Staff Picks Pic

Meaghan Wagner is an Assistant Editor and has been with Penguin since 2010. She is definitely the MVP of the Penguin Random House Downtown softball team, despite rumors you might have heard to the contrary.

 

 

 

 

 

wherelight

Where All Light Tends to Go, by David Joy

Admittedly this is more of a story that has crime and thrills in it, rather than your more traditional thriller, but since it is hands down the upcoming title I am most excited to see coming up, I must include it. David Joy so beautifully etches out the internal struggle between family loyalty and the personal hope for something better against the evocatively etched backdrop of the North Carolina meth trade.

 

 

 

 

naked

Naked in Death, by J.D. Robb

So this whole series really could go in here, but I figure it’s best to start at the beginning. This is the first series I obsessively collected – starting with the first 10 at a library book sale in 8th grade. I immediately fell in love with tough-as-nails Eve Dallas (and even contemplated getting a copycat tattoo of her famous rose) and her bad-boy Roarke. Robb (the alias for Nora Roberts) has a way of keeping every case fresh and fun and I look forward to the new book’s release *every* year.

 

 

 

doubleplay

Double Play, by Robert B. Parker

Double Play has everything about a classic Parker- snappy, clever dialogue, great characters, villains you love to hate, intricate mystery – but set around baseball and, of all people, Jackie Robinson.  The plot crackles and seeing Jackie fictionalized is endless fun for a baseball fan like me. With great flashback interludes, it one of the best-written Parker novels I’ve ever read (and that, my friends, is saying something).

 

 

 

 

loyalty

Loyalty, by Ingrid Thoft

This book has a special place in my heart – it was the first one I recommended Putnam acquire that we actually bought. After years mired in submission after submission, getting acquainted with Thoft’s tough-but-tender P.I. Fina Ludlow and her unbelievably dysfunctional family was a breath of fresh air. The second book in the series – Identity- came out this summer and the third will follow in 2015. Keep a lookout for Fina!

 

 

 

 

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Credit: Gabriel Lehner

Lyndsay Faye

At BEA I sat down with Lyndsay Faye, author Seven for a Secret, newly released in paperback. Voted one of The Wall Street Journal’s Ten Best Mysteries of the Year!

 

How do you get in the writing mood? Do you have a certain place that you go, do you have music that you like to listen to?

That’s a cool question, never been asked that question before. How do I get into the writing mood? I get into the writing mood by reading authors I admire. You know maybe I’m going to be reading it for ten minutes, maybe I’m going to be reading it for twenty minutes, and I am going to be sort of just absorbing awesome styles and brilliant techniques and ridiculously cool characterizations as I read them. And then if I’m lucky I’ll manage to make myself stop and actually sit down and write something. So you know, I’ll pick up – it’s easiest to make yourself stop and do it a little bit more piecemeal with poetry. So you know I’ll read Richard Siken poetry, I’ll read T.S. Elliot for a minute, because I like to use very strong metaphors and I like to use vivid language, and so often reading a couple poems for a few minutes before I start writing is nice, because I can read a phrase that I think has great imagery and I can just sort of get into the feeling that way. So that’s what I often do to get in the writing mood.

 

Would you say poetry is your genre of choice then?

I think any artist who uses poetic language and I mean any medium literally. So for instance like one day I might be listening to The National, uh you know, some song off High Violet, like I’ll listen to Lemon World three times and that is beautiful poetry. You know if you write the lyric ‘lay me on a table, put flowers in my mouth, and we can say that we invented a summer love and torture party’ that is poetry at the same time that I would also like to sit down and read ‘let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table’ from T.S. Elliot. Or I might you know pick up Raymond Chandler and read a few passages from The Big Sleep or something along those lines. So yeah, any medium, any genre, just as long as the language is really rich. I like a big slab of chocolate cake in language form right before I start writing.

 

That is a great image! (laughs) Oh I’m going to steal that one. Don’t worry I’ll always credit you.

No you can take it, you can take it. I always do eat that slice of chocolate cake and you know it could be lyrics it could be poetry it could be prose but, you know just as long as it’s really rich language I always read that first. And sometimes I have it open in tabs on the internet, like I’ll have a poem open in a tab and if I get to a place where I just want to bang my face against the keyboard until my nose goes flat (laughs) then I’ll read the poem for a second and it feels better.

 

What is your most unexpected or strangest hobby or talent?

Wow, um, I am the only person I know who can put vibrato in a kazoo. I am a really amazing kazoo player. I have a pretty strong vibrato anyway and I was trained in musical theater, but I can take a kazoo and I can, you know, actually put that vocal spin in it. And um, if you’d ever like to hear me play Amazing Grace on the kazoo, I can do that for you. I’d be willing to do that but I don’t have my kazoo with me. It’s in my other pants right now. The other thing I could do for you, that’s a strange talent of mine I can demonstrate right now. (Puts tongue all the way in her nose) So if you can get your tongue all the way into your nose that is like, not something everyone can do. I can pick my nose with my tongue and I can put vibrato in a kazoo. Two things, two things that I can do that are not perhaps expected.

 

That was excellent! Thank you for sharing that one. So going back to writing… How did you get started as a writer?

I got started as a writer because I had been an actor for a really long time, and I’d been obsessed with the Sherlock Holmes Mysteries since I was ten. And I was working in a restaurant, as you do when you’re a writer. And I picked up a book that was one of many, many, many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes trying to solve the Jack the Ripper murders, there’s countless versions of this. But I picked it up at the Barnes and Noble across the street from the restaurant I was working at, just you know on my lunch break. And I was reading it and I am so obsessed with Sherlock Holmes that every little thing that was wrong with it stood out to me. And you know, it’s actually really well written and I’m not faulting the author at all, the author had clearly done a lot of research etcetera but I’m reading it and I’m like ‘this is just not how I would do it’. There’s a tendency when writing fiction involving Sherlock Holmes particularly, that you’re going to throw in – well and also Jack the Ripper – There’s this tendency to throw in, they’re like ‘And then were going to do also vampires and Satanists, and they live in an interconnected series of underground caves in Transylvania and uh space aliens actually are the ones who infected their minds’ so like they throw everything but the kitchen sink at it. So my problem with that was that what I wanted to be reading was Sherlock Holmes solving the Jack the Ripper murders written by Caleb Carr, essentially. With forensic evidence that was true to the actual events with, you know, a certain amount of historical verisimilitude when it comes to the absolute abject poverty these women were living in in Whitechapel. And I thought it was a little bit of a disservice to the Sherlock Holmes character and to the women who actually were subjected to these horrific crimes that everything but the kitchen sink was being thrown at the narrative. I thought ‘why shouldn’t it be frightening enough that a serial killer is stalking the streets of London and no one knows who this is and at any moment you could be brutally murder and then eviscerated’? I figured that was scary enough, and so I wanted to do one without all the bells and whistles and supernatural etcetera. In an act of enormous hubris I sat down and I actually started writing it which was crazy, I’ve never taken a creative writing class before, I was an English major but it was all analytical type stuff. And then after getting a little ways into it I kind of put it down for a minute because you know you don’t realize that you can actually write a book until you finish writing an entire book, it’s an enormous enterprise. And then the restaurant I was working at was knocked down with bulldozers because they sold it to create an apple store. So then I was on six months of unemployment, and I said ‘you know what you’re probably going to get one shot at finishing this, so just tell yourself six months of unemployment is enough time to write a novel’. And since I’d already done all the research, I’d finished my research into the ripper killings, it was enough time. And I finished it, while I was, you know, out of work. And after that everything got crazy because I didn’t ever think it was ever going anywhere, I thought maybe a Sherlockian small press would maybe, I don’t know, do an e-book of it or something along those lines. I was blown away when I got an agent, and I was even more blown away when I sold it to Simon and Schuster. So that was how I got into and it was all very gratuitous but it was crazy. And I often think to myself ‘why are people letting me do this for a living’ like ‘this is not a regular job’ but that’s how it works.

 

So that was for your first book, and how did you then make the transition to your second?

