Now that May 21 has come and gone, and the world has not—as some people predicted—reached a disastrous end, it’s time to start thinking seriously about what to read this summer. Below are the 10 new U.S.-published crime novels I’m most hoping to enjoy over the next three months.
Read the last Rap Sheet at Kirkus.
The Quest for Anna Klein, by Thomas H. Cook (June): Cook numbers among America’s finest little-known writers. He proves that again in this espionage-mystery tale focused on Thomas Danforth, the son of a U.S. importer, who in 1939 is coaxed into an anti-Nazi conspiracy that goes bust—but not before Danforth falls under the spell of a fetching fellow schemer, Anna Klein. After she’s captured, Danforth sets out to find her, a quest that raises doubts about Anna’s allegiances and leads him into the Soviet Union, where he’s imprisoned on suspicion of spying himself. Passion, obsession, the malleability of ethical absolutes and Danforth’s eventual need to explain his actions all enrich this finely composed adventure.
Misery Bay, by Steve Hamilton (June): With his latest standalone book, The Lock Artist, having snagged an Edgar Award, Hamilton now resurrects his series protagonist, Alex McKnight, a former minor-league baseballer and Detroit ex-cop, last seen in A Stolen Season (2006). Asked by his old nemesis, police chief Roy Maven, to probe the hanging death of a friend’s college-age son, McKnight yanks himself away from his quiet life on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—only to stumble into the jeopardous path of someone well practiced at making murders look like suicides.
Long Gone, by Alafair Burke (June): In her twisty, fast-steaming first standalone, Burke (212) introduces Alice Humphrey, the new manager of a Manhattan art gallery whose owner is deep-pocketed but anonymous. She loves her job—until the day the gallery suddenly vanishes, the man who hired her turns up dead and with a different name, and Alice finds herself the main suspect in a police investigation.
Lake Charles, by Ed Lynskey (June): Brendan Fishback is one unlucky young man. Already accused of killing a politician’s daughter, Ashleigh Sizemore, he tries to clear his head by visiting an eastern Tennessee lake with his sister, Edna, and her estranged hubby, Cobb Kuzawa—only to have Edna disappear. This sets off a succession of chaotic events—involving drug dealers, bent cops and Cobb’s ruthless father—that connect unexpectedly with Ashleigh’s slaying. Lynskey, the creator of series private eye Frank Johnson (The Blue Cheer), sets the stakes high and the morals low in this satisfying example of “redneck noir.”
The End of Everything, by Megan Abbott (July): Having claimed the “Dark Queen of Crime Fiction” title with four historical thrillers that read like fleshed-out film noir scripts, Abbott delivers this childhood nightmare as novel. Thirteen-year-old Lizzie Hood and her neighbor, Evie Verver, were best friends, living in a world of hope and the promise of glamour. But then one day, Evie disappears, the only clue to her fate being a mysterious sedan that had passed them earlier. With panic flooding her hometown, and calls on Lizzie for answers, the girl takes up her own pursuit of Evie, in the process unearthing secrets that make her doubt she really knew her best friend at all.
Requiem for a Gypsy, by Michael Genelin (July): Commander Jana Matinova of the Slovak Criminal Police, introduced in Siren of the Waters (2008), has quickly established herself as a protagonist worth following. This briskly told fourth Matinova mystery finds her struggling to link the murder of a business leader’s wife with the hit-and-run death of an anonymous man in Paris and international bank accounts that can be traced back to World War II.
Thick as Thieves, by Peter Spiegelman (July): After three detective novels starring John March (including Red Cat), Spiegelman offers up a heist thriller. The main character is an ex-CIA op named Carr, who hopes that his next score will set him up for life. Trouble is, his partners in this jewel theft—though seasoned professionals—aren’t all they seem, and some of the intelligence they’ve gathered may be equally untrustworthy. No wonder Carr is starting to feel paranoid.
The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen (August): Hoping to benefit from the international popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction, Danish author Adler-Olsen brings us this story of unlikely redemption featuring Carl Mørck, a Copenhagen police detective who’s lost interest in his both his job and life after a shooting incident. To get Mørck out of their hair, the brass appoint him as head of Department Q, a basement office responsible for hopeless cases. Much to his colleagues’ amusement, though, Mørck refuses to rot there, instead fastening on the five-year-old disappearance of a politician—a woman who may not be as dead as everyone assumes.
Bye Bye, Baby, by Max Allan Collins (August): Back in the saddle for the first time since Chicago Confidential (2002), randy and resolute shamus Nate Heller is in Hollywood in 1962, helping actress-singer Marilyn Monroe in a movie contract dispute. When, soon after, she dies from a drug overdose, and the local cops chalk it up to suicide, Heller goes looking for a more credible solution—maybe one involving the politically potent Kennedy brothers or mobster Sam Giancana, all of whom benefited from the premature demise of America’s number-one sex symbol. This well-researched, crisply presented narrative shows that neither time nor age has cost Heller his appeal.
The Most Dangerous Thing, by Laura Lippman (August, cover not available): After achieving acclaim with her mystery novels starring Baltimore reporter-turned-gumshoe Tess Monaghan (The Girl in the Green Raincoat), Lippman has turned increasingly to non-series suspense works, such as last year’s I’d Know You Anywhere. She continues down that path with The Most Dangerous Thing, a tale that skips back and forth in time to relate the experiences of a once-inseparable group of childhood friends who, after years of separation, are thrust back together by the car-crash death of their most wild-haired member. That’s when a secret they share threatens to be exposed and bring trouble all around. Is one of their own number responsible, and trying to destroy the rest?
Of course, there are myriad other mystery and thriller novels due for release between now and Labor Day. Would anyone else like to make a suggestion?