Roger Hobbs, a recent graduate of Oregon’s Reed College, delivers Ghostman, a first novel whose protagonist Random House’s Gary Fisketjon likens to “the character played by Harvey Keitel in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, a non-pareil fixer and cleaner-upper.” Knopf is backing this tale of an attempt to fix an armored-car robbery gone wrong with an author tour and 150,000-copy announced first printing.
Another exceptional crime thriller debut is Becky Masterman’s Rage Against the Dying, which introduces 59-year-old Brigid Quinn, “one of the most memorable FBI agents since Clarice Starling,” according to PW’s boxed starred review. Masterman, who’s about her lead character’s age, effectively uses her expertise as an acquisitions editor for a press specializing in forensic medicine. In a pre-publication blurb, Gillian Flynn declares: “Wow. Chilling and smart—and what a voice.”
Two foreigners offer notable first novels. In The Andalucian Friend, the opener of a trilogy from Swedish TV screenwriter Alexander Söderberg, a nurse at a Stockholm hospital gets caught up in an epic battle among Spanish drug runners, German gangsters, Russian hit men, and Swedish cops. The Missing File by D.A. Mishani, an Israeli scholar of crime fiction, self-referentially contradicts the assertion of the book’s police inspector hero that “there are no detective novels in Hebrew” because all such crimes in Israel are simple and easily solved.
Three novels from established writers mix genres. Red Moon, a literary supernatural thriller by Benjamin Percy, explores the demonization of the “other,” in this case werewolves who have turned to terrorism in an alternative America where “Lycans” are a permanent underclass. The Shining Girls by South African author Lauren Beukes, a winner of SF’s Arthur C. Clarke Award, features a time-traveling serial killer. Mulholland’s editorial director, Josh Kendall, calls it an “elegantly written, wonderfully peopled, and thematically rich thriller.” The Demonologist by Canadian author Andrew Pyper is narrated by a melancholy Columbia University professor, a Milton scholar, whose supposed expertise on demons takes him to Venice to observe a “phenomenon.” A screen adaptation is in development at Universal.
Comparisons to John le Carré are often hyperbolic when it comes to spy fiction, but Charles Morgan Jones’s The Jackal’s Share, his second thriller to feature British corporate investigator Ben Webster, shows in his case that they are spot-on. The novel’s power derives from its nuanced look at Webster’s struggle to balance his principles and his responsibilities to his family. Meanwhile, John le Carré himself demonstrates why his work remains the gold standard in the genre with A Delicate Truth, which opens in 2008 with a counterterrorist operation in Gibraltar designed to capture a jihadist arms buyer. Three years later, some wonder whether it was the success it was cracked up to be—or a human tragedy that was ruthlessly covered up.
Stephen King weighs in with Joyland, in which a college student, while working as a carny at a North Carolina amusement park in the summer of 1973, confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life. Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime’s editor, says, “Even the most hard-boiled readers will find themselves moved. When I finished it, I sent a note saying, ‘Goddamn it, Steve, you made me cry.’ ”
PW’s Top 10: Fiction: Mysteries & Thrillers
Ghostman. Roger Hobbs. Knopf, Feb.
Rage Against the Dying. Becky Masterman. Minotaur, Mar.
The Andalucian Friend. Alexander Söderberg. Crown, Mar.
The Missing File. D.A. Mishani. Harper, Apr.
Red Moon. Benjamin Percy. Grand Central, May
The Shining Girls. Lauren Beukes. Little, Brown/Mulholland, June
The Demonologist. Andrew Pyper. Simon & Schuster, Mar.
The Jackal’s Share. Chris Morgan Jones. Penguin Press, Feb.
A Delicate Truth. John le Carré. Viking, May
Joyland. Stephen King. Hard Case Crime, June
Fiction: Mysteries & Thrillers
Amazon/Thomas & Mercer
Blood Makes Noise by Gregory Widen (Apr. 9, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-61109-900-0). Screenwriter Widen (Highlander) charts the astonishing journey of the corpse of Eva Perón in his first novel, purportedly based on true events.