Yeah that was a can of worms. I have a few lost novels between Dust and Shadow and The Gods of Gotham. And I still work on them and I still love the concepts, but I didn’t know what I was doing, is the problem. Because if you’re writing a Sherlock Holmes pastiche you have a lot of template laid out for you. You already have the characters and they’re already beloved characters so there’s a certain shorthand you can enter into. You’re not introducing a new character and trying to involve the reader in their lives and make the reader feel affection for this person, they already feel affections for Sherlock Holmes or they wouldn’t have the damn book in the first place. So additionally with the Ripper murders, what you have is a series of extremely specific crimes that I wanted to represent as accurately as possible. So I essentially had a historical outline written for me. And that was great too, but that doesn’t actually teach you how to write a book. So I wrote a few more books, wrong. And then I decided to become a long-haul truck driver, and my husband said ‘no, you should probably not be a long-haul truck driver’. And I was like ‘what about ice fishing?’ And he was like ‘no, that’s probably not a good idea either’. I just didn’t want to go back – acting had burned me out a little bit and I didn’t want to go back to the restaurant work. And then I sat down and I said OK here’s one more try, one more try, I want to write – and here’s the difference between those books that didn’t work and the one that did – I was trying to write – this is going to sound ridiculous – I was trying to write a literary book. I was trying to write a book that had literary value and artistic merit and had all these sorts of exciting moments and historical significance etcetera. And I wanted to do all of those things, but what I wasn’t sitting down and writing – I wasn’t putting my guts on the page. I was trying to be artistic about it, I was trying to say like you know ‘this is an artful sentence, there you go’. Writing artful sentences is bullshit. What I needed to do was take all of my feelings of you know, like, social injustice and failure, what I myself was doing, and dissatisfaction with the world of politics in general, and all of the things I was actually feeling. And I needed to put my own guts on the page and thats was what I was not doing. Because I was being timid and I thought that professionalism was, you know, being intellectually rigorous, but I was in fact just being cowardly about taking my own feelings and just, you know, like finger painting with them in words. So in The Gods of Gotham I said ‘fuck it’, Timothy Wild has just lost everything. He is a dude who walks around with his heart absolutely on his sleeve. And I know all sorts of men who are very sensitive kittens so that was not a problem to write. And he’s in love with a girl who doesn’t love him back, and he has a terrible relationship with his only sibling. And I just piled things on and on and on because I was very frustrated at the time. And Tim is a ridiculous little angst kitten, but he is way more a reflection of my actual, you know, like, style and self etcetera, and I figured at a certain point I am just going to actually be risky and put myself out there, and see if anybody wants to read that. And bizarrely it turns out they do (laughs). So um, me being artistic is not as effective as me being honest, and I didn’t know that, because no one had ever taught me how to write a book before. So I had to practice.

If you were to, in one sentence, describe why you think reading is important, what would you say?

I think that you should read so – If we don’t read how can we possibly understand each other. And, you know, if that’s the one sentence, great, if we don’t read how could we possibly understand each other. But I would add to that how could we possibly understand ourselves if we’re not reading, because reading is such a touchstone for people. It enlightens us not only in the sense of ‘Oh that’s how that life felt’ that someone else has written. But the perfect metaphor that captures exactly how you were feeling and you didn’t really know, and it was this sort of just amorphous miasma of ‘ughh, I feel like this this, but I don’t know how to say it’. Naming things is very powerful, and I think that putting concrete words onto emotions, onto experiences, onto settings onto times of day, you know, like, nailing those down and saying that – there’s this beautiful sentence at the beginning of The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler right, that still boggles my mind. The phrase he inserts into the sentence is ‘with the sun not shining’ and this is in Los Angeles, ‘with the sun not shining’ doesn’t mean the same thing as that it was cloudy, it’s like this haze right, and so you know from reading that, OK it was this sort of day, and I can picture it. And I think you can do the same thing with people’s feelings, people’s, you know, struggles and their inner turmoil if you put the words together in a row the right way and I think that everyone should read because otherwise we’re just going to keep blindly bumping into walls.

And then just to finish up with one fun question, what is your guilty pleasure at the moment? Whether it be movies or books or food.

I don’t have guilty pleasures. I mean I don’t think people should have guilty pleasures, like – that is a fun question – But I think that people should have pleasures, you know, we’re such puritans (laughs) like we’re such puritans, screw that I mean go eat a pickle straight out of the pickle jar, like go read some fan fiction, go, you know, watch Godzilla. Do what you do man (laughs). Go for it, die your hair blue, whatever. I mean the older I get the more I feel like guilty pleasures are standing in the way of forward progress (laughs). If I were to come up with one, I guess, I am obsessed with Star Trek the Next Generation. But it’s not guilty. I just got into that. I watch star trek when I’m sad, and when I’m happy, and when I’m bored, and all the time in between. I don’t know whenever I try to think of something that’s a guilty pleasure, it’s like ‘well yeah I mean yes I really love cheesy 80’s pop music’ but I think everybody does, you know, it’s like guilty pleasures are the same as pleasure pleasures they just mean that you aren’t owning it.

