I’m headed to San Diego this week with four writer friends, to attend the annual Left Coast Crime convention. In addition to touring haunted cemeteries and other sites in the city, participating in a paranormal panel, and hosting a banquet table for readers, I’ve also picked out ten fellow LCC authors I’d like to meet and get to know. I’ve ordered one of each of their books to read and review on NetGalley, Amazon and Goodreads. I’ll also highlight my favorite books in the Pinewood News column this summer.
Here are my picks for 2010 (in alpha order):
- Mark Bacon – Marijuana Murders
Why I’m reading: The Marijuana Murders is the third novel in this mystery series set in Nostalgia City. I love the setting, the old/new juxtaposition, and the Arizona tie-in.
The opioid epidemic has reached Paradise, and Police Chief Jesse Stone must rush to stop the devastation in the latest thriller in Robert B. Parker's New York Times-bestselling series, now written by Reed Farrell Coleman.
When a high school cheerleader dies of a suspected heroin overdose, it’s up to police chief Jesse Stone to unravel the supply chain and unmask the criminals behind it. The investigation has a clear epicenter: Paradise High School. Home of the town's best and brightest future leaders and its most vulnerable down-and-out teens. It's a rich market for Boston dealers looking to expand into the suburbs.
As he digs deeper into the case, he finds himself battling self-interested administrators, reluctant teachers, distrustful schoolkids, and overprotective parents . . . and at the end of the line are the true bad guys, the ones with a lucrative business they'd kill to protect.
Why I’m reading: I love the Jesse Stone books, and people are saying Reed Farrell Coleman is making the new books even better. NPR’s Maureen Corrigan called Coleman a “hard-boiled poet,” so I’m looking forward to finding out what she means. He’ a New York Times-bestselling author of thirty novels, a four-time Edgar Award nominee, and a four-time winner of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year. I want to see what he’s all about.
It looks like suicide.
The body of a young man has been found in the woods outside Newberg, dead from a close-range shotgun blast. The gun―his own―lies beside the body.
Certain things don’t add up for Detective Tia Suarez. Where did the fat envelope of cash in his pocket come from? Who called the police to report the body, then disappeared before the cops arrived?
The trail leads Tia to an institution for juvenile incarceration and to the leader of a local mega-church, a political and economic powerhouse in the region. Newberg’s mayor and the medical examiner keep trying to close the case.
But what if it isn’t suicide? What if this young man’s death is covering up something that will shake the town to its foundations?
Why I’m reading: Griffin paints a vivid picture of the difficulties of police work, in particular the harassment Tia endures from her male colleagues. Penned by a veteran police officer, this debut boasts the creepy, dangerous feel of actual street work. I’d like to learn police procedural from this pro.
Harvard librarian Hester Thursby knows that even in the digital age, people still need help finding things. Using her research skills, Hester runs a side business tracking down the lost. Usually, she’s hired to find long-ago prom dates or to reunite adopted children and birth parents. Her new case is finding the handsome and charismatic Sam Blaine.
Blaine has no desire to be found. As a teenager, he fled his small New Hampshire town with his friend, Gabe, after a haunting incident. For a dozen years, they’re traveled the country, reinventing themselves as they move from one mark to the next. In Wendy Richards, the beautiful and fabulously rich daughter of one of Boston’s most influential families, he’s found the way to infiltrate the world of Nantucket summers and Brooks Brothers suits.
As Hester’s investigation closes in on him, Sam decides he wants her out of the way. And Gabe has always done with Sam asks…
Why I’m reading: Sleuth Hester Thursby is a unique new heroine, and the plot is described as “complex, dark, sometimes downright creepy, with a profusion of deeply conflicted characters.“ Definitely in my wheelhouse.
I decided to start at the beginning of the series. Hill has a new book out this year, The Missing Ones, which continues the story and is getting great reviews. Both books were nominated for major awards, including an Agatha Award and an Edgar.
Marissa Dahl, a shy but successful film editor, travels to a small island off the coast of Delaware to work with the legendary and demanding director Tony Rees on a feature film. The logline is familiar…Some girl dies. But she soon discovers that on this set, nothing is as it’s supposed to be. There are accidents and indiscretions. Half the crew has been fired, and the other half is threatening to quit. And no one seems to know what happened to the editor she was hired to replace.
Then she meets the teenage girls who are determined to solve the real-life murder that is the movie’s central subject. Before long, Marissa herself is also pulled into the investigation.
The only problem: the killer may still be on the loose. And he might not be finished.
Why I’m reading: First, the setting explores our cultural addiction to tales of murder and mayhem by presenting us with a behind-the-scenes whodunit. Second, the book is a Crime Reads Most Anticipated Book of 2020. I want to see for myself.
He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her, Noemí Taboada rushes to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find. Her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade her dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
Why I’m Reading: A horror novel set in 1950’s Mexico? Sign me up! This has all the ingredients of a good gothic novel. A scary mansion, a weird owner, a young woman threatened, creepy weather—even a cemetery.
Mexican Gothic releases in June.