House Odds: A Joe DeMarco Thriller by Mike Lawson (July 2, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-8021-1995-7). Washington, D.C., fixer Joe DeMarco takes on perhaps the most politically sensitive job of his career. For his patron, House Majority Leader John Mahoney, DeMarco looks into the case of Mahoney’s daughter, an engineer with a high-flying technology firm, who’s been arrested and charged with insider trading.
Baskerville by John O’Connell (June 11, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-4767-3023-3). Based on true events in the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this tale of friendship, rivalry, and ambition tells the backstory of how one of the world’s most celebrated mysteries came to be written.
Frozen Solid by James M. Tabor (Mar. 26, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-345-53063-9). Biomedical expert Hallie Leland flies to an Antarctic research station, where she’s to do some hazardous dives to recover an extremophile, a life-form that exists under conditions inimical to most life.
The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello (Mar. 5, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-553-80780-6). In this supernatural thriller involving the Romanovs and the undead, epidemiologist Frank Slater and his team travel to St. Peter’s, a small island off the Alaska coast, where the coffins of victims of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 are floating into the sea, thanks to global warming.
Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz (May 28, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-553-80773-8). In a sinister encounter with a rogue truck driver, Odd Thomas has a disturbing vision of a multiple homicide that has not yet been committed. Across California and Nevada, Odd embarks on a chase to prevent the tragedy.
Berkley Prime Crime
Safe from Harm by Stephanie Jaye Evans (Mar. 5, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-425-25346-5). Texas minister Walker “Bear” Wells, a former college football player, looks into the death of a troubled high school girl, whose body is found in his 15-year-old daughter’s bedroom, the apparent victim of a drug overdose.
Baksheesh by Esmahan Aykol (Mar. 5, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-908524-04-1). Turkish author Aykol’s second Istanbul mystery finds Kati Hischel, a German expatriate who runs a bookstore specializing in crime fiction, a suspect in the murder of a man with a reputation for burning down buildings.
The Andalucian Friend by Alexander Söderberg (Mar. 12, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-1-7704-3605-6). Söderberg’s debut, the start of a trilogy, introduces nurse Sophie Brinkmann, whose quiet life revolves around her teenage son and her work at a Stockholm hospital, until her relationship with a patient who’s an international crime lord makes her the target of an unscrupulous police detective.
Speaking from Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley (Feb., hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-60819-872-6). In 1951, the 500th anniversary of the death of St. Tancred, the opening of the saint’s tomb in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey leads 11-year-old amateur sleuth Flavia de Luce to the discovery of a body.
Inferno by Dan Brown (May 14, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-385-53785-8). In Italy, Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology, gets drawn into a harrowing world centered on Dante’s Inferno. Langdon grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science.
Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner (Feb. 5, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-525-01428-3). Boston Det. Sgt. D.D. Warren looks into the brutally efficient kidnapping of an entire family—father, mother, and 15-year-old daughter—from their Back Bay townhouse.
The Famous and the Dead: A Charlie Hood Novel by T. Jefferson Parker (Apr. 18, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-525-95317-3). In the sixth and final installment of the Charlie Hood series, the Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy heads for a showdown with Bradley Jones, an employee of the Baja Cartel.
(dist. by IPG)
The Drowned Man: A Peter Cammon Mystery by David Whellams (May 1, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-77041-148-7). Chief Insp. Peter Cammon travels to Canada to retrieve the body of a murdered Scotland Yard colleague. The probable murder motive may be related to the theft of three letters dating to the Civil War.
The Devil in Her Way by Bill Loehfelm (May 1, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-374-29885-2). This sequel to The Devil She Knows takes Staten Island waitress Maureen Coughlin to New Orleans, where she joins the police force. On her first day on patrol, Maureen easily handles a skinny black man who assaults her, but this relatively minor incident soon leads to more serious trouble.
Terror Red by David Hunt and Christine Hunsinger (Apr. 16, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-3289-9). David Gibson, a retired Special Forces colonel, and Christina Marchetti, a political consultant who’s never fired a gun in her life, take on terrorists bent on bringing mayhem to New England.