LyndsayFaye_SevenforaSecret

From Edgar-nominated author Lyndsay Faye comes the next book in what Gillian Flynn calls “a brilliant new mystery series.”

 

Start Reading an Excerpt of Seven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye!


Rebecca

Rebecca Brewer is an editorial assistant/professional geek at Ace and Roc. When not working she can be found attending a show, at band practice, and forcing her favorite books onto friends and loved ones.

 

 

 

dark

Dark Currents, by Jacqueline Carey

I knew from reading her previous books that Jacqueline Carey’s urban fantasy series would be good, but I didn’t realize how much fun it was! The small resort town where the series takes place effortlessly blends many different paranormal creatures who make up the tight community.  With action, romance, and Carey’s imagination, this is the start to an amazing series.

 

 

 

 

night

Night Owls, by Lauren M. Roy

When I read Night Owls, a fantastic ensemble urban fantasy about a vampire who owns a bookstore and her group of friends, I knew I had to have it. If you’re looking for characters as vivid as those in Game of Thrones, and a new take on paranormal creatures, you have to read Night Owls.

 

 

 

 

 

midnight

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris is one of the best authors at combining genres, and this just cements her place as the master. This is a perfect blend of mystery and urban fantasy, with a fantastic setting that makes me nostalgic for my small town Texas home, though it’s just a bit more mysterious.

 

 

 

 

 

maplecroft

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

I’ve been counting down the days until this book is released and I can discuss it with others. In this perfectly atmospheric historical fantasy, Lizzie Border (with her axe) is fighting against something monstrous attacking people in Fall River. This is a perfect novel for those who love the Lovecraft mythos.

 

 

 

 

black wings

Black Wings, by Christina Henry

If a personable Agent of Death who guides soul to the afterlife isn’t enough to convince you to read this book, perhaps a very attractive (and potentially troublesome) neighbor will, along with a hilarious gargoyle with a penchant for junk food. The action packed plot and the fantastic voice will make any urban fantasy fan happy.

 

 

 

 

bloodring

Bloodring, by Faith Hunter

Most people encounter Faith Hunter’s work through her Jane Yellowrock series, but I fell in love with her book Bloodring first. It’s the first in her Rogue Mage series where Seraphs and Demons fight battle while the remaining humans must use their wits and our main character, a mage, fights for the ones she loves. Dark, exciting, and passionate, with an overarching mystery and an upcoming battle on the horizon.

 

 

 

 

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Michael

Michael Barson has worked in the Putnam Publicity department since April 1994, and has worked in book publicity since 1984. He has a PhD in American Culture from BGSU, and now lives in Glen Ridge NJ with his wife, their big dog, and three bedrooms formerly occupied by sons. His hobbies include beer, pickup basketball, old crime movies, and more beer.

 

 

 

 

shots fired

Shots Fired, by C.J. Box

Stories from Joe Pickett Country, by C.J. Box – This new collection of ten crime stories set in the west—mostly in C.J. Box’s native Wyoming—is a real treat for fans of the Joe Pickett series, which Putnam has published from the start (OPEN SEASON came out in 2001). Three of the stories feature Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett, one stars Joe’s renegade friend, the very lethal Nate Romanowski, and the othersix feature stand-alone characters and situations. Several of the non-Joe stories are truly excellent, my favorite being “Pronghorns of the Third Reich.” C.J. Box has had seven consecutive national bestsellers, and it would be great if SHOTS FIRED made it eight in a row.

 

robert

Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, by Reed Farrel Coleman

A Jesse Stone Novel, by Reed Farrel Coleman – when Robert B. Parker died in January of 2010, it was a huge loss for the world of crime fiction, and for Putnam books as well, which Parker had called his home since the late ‘80s. Beginning in 2012, Ace Atkins took over the primary Parker series, starring Boston P.I. Spenser, with positive results. But now Reed Coleman has done an equally fine job of making the Jesse Stone character his own in his first turn on that series, BLIND SPOT, which pubs on September 9. In fact, the story is much more detailed and layered than many of Parker’s own Jesse Stone  tales, and I expect the critics to take note of this when the reviews start arriving in September. An impressive debut by Coleman, who has won many mystery awards over the course of his 20-year career.

field of prey

Field of Prey, by John Sandford

Over the course of more than twenty of the hard-boiled PREY thrillers by John Sandford, Minneapolis detective/investigator Lucas Davenport has faced off against every sort of criminal, from an armed robbery team to a female hit-woman. But my favorite villains in the PREY series are the serial killers, and Lucas has matched wits with some doozies. FIELD OF PREY is one of those. Of the earlier books, I remember MIND PREY being especially creepy. Sandford is just a great writer, in addition to being a #1 bestseller for Putnam, where the PREY series began in 1989. But you do have to be able to handle the violence quotient in these—Sandford isn’t kidding around.

