This season boasts a number of impressive first novels, led by Ariel S. Walker’s The Twenty-year Death, which consists of three interrelated sections, each written in the style of an iconic crime writer—Georges Simenon, Raymond Chandler, and Jim Thompson—and set, respectively, in 1931, 1941, and 1951. This tour de force, as J.I. Baker notes in his boxed PW review, “transcends the formal gimmick at its heart.”
Covering a shorter but if anything more intense time span is Michael Kardos’s debut novel, The Three-Day Affair. Three friends who went to Princeton—Will, Jeffrey, and Nolan—reunite for a road trip that takes an unexpected turn after Jeffrey kidnaps a young woman from a convenience store.
Michael Sears draws on his more than 20 years on Wall Street for his first foray into fiction, Black Fridays. Jason Stafford, a disgraced, unemployed Wall Street hotshot, must deal with the fallout from the accidental death of a junior trader—and reclaim his five-year-old autistic son from his unstable ex-wife.
Julia Keller, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, depicts the damage done by illegal trafficking in prescription drugs in her first novel, A Killing in the Hills, set in rural West Virginia. Keller does a superb job portraying the natural beauty of Appalachia as well as the hopeless anger of the people trapped there in poverty.
On the foreign front, Denmark’s leading crime fiction writer, Jussi Adler-Olsen, outdoes his outstanding first novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes, with his second book featuring Copenhagen Deputy Det. Supt. Carl Morck, The Absent One. Morck reopens an old case that reveals a lust for violence among certain pillars of society.
British author Charles Cumming’s stellar spy novel, A Foreign Country, opens in 1978 Tunisia, where future MI6 agent Amelia Weldon, then a 20-year-old au pair, had an affair with her French employer. When Amelia disappears in the present-day on the eve of her appointment as MI6 chief, the trail leads back to Tunisia.
Irish author Stuart Neville’s Ratlines takes the reader to 1963 Ireland, where President Kennedy is about to arrive for his historic tour of his ancestral homeland. Meanwhile, a series of murders of foreigners, all of them Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government after WWII, threatens to expose this shameful secret.
The Prohibition era provides the backdrop for Dennis Lehane’s Live by Night. Joe Coughlin, one of Lehane’s most memorable characters, repudiates his heritage as the son of an eminent Boston police captain with his rapid rise within the ranks of organized crime. Warner Bros. and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions have optioned the film rights.
Renaissance Italy serves as the setting for Michael Ennis’s meticulously researched The Malice of Fortune, in which Leonardo de Vinci and Niccolò Machiavelli put their brilliant minds together in an effort to catch a serial killer amid the machinations of the legendary Borgias.
Something even more sinister is going on in Breed, an updating of Rosemary’s Baby by Chase Novak, the pseudonym of Scott Spencer. Billed as “a total blast” by Stephen King, this supernatural thriller chronicles the attempts of a wealthy Manhattan couple to become parents, starting with a trip to Slovenia for a procedure that will produce twins—and some terrifying consequences.
PW’s Top 10: Mysteries & Thrillers
The Twenty-year Death by Ariel S. Winter. Hard Case Crime, Aug.
The Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos. Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious, Sept.
Black Fridays by Michael Sears. Putnam, Sept.
A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller. Minotaur, Aug.
The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen. Dutton, Aug.
A Foreign Country by Charles Cumming. St. Martin’s, Aug.
Ratlines by Stuart Neville. Soho Crime, Jan.
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane. Morrow, Oct.
The Malice of Fortune by Michael Ennis. Doubleday, Sept.
Breed by Chase Novak. Little, Brown/Mulholland, Sept.
Read and sort all our picks from this fall's mysteries & thrillers in the spreadsheet below: