Readers looking for fresh blood, rejoice: there’s plenty to be found in this season’s mystery, thriller, and crime debuts. From a stolen Stradivarius to a Burmese python–obsessed party girl, these first-time authors deliver enticing works.

The Appeal

Janice Hallett, Simon & Schuster, Jan. 2022

A small-town community theater production turns deadly in this epistolary debut from playwright Hallett. A group of actors puts on an Arthur Miller play to raise money for an experimental medical treatment for the director’s granddaughter, who has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Rumors circulate about the treatment’s validity, and when a dead body is found the night after the dress rehearsal, no one knows whom to trust. Two lawyers sort through the emails, letters, and other evidence that make up the book to uncover the truth.

Her Name is Knight

Yasmin Angoe. Thomas & Mercer, Nov.

Kidnapped from her village in Ghana as a child, Nena Knight has become a feared assassin for a crime syndicate called the Tribe. While on a job in Miami, she inadvertently saves a life, an experience that makes her rethink her violent career. But just as she begins looking for ways to put her past behind her, the man who destroyed her childhood village and murdered her family joins the Tribe’s council, testing her resolve. Ghanaian American author Angoe’s debut is also the first in a series.

The Hitman’s Daughter

Carolyne Topdjian. Polis, Jan. 2022

Mave Michael, an employee at the once-ritzy, now-fading Château du Ciel hotel, has managed to keep her secret—that her father is a famous hit man serving out several life sentences—for many years. When she finds the body of a resident artist at the hotel during a blizzard, her secret comes out, and she finds herself framed for the crime. To identify the killer, Mave must draw on lessons she learned from her father.

Mango, Mambo and Murder

Raquel V. Reyes. Crooked Lane, Oct.

In this debut cozy, food anthropologist Miriam Quiñones-Smith finds herself staying home with her young son when she moves to Coral Shores, Fla., for her husband’s job. An offer to contribute her Caribbean recipes to a Spanish-language morning television show feels like just the distraction she needs from her husband’s obnoxious old-money family, until a woman drops dead at a women’s club luncheon and Miriam’s best friend is framed for it. Cuban recipes fill out a series launch that PW’s review called “refreshing.”

Pignon Scorbion & The Barbershop Detectives

Rick Bleiweiss. Blackstone, Feb. 2022

Set in the years leading up to WWI, this police procedural debut introduces the well-heeled Pignon Scorbion, a new chief police inspector who makes a splash in the small English village of Haxford. Bleiweiss’s mystery may appeal to Poirot devotees looking for a new detective.

Reptile Memoirs

Silje Ulstein, trans. from the Norwegian by Alison McCullough. Grove, Mar. 2022

Already a bestseller in the author’s native Norway, Ulstein’s debut tells two stories. In one, Liv, a young woman living in a small town on a fjord in western Norway, becomes obsessed with owning a baby Burmese python after seeing one on an Australian nature show. In the other, a woman named Mariam leaves her 11-year-old daughter in a shop after an argument and later discovers the girl has disappeared.

The Violin Conspiracy

Brendan Slocumb. Anchor, Feb. 2022

A promising classical musician discovers that his family’s heirloom violin is a legendary Stradivarius, only to have it stolen the night before a potentially life-changing competition. Both the musician’s family and the descendants of the white man who once enslaved them claim the violin as theirs. Slocumb’s debut has earned accolades from Misty Copeland and Alexander McCall Smith, among others.

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