 

a man without breath

A Man Without Breath, by Philip Kerr

The Bernie Gunther series, which Putnam publishes in hardcover, has been described as plunking down private eye Philip Marlowe in Nazi Germany instead of 1940s Los Angeles. That does give you the flavor of these extremely well-crafted historical thrillers. Penguin Books has nine of these Philip Kerr titles in their backlist, and they range from really good to unbelievably great. Philip Kerr is simply one of today’s very best crime writers—in the top five, for my money. (Even if I do get these for free.)

 

 

 

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JTM

John Mercun works as the Consumer Engagement Manager for Penguin Random House’s Consumer Marketing Group and is known as “the funniest guy in the office”, mainly because no one else is editing this bio.  In his spare time, John is a police dispatcher, volunteer EMT, fantasy football fanatic and, when time permits, an avid reader.

 

 

 

taken

Taken, by Robert Crais

One of the great pleasures of working in publishing is being able to watch an author get more and more popular every year that they publish.  This is no truer than in the case of Robert Crais, who has made a name for himself as a terrific mystery writer.  Elvis Cole is easily one of my favorite literary characters, mainly because he always has a glib comment in the best or worst of times. Partnered with the strong but silent Joe Pike, together they take on a missing persons case that puts both of them up against more than they bargained for.

 

 

 

Cold Dish

The Cold Dish, by Craig Johnson

If you’ve never seen A&E’s hit show LONGMIRE, you should first pick up The Cold Dish, the first novel in the series. We meet Wyoming Sheriff Walt Longmire for the first time as he is looking back on twenty-five years as sheriff and hoping to finish his tenure in peace.  When a high school boy is found dead, however, Walt’s hopes for a quiet finish to his career are dashed. Capturing the American West with great feel and authenticity, author Craig Johnson gives readers a mystery that they will keep reading well into the night.

 

 

 

Terminal City

Terminal City, by Linda Fairstein

In the two decades as the chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office of Manhattan, Linda Fairstein spent most of her time solving crimes.  Now she spends most of her time writing about people who solve crimes. Terminal City reunites readers with Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper who find themselves hunting for an elusive killer whose only signature is carving a carefully drawn symbol into his victims’ bodies. This thrill ride takes readers into the darkest heart of one of New York’s most iconic structures – Grand Central Terminal.

 

 

MarcoEffect

The Marco Effect, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I’ve always appreciated the smart and surly police detective who walks to the beat of his own drum while getting the job done.  And no one fits that bill more than Carl Mørck, the deeply flawed head of Copenhagen’s unsolved crime unit known as “Department Q”.  With a few years left until retirement,  Mørck hopes to quietly whittle the time away in the basement of police headquarters. Unfortunately, that plan has yet to work out. This time, he’s chasing down a fifteen year old gypsy boy on the run and a mystery that extends from Denmark to Africa, from embezzlers to child soldiers, from seemingly petty crime rings to the very darkest of cover-ups. Coming this September!

 

 

Missing YouMissing You, by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is no stranger to the mystery and suspense world.  NYPD Detective Kat Donovan has become an old friend to his readers and, with each book, the friendship grows a little deeper.  Against her will, Kat is placed on an online dating site that at first she thinks is a waste of time.  But when she looks at the accompanying photo to one profile, her world comes crashing down.  Staring back her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, who broke her heart over 18 years ago.  Things are not what they seem, however, and when Kat reaches out to him an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light that Kat is forced to confront and stop.

 

 

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Paul

Paul Wargelin is a mild-mannered Web Copy Manager for the great metropolitan Penguin Random House’s Berkley and NAL imprints, who also writes and edits cover copy for the Ace, Roc, and InkLit imprints. Despite a lifetime exposed to a variety of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and superhero fiction, he has yet to develop any superpowers of his own.

