground instead. Not a bad way for a guy with his skill-set to make a living–but a great way to make himself a target.


The Black Tongue by Marko Hautala (AmazonCrossing-Sept. 22nd)

Synopsis-For generations, the urban legend of Granny Hatchet has plagued the quiet residential area of Suvikylä in northern Finland. As the story goes, this immortal killer murders her victims with a hatchet, then buries the hearts in a potato field and eats them after they’ve rotted black. But not everyone is convinced it is just a story.

Maisa Riipinen has returned to her hometown to complete her dissertation on urban folklore at the same time that Samuel Autio has come home to arrange his father’s funeral. As hazy, disturbing memories from their pasts meld with strange events in the present, Maisa and Samuel attempt to make sense of the town’s fearful obsession with the mythical Granny Hatchet. But if it’s only a legend, then why are people still vanishing without a trace?

From Finnish author Marko Hautala comes The Black Tongue, a gripping novel about a terrifying story with the power to silence—and the power to make those who dare speak disappear.


Quicksand by Carolyn Baugh (Forge-Sept. 22nd)

Synopsis-Quicksand: The beginning of an engrossing new suspense series featuring Philadelphia policewoman Nora Khalil by Carolyn Baugh, acclaimed author of The View From Garden City.

Officer Nora Khalil is used to navigating different terrains. As part of a joint task force set up by the Philadelphia Police Department, the FBI, and the local sheriff’s offices, she works to keep Philly’s mean streets safe from gang violence, while trying to honor the expectations of her traditional Egyptian-American family. She can hold her own against hardened murderers and rapists, and her years as a competitive runner ensure that no suspect ever escapes on foot.

Nora tries to keep her professional and personal lives separate, but when a mutilated body is discovered in a tough section of town, Nora must rely on both her police training and her cultural background to find out whether this is another gang-related killing or the grisly evidence of something even darker and more disturbing.


Not on Fire, But Burning by Greg Hrbek (Melville House-Sept. 22nd)

Synopsis-Twenty-year-old Skyler saw the incident out her window: Some sort of metallic object hovering over the Golden Gate Bridge just before it collapsed and a mushroom cloud lifted above the city. Like everyone, she ran, but she couldn’t outrun the radiation, with her last thoughts being of her beloved baby brother, Dorian, safe in her distant family home.

Flash forward to a post-incident America, where the country has been broken up into territories and Muslims have been herded onto the old Indian reservations in the west, even though no one has determined who set off the explosion that destroyed San Francisco. Twelve-year old Dorian dreams about killing Muslims and about his sister—even though Dorian’s parents insist Skyler never existed. Are they still shell-shocked, trying to put the past behind them . . . or is something more sinister going on?

Meanwhile, across the street, Dorian’s neighbor adopts a Muslim orphan from the territories. It will set off a series of increasingly terrifying incidents that will lead to either tragedy or redemption for Dorian, as he struggles to prove that his sister existed—and was killed by a terrorist attack.

Not on Fire, but Burning is unlike anything you’re read before—not exactly a thriller, not exactly sci-fi, not exactly speculative fiction, but rather a brilliant and absorbing adventure into the dark heart of an America that seems ripped from the headlines. But just as powerfully, it presents a captivating hero: A young boy driven by love to seek the truth, even if it means his deepest beliefs are wrong.


The Killing Lessons by Saul Black (St. Martin’s Press-Sept. 22nd)

Synopsis-When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper’s isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it’s the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it’s just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done.

For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of victims–women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them–has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she’s losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens.
But the murders at the Cooper farmhouse didn’t quite go according to plan. There was a survivor, Rowena’s ten-year-old daughter Nell, who now holds the key to the killings. Injured, half-frozen, terrified, Nell has only one place to go. And that place could be even more dangerous than what she’s running from.

In this extraordinary, pulse-pounding debut, Saul Black takes us deep into the mind of a psychopath, and into the troubled heart of the woman determined to stop him.