Death of Yesterday by M.C. Beaton (Mar. 26, hardcover, $23.99, ISBN 978-0-4555-0476-3). Scottish policeman Hamish Macbeth looks into the disappearance of art student Morag Merrilea, whose sketchbook was stolen during a night of heavy drinking at a pub. Meanwhile, Hamish’s love life has more snags than an old wool sweater.
Red Moon by Benjamin Percy (May 7, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-4555-0166-3). This supernatural thriller offers an alternative world where werewolves are a permanent underclass in America, forced to suppress their shape-shifting medically and stigmatized in all walks of life.
The Boyfriend by Thomas Perry (Mar. 5, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-8021-2606-1). Jack Till, a retired LAPD homicide detective turned PI who prefers routine cases that keep him close to home, reluctantly investigates a high-class prostitute’s murder, which he comes to see as just one of many similar murders across the country.
The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry (June 4, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-8021-2127-1). A young American spy living in Shanghai, where he’s absorbing the culture and language, aids a shadowy U.S. agency known only as HQ.
The Rules of Wolfe: A Border Noir by James Carlos Blake (July 2, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-0-8021-2129-5). Eddie Wolfe, a man from a family of Texas outlaws, crosses the border to work security for a Mexican drug cartel. Eddie’s troubles begin when he falls for the girlfriend of the cartel leader’s brother.
The Missing File by D.A. Mishani (Apr., hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-06-219537-1). In literary scholar Mishani’s first novel, Insp. Avraham Avraham believes there are always simple answers to crimes committed in Israel, until he looks into the case of a 16-year-old boy who failed to come home from school one day.
Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upton (Apr. 9, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-06-219543-2). A suspect who confesses to murdering three women on the set of Rear Window in 1954 California also confesses to three other murders in 1936 Wales, where mystery writer Josephine Tey and legendary director Alfred Hitchcock crossed paths.
The Afrika Reich by Guy Saville (Feb. 12, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-8050-9593-7). Saville’s first novel, an alternative history thriller, supposes that Britain made peace with Nazi Germany in 1940—at the price of returning Germany’s former African colonies to the Reich.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Capital Punishment by Robert Wilson (Mar. 26, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-0-547-93519-5). This first in a new thriller series introduces Charles Boxer, a former cop turned security professional specializing in kidnapping, who must rescue a self-made Indian billionaire’s 25-year-old daughter whose kidnapper claims the crime is not about money.
Red Velvet Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke (Feb. 26, $25, ISBN 978-0-7582-8034-3). Hannah Swenson, the proprietor of the Cookie Jar in Lake Eden, Minn., finds catering duties oblige her to attend the grand re-opening of the town’s Albion Hotel, where a near fatal fall soon leads to murder.
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs (Feb. 12, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-307-95996-6). In Hobbs’s debut, lone-wolf crook Jack Delton must help his former boss salvage an armored-car heist gone bad. Can Jack find the surviving robber with the $1.2 million meant for an Atlantic City casino before an ink bomb hidden in the cash goes off? 150,000-copy announced first printing.
(dist. by Dufour)
Slaughter’s Hound by Declan Burke (Mar. 18, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-907593-49-9). Harry Rigby, a Sligo taxi driver and occasional drug transporter who did time for killing his brother in cold blood, runs afoul of a powerful gangster over missing weed after an old cellmate of Harry’s takes a fatal plunge off a nine-story building.
Little, Brown/Reagan Arthur
Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina (Feb. 26, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-316-18852-4). Det. Sgt. Alex Morrow pursues a gunman who shot to death his elderly confederate in crime while holding up a Glasgow post office.
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (May 14, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-316-21679-1). Thomas De Quincey, author of the memoir Confessions of an Opium Eater, becomes the chief suspect in a series of brutal murders in 1854 London.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (June 4, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-316-21685-2). A time-traveling serial killer proves impossible to trace, until one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and starts hunting him.
Melville International Crime
(dist. by Random)
The End of the World in Breslau by Marek Krajewski (Apr. 2, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-7387-3416-3). In 1927 Breslau, Poland, Criminal Councilor Eberhard Mock looks into two grisly murders. The only link between the two crimes is a torn-out calendar page next to each victim.