 

 

TomorrowTomorrow and Tomorrow, by Thomas Sweterlitsch

Easily the best debut novel I have ever read, science fiction or otherwise. We already live in a world where cameras on every street corner, and in everyone’s hands, record everything we do 24/7. Now, imagine collating all of that recorded footage into a virtual environment, recreated precisely from every conceivable angle, its historical events preserved for people to experience and interact with again and again. Tomorrow and Tomorrow is the poignant story of one man’s addiction to reliving his virtual past, an intriguing murder mystery that unfolds both online and off, and a thought-provoking near-future vision that takes our technological social connected society to its logical, plausible, and increasingly isolating conclusion. My favorite book Penguin has published since I started my career here.

 

LexiconLexicon, by Max Barry

A mesmerizing science fiction mystery featuring the most exciting first chapter I’ve read in recent memory, Lexicon hits the ground running with an amnesiac desperately trying to regain his lost memories and doesn’t stop until his final confrontation against a woman capable of destroying the world with a single word. A riveting story of how ambition, power, and ultimately love, alters our very essence.

 

 

 

 

Terminal

Terminal World, by Alastair Reynolds

A fallen angel. A city comprised of dirigibles. Cybernetic cannibals called carnivorgs. These are just a few of the elements found in Terminal World’s post-apocalyptic far future setting. An incredible adventure from one of science fiction’s most imaginative practitioners, Alastair Reynolds’s novel is a must read for Steampunk aficionados willing to expand their horizons beyond the genre’s basic tropes.

 

 

 

 

Resus Chart

The Rhesus Chart: A Laundry Files Novel, by Charles Stross

Since I was introduced to Bob Howard in The Atrocity Archives, I’ve faithfully followed the adventures of this tech nerd/cubicle jockey turned “computational demonologist” as he reluctantly fights the forces of Lovecraftian darkness on behalf of Her Majesty’s anti-occult organization known as the Laundry. Bob’s role as an everyman office drone separates him from the destined supernatural warriors chronicled in most urban fantasies, making him one of the most relatable protagonists in the genre. The Rhesus Chart pits Bob against vampire financiers employed by a literal blood bank as Charles Stross once again demonstrates just how bureaucratic office politics can lead to Armageddon in both humorous and horrific style.

 

Vampires

Vampires, by John Steakley

The late John Steakley’s contribution to vampire mythology is an action-packed thrill-ride featuring the hunters of Vampire$, Inc., secretly bankrolled by the Catholic Church, exterminating bloodsuckers with extreme prejudice. But the endless cycle of violence against near-immortal demons takes its toll as Jack Crow and his team begin to lose their capacity for compassion—and their very humanity—after every battle. Cynical and daring, Steakley’s focus on Crow’s crew as soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome while leaving the vampires in the shadows made this novel one of my most emotionally invested reads.

 

 

Ruled Britannia

Ruled Britannia, by Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove proves the pen is mightier than the sword as William Shakespeare writes a play to galvanize a conquered populace to turn against their occupiers in this alternate history about the Spanish Armada’s successful invasion of Elizabethan England. Immersing himself in the literary language of the era, Turtledove has crafted an inspired novel in true Shakespearean fashion with his intriguing cat and mouse game between the Bard and Spanish playwright/soldier Lope de Vega, depicted as mutually respectful adversaries loyal to opposing regimes. What I love about Turtledove’s historical novels is that you don’t have to be a scholar to enjoy them, and I find myself educated as well as entertained.

 

The Long Walk

The Long Walk, by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman

One hundred teenage boys volunteer to trek down the east coast of the United States as contestants in a brutal game of endurance, marching non-stop until only one remains. Reading this in one day, King’s relentless narrative had me just as fatigued as the walkers, feeling their psychological and physical stress as they faltered and fell one-by-one. Taut and tight characterizations put you inside the head and heart of each featured walker, learning the dreams, fears, and agendas that drive them to win. It may have originally been published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, but in my estimation The Long Walk ranks among the best novels of King’s career—and is also a frightening vision of the potential direction “Reality TV” could take in the future.

 

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9780399167775H

What better place for inspiration to strike than at your local Midas? So it was for bestselling author Katherine Howe. In the autumn of 2012, as she was waiting for her car’s broken taillight to be fixed, half-listening to the local news on the waiting room’s television, she heard something that caught her attention. The anchor reported that doctors had finally concluded what really happened to the girls of Le Roy, New York.