Rachel Marin is living an ordinary life as a stay-at-home mom with two small kids, making dinner for her husband every evening. Until an unspeakable crime shatters her life.
Some who are broken come back stronger, and ready to fight. Rachel Marin is such a woman.
She changes her identity and moves to a small town in Illinois, hoping to spare her children from further trauma…or worse. This time, she re-invents herself. She’s now a single mom working an office job, but conducting her real work—fighting criminals and delivering backdoor justice—in secret.
Her persistence makes her the target of both the cops and a killer. Meanwhile, the terrifying truth about her past threatens to come to light, and Rachel learns the hard way that she can’t trust anyone. Surrounded by danger, she must keep her steely resolve, protect her family, and stay one step ahead, or else she may become the next victim.
Why I’m Reading: Jason Pinter already has a bestselling series, the Henry Parker thrillers, and a standalone thriller. When he wrapped up that series, Pinter shifted his focus to the other side of the publishing business. In 2013, He launched Polis Books, an independent publishing company that focuses on crime fiction as well as fantasy and romance. This guy knows the writing industry.
Now he’s shifted focus back to his own fiction, and he decided to tackle something different from his previous books. “For this one, I wanted to write a character I was unfamiliar with, where I could stretch myself.”
That character is Rachel Marin. “A lot of times, protagonists in mystery thrillers are kind of loners, they can go out and fight evil or hunt down killers, and they don’t have to answer to anybody,” he says. “But Rachel Marin has two small children. She can’t go out at all hours, fight crime and come back beaten and bloody. She has to make sure her kids do their homework, and make sure they’re safe.”
I’m rooting for this protagonist already.
I’m also going to take a look at his publishing house.
Former LA County Deputy Bruno Johnson is now a bailiff in the courts, having stepped down from his role on the Violent Crimes Team to spend more time with his daughter, Olivia. Bruno fears his job decision may have come too late when he gets a frantic call to extricate Olivia from a gunpoint situation in a LA gang-infested neighborhood. His desperation escalates when he realizes Louis Barkow, a stone-cold killer awaiting trial, had orchestrated that deadly tableau.
When Barkow and three other criminals break out of jail and hit the streets, Bruno is plunged back into violent crime mode. Now, the agenda is personal—Olivia has become a pawn in the desperate chase of this sinister murderer. The walls are caving in on Bruno as violence escalates in his hunt for Barkow and his heart strings are stretched to the breaking point as he struggles to protect his daughter not only from the criminal violence swirling around them, but from Olivia's own impetuous life choices.
Why I’m Reading: I almost didn’t pick this one up for a number of reasons. First, I cannot lie, I don’t like the cover, and a good cover means a lot to me. Second, it’s the seventh book in a series. (Sigh. Guess I know what I’ll be doing for the next several months if I like this one…)
But David Putnam comes from a family of law enforcement, and he has done it all in his career. Narcotics, cross-sworn as a US Marshal, pursuing murder suspects and bank robbers in Arizona, Nevada and California. He did two tours on the San Bernadino County Sheriff’s SWAT team, and he also has experience in criminal intelligence and internal affairs. I’m sure his police procedurals will be authentic, with insider details only a real cop can bring to the page.
I’m starting with Book 1 in Alexandra Sokoloff's Huntress FBI series about a driven FBI agent on the hunt for that most rare of all killers: a female serial.
FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.
Roarke’s hunt for her takes him across three states. As he uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own.
Why I’m reading – I’ve read several of Sokoloff’s previous books, especially her “witchy” ones, and found them engrossing reads.
Then I came across an interview in which she described how she got the idea for the Huntress series. “The idea came to me at the San Francisco Bouchercon. One afternoon there were back-to-back discussion with several of my favorite authors: Val McDermid interviewing Denis Mina, then Robert Crais interviewing Lee Child. Val was saying that crime fiction is the best way to explore societal issues, and Denise said she finds powerful inspiration in writing about what makes her angry.”
Sokoloff said, “Write about what makes you angry? It didn’t take me a millisecond’s thought to make my list. Child sexual abuse, no contest. Violence against women and children. Religious intolerance. War crimes. Genocide. Torture.”
And then, she said, “Lee Child was talking about Reacher, one of my favorite fictional characters, and it got me thinking about what it would look like if a woman was doing what Reacher was doing. And that was it—instantly I had the whole story of Huntress Moon.”
She has certainly peaked my curiosity for the series.
A body burns in the high desert hills. A young boy walks into a fire station, pale with the shock of a grisly discovery. A middle school teacher worries when her colleague is late for work. By day’s end, when the body is identified as local math teacher Adam Merkel, a small Nevada town will begin its reckoning with a brutal and calculated murder.
The book examines the burden of guilt, the bitter price of forgiveness, and the debts we owe our dead, both recent and distant.
Why I’m Reading: I read her first book, The Lost Girls, and loved it. Heather Young turns her characters into living, breathing people you care about. Be warned though, she sometimes kills them off. This plot sounds just as twisty and interesting. The Distant Dead will release in June.