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (Mar. 12, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0-312-62294-7). In this debut crime thriller set in Arizona, retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn is struggling to forget the horrors that still haunt her when authorities arrest a trucker claiming to be the Route 66 Killer—the one notorious case she didn’t close.
The Caretaker by A.X. Ahmad (May 21, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-250-01684-3). In this first novel set on Martha’s Vineyard, Ranjit Singh is illegally occupying the empty summer house of an African-American U.S. senator when mysterious armed men break into the house. That Singh once had a brief affair with the senator’s wife creates complications.
Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo (June 18, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-65857-1). Kate Burkholder, the police chief of an Amish Ohio town, looks into a car crash that was no accident in which an Amish deacon and two of his children perished. A TV adaption of the first book in the series, Sworn to Silence, first aired on Lifetime on January 6.
The Highway by C.J. Box (July 30, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-58320-0). Two Montana cops—one who’s been suspended for planting evidence, the other a single mother—learn separately of the disappearance of two teenage girls who were driving along a secluded highway at night.
The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne (Mar. 19, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-06-219551-7). In British author Ballantyne’s debut, a psychological legal thriller, solicitor Daniel Hunter, an experienced defender of children accused of crimes who was a troubled child, defends an 11-year-old boy on trial for the beating death of an eight-year-old boy in a London park.
There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron (Apr. 2, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-06-211760-1). This novel of suspense provides a double portrait of two elderly women living in Brooklyn—a mother estranged from her adult daughter, and her forgetful neighbor—that explores the inescapable consequences of age and alcoholism.
What Darkness Brings: A Sebastian St. Cyr Novel by C.S. Harris (Mar. 5, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-451-23927-3). Regency sleuth Sebastian St. Cyr tries to prove the innocence of Richard Yates, who stands accused of fatally shooting a wealthy diamond merchant in the merchant’s London home. That Yates is the husband of St. Cyr’s longtime romantic interest, Kat Boleyn, creates complications.
The Trouble with Charlie by Merry Jones (Feb. 5, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-60809-074-7). When Elle finds her husband, Charlie, on her sofa, stabbed to death with her kitchen knife, she finds herself not only haunted by his ghost but plagued by his unsavory past. She must race against time to avoid arrest, fight off attackers, solve the murder, and make peace with Charlie’s spirit.
Candlemoth by R.J. Ellory (Apr. 4, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-59020-516-7). In 1982, Daniel Ford, a man on death row facing execution for the murder of his best friend, reflects on their complex relationship during the 1960s and the circumstances that led to the horrific killing.
(dist. by Norton)
The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg (May 1, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-60598-425-4). Insp. Patrik Hedström looks at a number of suspicious deaths that point to a potential serial killer who has turned his eye on the Swedish town of Fjällbacka and her dark forests, where two children vanished decades before.
The Child Thief by Dan Smith (June 1, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-60598-440-0). In the tradition of City of Thieves and Child 44, this thriller charts the race of a troubled WWI veteran across the frozen steppe of 1930 Ukraine to save a child from a shadowy killer with unthinkable plans.
The Jackal’s Share by Chris Morgan Jones (Feb. 25, hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-59420-535-4). In Jones’s second thriller featuring British investigator Ben Webster, a wealthy Iranian expatriate seeking to sell the family business hires Webster to allay the fears of a prospective buyer who has heard rumors of something unseemly in the Iranian’s background.
Resolve by J.J. Hensley (Mar., hardcover, $28, ISBN 978-1-57962-313-5). The Pittsburgh marathon serves as the backdrop for Hensley’s first novel, in which Cyprus Keller, a former cop turned criminology professor, trains for the race and then runs it while also dealing with fallout from a co-ed’s murder.
Out of the Black Land by Kerry Greenwood (Feb. 5, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-4642-0038-0). Best known for the lighthearted Phyrne Fisher series set in 1920s Australia, Greenwood sets the first in a new series in ancient Egypt, where the new pharaoh, Akhnaten, is promoting the heresy that there is only one god.