That previous spring, sixteen high school classmates in upstate New York came down with sudden and strange symptoms, including uncontrollable tics, hair loss, and disordered speech. The story captured the attention of local media, and soon the small town had made national and international news. Experts from across the country came to investigate and to offer their own assessments—the girls were diagnosed with everything from PANDAs to Tourette’s. The HPV vaccine was to blame. Or maybe it was the polluted groundwater.

Meanwhile, as these girls were suffering through a very strange and very public ordeal, Katherine was just miles away, teaching The Crucible to a group of college students in her sophomore historical fiction seminar. As Katherine tells us, she was “eager to discuss the parallels between the ‘afflicted girls’ at Salem and these teenagers that lived so close. To my surprise, my students didn’t see a parallel. After all, the girls in the past were just crazy, whereas the girls in Le Roy had something really wrong with them. The more I watched the story unfold, however, the more struck I was by the disjuncture between what the Le Roy girls thought about their own experience, and what the assorted ‘experts’ brought in to comment on their situation had to say. I reflected at length about the Salem girls, and specifically about Ann Putnam, who was at the very center of the accusations in the Salem panic, who really did issue an apology (which is reproduced verbatim in this story) and who had been effectively written out of the most popular fictional account of that period in American history, The Crucible. In the past, as in the p

resent, the experts had one story to tell about this unique and frightening experience, while the girls, I suspected, had an experience all their own, that no one but them could fully understand.”

Conversion is very much a work of fiction, a novel set in a contemporary all-girls school in Danvers, Massachusetts, as well as in seventeenth-century Salem Village, but the story is grounded in exhaustive research and true-life details. What Katherine has created by weaving together these two narratives is an exciting and unsettling mystery. Working alongside Katherine, I marveled as she wrote, in a seemingly effortless way, a story that is both incredibly fun and a very thoughtful look at the pressures that modern-day high schoolers are under.

In the end, the girls of Le Roy were diagnosed with Conversion disorder, a condition in which the body “converts” psychological stress into physical symptoms. Is that what happened to the girls during the Salem panic?  To our young heroines in modern-day Danvers? Are they truly ill? Crazy? Faking it? Thank goodness for the long wait at Midas—it’s given us a perfect, chilling summer read.

 


Jess

Jess Renheim is an Associate Editor at Dutton. She graduated from Middlebury College and lives in Brooklyn with her husband, who is patiently trying to teach her Swedish.

 

 

 

 

The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

I have a soft spot for Scandinavian crime fiction, and Jussi Adler-Olsen is one of my favorites to emerge from the increasingly popular genre. His first Department Q novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes, has a propulsive, expertly crafted plot involving one of Copenhagen’s coldest cases, but what distinguishes the series for me is Adler-Olsen’s dark humor and memorable cast of characters, particularly Detective Carl Mørck’s assiduous and quirky sidekick Assad.

 

 

 

The Secret Place, by Tana French

The Secret Place by Tana French

The fifth Dublin Murder Squad novel by Tana French certainly doesn’t disappoint. I am continually amazed by French’s ability to deliver an engrossing, clever mystery plot and the kind of nuanced, astonishing characters and powerful relationships in which I can’t help but feel deeply invested. Detective Stephen Moran, last seen in Faithful Place, takes center stage here alongside Det. Antoinette Conway, a pariah in the Murder Squad, as the two attempt to unravel the secrets and relationships amongst two rival groups of teenage girls at a private boarding school.

 

 

Fear Nothing, by Lisa Gardner

Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardner

It’s easy to see why Lisa Gardner has been called “the master of the psychological thriller” after reading Fear Nothing.  Joining Detective D.D. Warren at the center of this dark, riveting novel are two sisters: Dr. Adeline Glen, a psychiatrist specializing in pain management yet born with a congenital insensitivity to pain; and Shana Day, a notorious murderer who first killed at fourteen and has been incarcerated ever since. Connected by a terrible legacy, Adeline and Shana Day are compelling female characters with emotional resonance, and their shared past hurtles them—and the reader—forward to the novel’s shocking conclusion.

 

 

Lexicon, by Max Barry

Lexicon by Max Barry

I loved this incredibly inventive, mind-bending thriller about a secret society devoted to exploiting the power of words. A shadowy organization known as the Poets trains promising young candidates to control people’s minds and to wield words as weapons. With rich dialogue, sympathetic characters, and sustained suspense, Lexicon is a highly entertaining, fast-paced read.

