Rookie authors disclose the motives and methods behind their crime novels.

First Case: Bellini and the Sphinx (Akashic, Feb. 2019)

Investigator: Tony Bellotto, trans. from the Brazilian Portuguese by Clifford E. Landers

Previously published in Brazilian rock musician Bellotto’s native country, the São Paolo–set noir follows private detective Remo Bellini, who is investigating the disappearance of several women connected to the underworld and the related murder of a famed surgeon. Bellotto says he modeled his PI on Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and that the plot, which involves prostitutes and live-sex performers, evokes two classically intertwined themes: sex and death.

First Case: The Break Line (Berkley, Jan. 2019)

Investigator: James Brabazon

In what PW’s starred review called “an adrenaline-charged thriller,” British intelligence officer Max McLean, an assassin with a perfect track record, is sent to Sierra Leone on what looks to be a suicide mission. Brabazon, a journalist and filmmaker, has covered numerous conflicts, and says “it was working in Liberia and Sierra Leone during their civil wars that inspired The Break Line.” The ethical challenges of being forced to rely not just on the good guys, but, at times, on murderers, and the frustration of not being able to fully capture his experiences in nonfiction, led to a realization that “writing fiction could be as authentic and as credible as reportage.”

First Case: Evil Things (Bitter Lemon, Feb. 2019)

Investigator: Katja Ivar

Ivar’s Nordic noir, set during the Cold War, introduces Hella Mauzer, the first female inspector in the Helsinki Homicide Unit. When the wife of an Orthodox priest asks her to investigate the disappearance of a man in a small village on the Soviet border, Mauzer discovers the man was murdered, and that his death may not be the only crime in need of investigation. Ivar says she began the novel as a way to escape the overwhelming “grief and pain” she experienced after suffering a stillbirth, and spent hours poring over artifacts in Finland’s National Police Museum. Elements of her past, she says, worked their way into the story, and “it turned out to be a very life-affirming book.”

First Case: The Wolf and the Watchman (Atria, Mar. 2019)

Investigator: Niklas Natt och Dag

In 1793 Stockholm, a disabled ex-soldier and former night watchman finds a badly mutilated corpse and wants to give the man a proper burial. That means working with Cecile Wing, a lawyer turned detective who is dying from consumption and hopes for a last redemptive act. Natt och Dag says his research included “prowling every secondhand bookseller in Stockholm and buying everything they had on the era in general, and Stockholm in particular,” and that the task quickly “took on the feeling of an inherited responsibility, to speak for the dead.” The Swedish Academy of Crime Writers named the book the best debut novel of 2017.

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