Over the coming four months, fans of crime and thriller fiction will have plenty to celebrate. On November 6, Agatha Christie’s 1939 stand-alone whodunit, And Then There Were None (its name taken from the last line of a British blackface minstrel song), will mark 75 years of publication. If it’s been a long while since you read that novel about 10 people—all of whom have escaped justice in some fashion—being enticed onto a remote island and then slain in ways that parallel the song’s rhyme, consider this your opportunity to crack open Christie’s oft-acclaimed mystery once more. Or perhaps you’d prefer to revisit Get Carter, the 1970 novel by Ted Lewis that was later turned into a cult film of the same name starring Michael Caine. A new U.S. publishing imprint, Syndicate Books, will reissue the work (originally called Jack’s Return Home) in September, followed in October and November by reprints of Lewis’ other two novels featuring London mob enforcer Jack Carter, Jack Carter’s Law (1974) and Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon (1977)—part of Syndicate’s plan to deliver all nine of Lewis’ novels back into print by the spring of 2015.
If your interests run to older genre tales, note that editor Otto Penzler has a new 600-page collection, The Best American Mystery Stories of the 19th Century, due out in October, featuring fine early yarns by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Anna Katharine Green, Richard Harding Davis and Louisa May Alcott. October is also the month to look for The Art of Robert E. McGinnis, an oversized study of the 88-year-old “pop culture Rembrandt” responsible for so many classic paperback crime-novel covers and movie posters. McGinnis and Art Scott are listed as co-authors of that volume.
Then of course there are myriad new novels in this genre set for U.S. release between now and New Year’s Day 2015. Below are some of those I think you should find time to hunker down and enjoy as fall and winter encroach.
Darkness, Darkness, by John Harvey (September):
British author Harvey originally imagined Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick as “very much in the mold of Frank Furillo,” the middle-management type in charge of the eccentric squad on television’s Hill Street Blues—only “instead of wearing smart off-the-pegs suits, [he] was outfitted by the same tailor as Columbo.” Yet ever since Resnick first appeared, in Lonely Hearts (1989), that Polish-descended, jazz-loving Nottingham copper has proved to be his own man, a more authentic-seeming, observant and thoughtful protagonist than the bulk of his rivals. In Darkness, Darkness (allegedly “Resnick’s last case,” though that’s what we were led to believe about 1998’s Last Rites, as well) we see him retired but still working for the local force as a civilian advisor. His new, quiet life is suddenly upset by the discovery of a murdered woman’s remains, dating back to the turbulent U.K. miners’ strike of the mid-1980s. Resnick had conducted police surveillance during that walkout, and the inspector now charged with solving the long-ago slaying, Catherine Njoroge, could benefit from his perspective. Flashbacks to the strike, Resnick’s ruminations over his part in that affair and Njoroge’s confrontations with an abusive ex-lover all add depth to this nimbly composed narrative.
Rose Gold, by Walter Mosley (September):
Mosley may exhaust the months of 1967 before he runs out of stories to set during that year of societal change. On the heels of Blonde Faith and Little Green (one of my favorite novels of 2013), this spirited new work has Los Angeles sleuth Easy Rawlins taking a job for, of all people, a local cop: Roger Frisk, who wants him to locate Rosemary Goldsmith, the abducted daughter of a prosperous arms manufacturer. Easy knows something’s fishy, but the dough Frisk offers him is too good to pass up. As it turns out, Frisk and other officials are interested in Rosemary primarily because of her connections to a former pugilist, who’s become a big wheel in black radical circles and could be responsible for her snatching. Being African American himself, Easy might have better luck infiltrating that crowd. However, to do so he must negotiate a changing world of hippies and drugs, and weather threats from a criminal boss who insists that he be the first to know what Easy learns about the boxer-turned-revolutionary. Mosley’s prose is crisply executed, and his ’60s scenes are so vivid you can almost smell the tie-dyeing in progress.
The Secret Place, by Tana French (September):
“This case was jammed with lies, couldn’t grab hold of it without getting a handful.” So says Detective Stephen Moran, a member of the Dublin, Ireland, constabulary who’s busily angling for promotion from the cold-case squad to homicide investigations. He figures that, despite its slippery facts, his latest assignment—determining who dispatched a teenage boy, Christopher Harper, on the grounds of an elite boarding school for girls—might win him that advancement. He is friendly with the student, Holly Mackey, who found a photo of the deceased, captioned “I know who killed him,” on the girls’ school notice board; he’d quizzed her before about other offenses (see 2010’s Faithful Place), so he’s well-placed to get a foot into the Harper probe. But Moran won’t get a chance to shine unless he can impress this case’s lead detective, nails-tough Antoinette Conway, and she doesn’t impress easily. French’s chapters about the police interrogations alternate with others told from the girls’ perspectives, revealing the limits of friendship and fidelity. This complex mix could’ve failed miserably. That it succeeds shows the scope of French’s ambition and the scale of her growth as a novelist.
Perfidia, by James Ellroy (September):
As he did in his original “LA Quartet” of novels (beginning with 1987’s The Black Dahlia), Ellroy says his “Second LA Quartet” will combine fact with fictional crime to further explore the history of southern California’s largest burg. Perfidia gets the fireworks started. It finds anti-Japanese rancor among Americans at an all-time high, following the December 7, 1941, attacks on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The deaths of an entire Japanese family in LA are only likely to escalate tensions—and tear apart that city’s corrupt police department in the process. Thrown together by these atrocities are several people, some real (such as striving, anti-Soviet LAPD captain William H. Parker), others imagined and recruited from Ellroy’s previous books, whose futures are shaped by the romance and betrayals this tale exposes. Although Ellroy’s gritty brutality and grinding racism can be a bit much on occasion, Perfidia is a remarkable long work, destined to leave you exhausted from overstimulation rather than boredom.
Sometimes the Wolf, by Urban Waite (October):
Hoping to capitalize on the plaudits he received for The Terror of Living and The Carrion Birds, Waite now delivers this often grim-edged yarn about a father and son trying to make a living in an undersized Washington mountain town. Patrick Drake had the job of local sheriff, before he was beset by monetary woes and got involved in drug smuggling, only to wind up serving a 12-year prison sentence. He has now been released on parole into the custody of his son, Bobby, who’s become a deputy sheriff in his dad’s old department. Bobby is supposed to keep Patrick on the straight-and-narrow, but his father’s renewed presence only reminds him of the shame he felt for Patrick’s transgressions and exacerbates Bobby’s own regrets for not having made a better showing of his life. Just as these two are stumbling toward reconciliation, a couple of dangerous players from the elder Drake’s past reappear, bent on recovering the money that vanished when Patrick entered the slammer—and drawing Bobby and his wife, Sheri, into their violent endeavors.
Final Silence, by Stuart Neville (October):
Following his 2013 one-off, Ratlines, Northern Ireland writer Neville returns to the company of his series lead, damaged Belfast police inspector Jack Lennon, who here gets involved—disastrously—with a woman he once dated, but hasn’t seen for half a decade. Rea Carlisle, unemployed, impatient and not quite grown into her 34 years, inherits the soulless abode of an uncle she barely knew. Things thus seem to be looking up for her…until she breaks into her late relative’s locked room and unearths a scrapbook filled with evidence suggesting the uncle had been murdering men and women for years. While her selfish father insists on covering up such dismal doings, lest they damage his political prospects, Rea turns to Lennon, who’s already burdened with worries, not limited to injuries he sustained during his last case (in Stolen Souls) and his increasing drug dependence. Lennon wants no part of Rea’s predicament. But after she meets a gruesome end, and the scrapbook disappears, he becomes the principal suspect in those misdeeds. Lennon must unravel the mystery of the dead man’s journal before he loses both his daughter and his livelihood.
The Murder of Harriet Krohn, by Karin Fossum (November):
Self-deception forms the dark heart and soul of this latest entry in Norwegian author Fossum’s Inspector Konrad Sejer series. Most of the book’s early focus is on Charlo Olav Torp, a widower who’s suffered more than a few self-inflicted wounds. He has gambling debts and an estranged daughter, and has convinced himself that the only way to set everything right again is to rob an old woman of her valuables. Harriet Krohn, though, is no soft-touch. When she refuses to give Torp what he wants, he shoots her and then tries to convince himself that the killing wasn’t entirely his fault. He tells himself that he’s not a bad man, and that he can use the balance of his life to prove it. But as he employs his newfound wealth to improve his situation and reconnect with his offspring, Torp’s ability to put his malfeasance behind him—and to keep from being found out—grows ever weaker. This isn’t a whodunit (Sejer doesn’t even enter the picture until late in the game), but more a chilling study of crime and its consequences.
The Laughing Monsters, by Denis Johnson (November):
Dubious agendas and doubtful loyalties abound in this literary thriller starring jaded NATO agent Roland Nair, a Scandinavian with a U.S. passport and more than a few bad habits, who travels back to troubled Sierra Leone to see an old colleague, soldier of fortune Michael Adriko. The ostensible reason behind this visit is for Nair to meet Adriko’s new fiancée, Colorado college student Davidia. However, it transpires that Adriko wants the NATO man, with whom he’s done shady deals in the past, to join him in peddling radioactive material to the highest bidder. The plan sends this trio trekking off to the Congo-Uganda border, under the wary gaze of various international spy agencies. Along the way, Nair develops an ardor for Davidia, is kidnapped by the Congo army, gets on the wrong side of a village’s self-proclaimed deity and learns the extent of his willingness to inflict casual hostilities. With the sprawling Tree of Smoke and the gemlike Train Dreams under his belt, Johnson has won renown as an author who can do few wrongs. The Laughing Monsters won’t upset that rep.
The Skeleton Road, by Val McDermid (December):
Long-secreted bones have provided the catalyst for many mysteries over the years, but Scottish writer McDermid (Cross and Burn) makes particularly expert use of them here. Edinburgh Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie is called in to investigate after a skeleton is found, hidden among the lofty pinnacles atop an abandoned mock-Gothic structure. Whose bones could they be, and how did they ever get up there? Might their peculiar location have anything to do with maverick “free-climbers,” folks who delight in scaling the exteriors of buildings? Pirie’s search for the corpse’s identity eventually leads her to a tiny village in Croatia, still reeling from the manifold horrors visited upon it during the Balkan ethnic conflicts of the 1990s. As Pirie plumbs the heartrending story of those clashes and their aftermath, she realizes that someone refuses to let the past lie buried, and is still exacting revenge for past injustices.
Also worth checking out: Cry Father, by Benjamin Whitmer (September); A Dancer in the Dust, by Thomas H. Cook (September); The Drop, by Dennis Lehane (September); Gangsterland, by Tod Goldberg (September); The Lewis Man, by Peter May (September); The Monogram Murders, by Sophie Hannah (September); Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, by Reed Farrel Coleman (September); Cobra, by Deon Meyer (October); The Madness of July, by James Naughtie (October); Malice, by Keigo Higashino (October); Only the Dead, by Vidar Sundstøl (October); The Scent of Death, by Andrew Taylor (October); The Wolf in Winter, by John Connolly (October); Betrayal, by J. Robert Janes (November); A Billion Ways to Die, by Chris Knopf (November); A Map of Betrayal, by Ha Jin (November); The Promise, by Robert Crais (November); Soul of the Fire, by Eliot Pattison (November); Sweet Sunday, by John Lawton (November); Woman With a Gun, by Phillip Margolin (December); and You Know Who Killed Me, by Loren D. Estleman (December).