Scrapper by Matt Bell (Soho-Sept. 15th)

Synopsis-Detroit has descended into ruin. Kelly scavenges for scrap metal from the hundred thousand abandoned buildings in a part of the city known as “the zone,” an increasingly wild landscape where one day he finds something far more valuable than the copper he’s come to steal: a kidnapped boy, crying out for rescue. Briefly celebrated as a hero, Kelly secretly avenges the boy’s unsolved kidnapping, a task that will take him deeper into the zone and into a confrontation with his own past and long-buried traumas.

The second novel from the acclaimed author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, Scrapper is a devastating reimagining of one of America’s greatest cities, its beautiful architecture, its lost houses, shuttered factories, boxing gyms, and storefront churches. With precise, powerful prose, it asks: What do we owe for our crimes, even those we’ve committed to protect the people we love?


Gold, Fame, Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead-Sept. 29th)

Synopsis-In 2012, Claire Vaye Watkins’s story collection, Battleborn, swept nearly every award for short fiction. Now this young writer, widely heralded as a once-in-a-generation talent, returns with a first novel that harnesses the sweeping vision and deep heart that made her debut so arresting to a love story set in a devastatingly imagined near future:

Unrelenting drought has transfigured Southern California into a surreal, phantasmagoric landscape. With the Central Valley barren, underground aquifer drained, and Sierra snowpack entirely depleted, most “Mojavs,” prevented by both armed vigilantes and an indifferent bureaucracy from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. In Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon, two young Mojavs—Luz, once a poster child for the Bureau of Conservation and its enemies, and Ray, a veteran of the “forever war” turned surfer—squat in a starlet’s abandoned mansion. Holdouts, they subsist on rationed cola and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.

The couple’s fragile love somehow blooms in this arid place, and for the moment, it seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins. They head east, a route strewn with danger: sinkholes and patrolling authorities, bandits and the brutal, omnipresent sun. Ghosting after them are rumors of a visionary dowser—a diviner for water—and his followers, who whispers say have formed a colony at the edge of a mysterious sea of dunes.

Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins’s novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own.


Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (William Morrow-Sept. 29th)

Synopsis-Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

*Trust me, this book is awesome.


A Song of Shadows by John Connolly (Atria/Emily Bestler-Sept. 29th)

Synopsis-Still recovering from his life-threatening wounds, private detective Charlie Parker investigates a case that has its origins in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.

Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to regain his strength. There he befriends a widow named Ruth Winter and her young daughter, Amanda. But Ruth has her secrets. Old atrocities are about to be unearthed, and old sinners will kill to hide their sins. Now Parker is about to risk his life to defend a woman he barely knows, one who fears him almost as much as she fears those who are coming for her.

His enemies believe him to be vulnerable. Fearful. Solitary.

But they are wrong. Parker is far from afraid, and far from alone.

For something is emerging from the shadows . . .


In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward (Minotaur-Sept. 29th)

Synopsis-The deepest secrets are the ones we keep from ourselves in this richly atmospheric, compellingly written, and expertly constructed crime debut from an emerging talent.

Derbyshire, 1978: a small town in the idyllic English countryside is traumatized by the kidnapping of two young schoolgirls, Rachel Jones and Sophie Jenkins. Within hours, Rachel is found wandering alone near the roadside, unharmed yet unable to remember anything, except that her abductor was a woman. No trace of Sophie is ever discovered.

Present day: over thirty years later, Sophie’s mother commits suicide. Detective inspector Francis Sadler and detective constable Connie Childs are assigned to look at the kidnapping again to see if modern police methods can discover something that the original team missed. Rachel, with the help of her formidable mother and grandmother, recovered from the kidnapping and has become a family genealogist. She wants nothing more than to continue living quietly beneath the radar, but the discovery of the strangled body of one of her former teachers days after the suicide brings the national media back to her doorstep. Desperate to stop a modern killer from striking again, Rachel and the police must unpick the clues to uncover what really happened all those years ago as the past threatens to engulf the present.

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