 

 

 

 

The Wicked Girls, by Alex Marwood

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

Dark, thought-provoking, and chilling, The Wicked Girls is a psychological suspense thriller that intersperses a contemporary serial-killer storyline with the accounts of two eleven-year old girls—now grown and rehabilitated—who were convicted of murdering a toddler in 1986. Filled with clever plot twists and anchored by two complex, believably drawn female protagonists, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

 

 

 

 

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Christopher

Christopher Nelson’s first job out of college was as an assistant in the Putnam and Riverhead Marketing Department, and he’s been there ever since, now serving as Associate Director. He lives with his wife on Long Island in a house that is quickly running out of room for all the books they keep acquiring.  That’s what happens when someone in publishing marries an English teacher. When he doesn’t have his eyes glued to a book or some electronic device to monitor his fantasy sports teams, he tries to find time for marathon baking sessions that produce pounds and pounds of baked good to share with his co-workers (and occasionally his wife.)

Stone Cold, by C.J. Box

Stone Cold by C. J. Box

There are a number of great parts of working in publishing, but two of the most exciting are publishing the first book by a brand new author that I feel is destined for great success and the first time an author hits the New York Times bestseller list. I count myself lucky that I’ve been involved with both of those milestones with C.J. Box, and it’s been a pleasure to work on every one of his Joe Pickett books. He delivers a fast-paced, suspense-filled book with a great plot and unique twist every time, and his latest, Stone Cold, is no exception.

 

 

 

The Devil's Workshop, by Alex Grecian

The Devil’s Workshop by Alex Grecian

I really thought it was going to be impossible for Alex Grecian to top his first book, The Yard, which was one of my favorite debuts, in any genre, of the last ten years. Fortunately, when I read The Devil’s Workshop, I was happily proven wrong. He once again captures the grittiness of Victorian London, and the members of the Scotland Yard Murder Squad and their associates are a fascinating cast of characters, but this time he dials things up a notch with one of the most notorious villains of all time—Jack the Ripper!

 

 

 

Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft

Loyalty by Ingrid Thoft

I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be part of the Ludlow family, who are at the center of Thoft’s debut mystery Loyalty (as well as the upcoming Identity), but they definitely make for fun reading. PI Fina Ludlow, the black sheep of the group, isn’t above doing whatever she needs in order to solve a case, and that makes her one of the more interesting characters I’ve come across in quite some time. Thoft does an expert job of building suspense throughout the book and delivers a twist at the end that sets this mystery apart from so many others.

 

 

 

The Professionals, by Owen Laukkanen

The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen

Minnesota state investigator Kirk Stevens and FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere may be the protagonists of Owen Laukkanen’s well-crafted thrillers, but the real “stars” of each one are the criminals that the duo finds themselves pursuing. Laukkanen does such an incredible job of crafting intriguing villains that I sometimes find myself rooting for them, even when they’re doing wrong. This is certainly the case in his debut thriller, The Professionals, which features four friends who, faced with seemingly no way to make ends meet, turn kidnapping into a lucrative career—until they kidnap the wrong guy and everything starts going quickly downhill.

 

 

Monkeewrench, by P. J. Tracy

Monkeewrench by P. J. Tracy

I’m a sucker for a cast of quirky characters, so the Monkeewrench crew from mother-daughter writing team P.J. Tracy is right up my alley. A group of eccentric software developers, each with somewhat of a sordid past, finds itself in quite a conundrum when a killer starts mimicking the murders in a game they’ve developed even though it hasn’t been widely released to the public. I find the phrase “page turner” often overused, but that’s exactly what this book is; I found myself racing through it at breakneck speed. Each subsequent book from P.J. Tracy has been great, and it’s always fun to see the Monkeewrench crew in action, but this first book stands out as my favorite of the series.

 

 

The Muse Asylum, by David Czuchlewski

The Muse Asylum by David Czuchlewski

Maybe it’s because of my job, but I’ve developed an affinity for works of fiction that deal with the powerful draw of writers and books, and it all started with The Muse Asylum. The mystery at the heart of the book is the true identity of a reclusive author and his motives for staying out of the public eye. Watching how the search for the truth affected the lives of the three characters seeking it was a fascinating examination of motivation and consequences, and the book has stuck with me even though it’s been more than a decade since I first read it.

 

 

 

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