The Crypt Thief: A Hugo Marston Novel by Mark Pryor (May 14, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-61614-785-3). Hugo Marston, head of security at the U.S. embassy in Paris, looks into the murder of two tourists in Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery as well as the theft of some bones from the crypt of a long-dead Moulin Rouge dancer.
The Striker: An Isaac Bell Adventure by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott (Mar. 5, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-0-399-16177-3). In 1902, private detective Isaac Bell goes undercover in West Virginia as a coal miner to ferret out the identities of saboteurs looking to damage the workings of a mining company.
A Man Without Breath: A Bernie Gunther Novel by Philip Kerr (Apr. 16, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-399-16079-0). In the spring of 1943, Bernie Gunther looks into evidence of a Soviet massacre of Polish officers in the Katyn Forest outside Smolensk.
Random/Titan/Hard Case Crime
Joyland by Stephen King (June 4, trade paper, $12.95, ISBN 978-1-78116-264-4). In this thriller set in a smalltown North Carolina amusement park during the summer of 1973, college student Devin Jones works as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life.
Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson (Mar. 26, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-0-312-61787-5). Oceanographer Avril Joliet and her colleagues discover some rather peculiar creatures on a Pacific island in this present-day riff on H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.
Don’t Go by Lisa Scottoline (Apr. 9, hardcover, $27.99, ISBN 978-0-250-01007-0). Dr. Mike Scanlon, while serving in Afghanistan, learns that his wife has died in a household accident. On returning home to suburban Philadelphia, Scanlon discovers that his wife’s death may have been no accident.
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (May 14, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-4767-0612-2). In this first novel from a retired CIA officer, CIA agent Nathaniel Nash goes up against Dominika Egorova, a beautiful Russian agent who’s trying to identify the traitor Nash has been running in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.
The Keeper of the Hands by J. Sydney Jones (June, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-7278-8269-1). When the police in 1901 Vienna appear indifferent to a 19-year-old prostitute’s murder, lawyer Karl Werthen tries to find out what happened and bring her killer to justice.
Severn House/Crème De La Crime
A Decent Interval by Simon Brett (July, hardcover, $28.95, ISBN 978-1-78029-044-7). In the first Charles Paris mystery since 1997’s Dead Room Farce, the actor assumes two minor roles in a new production of Hamlet. Differences between Ophelia, played by a girl who won the role through a TV talent show, and Hamlet, a reality TV show contestant, have fatal results.
Simon & Schuster
The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper (Mar. 5, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-4516-9741-4). Milton scholar David Ullman, an English professor at Columbia, accepts an offer from a strange European woman to travel to Venice to observe a “phenomenon” that his reputed expertise on demons qualifies him to assess.
The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die by Colin Cotterill (Feb. 19, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-61695-206-8). Dr. Siri Paiboun, recently retired as Laos’s coroner in the fall of 1978, looks into a bizarre case involving a witch dubbed the “used-to-be woman” because she’s alive and kicking two months after her corpse was put on a funeral pyre.
Murder Below Montparnasse by Cara Black (Mar. 5, hardcover, $25.95, ISBN 978-1-61695-215-0). A stolen painting, possibly a Modigliani, may offer a clue to Paris PI Aimée Leduc’s mysterious mother, who abandoned her at age eight.
(dist. by IPG)
Murder by the Book by Susanna Gregory (Apr., hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-1-84744296-3). The 18th Matthew Bartholomew chronicle, set in 14th-century England, finds Cambridge University in turmoil over the opening of a new Common Library. Dead bodies and violent rumors capture the attentions of physician-cum-sleuth Bartholomew and Sheriff Tulyet.
(dist. by F+W MEDIA)
My Second Death by Lydia Cooper (Mar., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-84744296-3). In this chilling debut, English grad student Michaela “Mickey” Brandis receives a message that leads her to a condemned house, where she finds a partially flayed male corpse. Mickey fears to call the police, since she once killed someone, albeit at age 10 and in self-defense.
A Delicate Truth by John le Carré (May 7, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-670-01489-7). In 2008, a delicate counterterrorist operation, code-named Wildlife, is being mounted on the British crown colony of Gibraltar to capture and abduct a high-value jihadist arms buyer.