The other day, as I was fighting tooth and nail to get into a Crime, Mystery, and Suspense class, the professor asked me why I love and choose to read so many crime fiction novels. After a momentary “deer in the headlights” reaction to being put on the spot, fearing that whatever came out of my mouth next was going to make or break my chances of adding the class, I quickly spit out a hopefully intelligent-sounding, or at the very least, coherent answer. That question stuck with me for the rest of the day though, and the answers began to come more and more easily. Why do I love the crime fiction genre? I love how each book mirrors a complex puzzle that requires brainpower to solve, and the experience of getting to play detective (police procedurals are a decided favorite of mine). I love getting duped by the “final twist” in a well-plotted novel, and then noticing in hindsight the breadcrumb trail the author has left that leads you right to the answer. I love reading about the psychologically unsound (strangely fascinated by serial killers), and exploring what motivates humans to commit acts of murder (and,or other crimes). I love the feeling in the pit of my stomach as the suspense builds, and the spike of adrenaline when I arrive at the moment of truth. And honestly, I think I just love crime (but seriously…I actually have an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice Technology).
Because of my affinity for crime fiction, and in honor of the spooky month of October, I’ve decided to share some book recs from authors who are continually killing the game, and who have kept me falling in love with the genre.
JO Nesbø, THE HARRY HOLE SERIES
@mixedbagofbooks review from 2016: “Jo Nesbø has a way of weaving together very complex stories (with complex, human characters), slowing building up suspense, clues, twists, etc. and then sucker punching you with the climax, one that you rarely, if ever, expect. I was trying to explain the entirety of NEMESIS to my friend and it proved to be a rather difficult task; Nesbø's stories are filled with not only multiple storylines (which tie together in brilliant ways) and fully developed characters, but also include so many intricate details that it is nearly impossible to convey Nesbø's genius. I finally just told her she had to read the whole Harry Hole series for herself because I was not doing it justice with my incessant rambling. I will say the same to you guys: if you like crime fiction, specifically Nordic Noir, add these books to your TBR immediately, you will not regret it!!”
Rec on how to start the series from 2016: “I started with THE SNOWMAN (book 7 in the Harry Hole series) to get a feel for Jo Nesbø and to decide if I was willing to commit to reading the whole series (it will be an 11-book series come May 9, 2017) and I can honestly say it was probably the BEST work of crime fiction I have ever read. After finishing THE SNOWMAN, there was no question that I was ready to commit to Harry Hole for the long haul. I decided to start from book 1, THE BAT, and (as I previously mentioned) I am now on book 4. Most Jo Nesbø readers recommend starting at book 3, THE REDBREAST; the first two books (THE BAT and COCKROACHES) have a bit of a different feel and arguably do not give readers the compulsion to obsessively read the rest of the series (as the later books do) so I agree with this recommendation.”
Nesbø’s Next Release: KNIFE, pub date: July 2019, Knopf (the anticipation during the wait for this one just might kill me, tbh).
TANA FRENCH, THE DUBLIN MURDER SQUAD SERIES
@mixedbagofbooks review from 2016: “To celebrate New Years Eve, I wanted to post about one of my favorite authors of the year: Tana French! The books of the DUBLIN MURDER SQUAD series were some of my favorite reads of 2016!! French's novels read like exceptional literary fiction, while also including some of my favorite aspects of police procedurals and psychological thrillers. I love her prose, her characterization, and how each story is personal in some way to the lead detective/protagonist. I absolutely LOVED getting to know supporting characters, and then getting to read their stories in later books of the series. I highly recommend reading these books in order for that reason, but they can definitely be read as stand-alone novels if you are not looking to start a series.”
French’s Next Book: THE WITCH ELM (standalone), pub date: 9 October 2018, Viking (I guarantee this one will be just as incredible as the books in the DMS series… been waiting TWO YEARS to read a new book by French)
RILEY SAGER, FINAL GIRLS
@mixedbagofbooks review from this month (October 2018): “I’ve only read the first few chapters of FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sager and it already has me hook, line, & sinker 🎣 . Safe to say, Sager is a new favorite author of mine. This one has a darker / gorier / scarier vibe than THE LAST TIME I LIED, but I have a feeling it will be equally as jaw-dropping in its greatness.” Alright, so technically I have not finished this one and I have finished THE LAST TIME I LIED (and absolutely loved it), but because of how thrilling FINAL GIRLS is so far and its slasher-film vibe, I think it is more of a perfect October book recommendation. I have no doubt it’s going to be getting a rave review from me. Check out the ‘Book Club Picks’ tab of the blog for more information about FINAL GIRLS and to find out how you can read along with us this month!
Sager’s Newest Release: THE LAST TIME I LIED, pub date: 3 July 2018, Dutton (read my full ‘five iced almond lattes’ review of this one under the ‘book reviews’ tab)
KARIN SLAUGHTER, THE WILL TRENT SERIES
@mixedbagofbooks review from February 2018: “I finally finished THE KEPT WOMAN by Karin Slaughter! I would say it is either a close second or tied with CRIMINAL as the best book in the series. I think these two are particularly great because they are very personal stories for Will Trent... adds a lot of suspense and emotion to the books. This one made me feel sick to my stomach for him at times. I also cried during one of the final chapters lol (I cry pretty easily, but still). When I first started the book I would have never imagined it going in the direction that it did... it is a super twisty plotline with a lot of players. Slaughter did an exceptional job tying everything together and delivering several insane reveals throughout the last half of the book. I was sitting in class waiting for it to start and I had an epiphany about what one of the big twists probably was… actually gasped out loud and just stared into space while I let it formulate in my brain (probably was served some looks). Anyways - this series is a must-read for crime fiction lovers out there!! And I haven’t even mentioned the best news: THE KEPT WOMAN ended on a cliffhanger sooo there will eventually be another book in the series. Definitely going to preorder that sucker.”
Slaughter’s Newest Release: PIECES OF HER (standalone), pub date: 21 August 2018, William Morrow (Disclaimer: I have yet to read one of her standalones, and I do not know if Slaughter plans to write another book in the Will Trent series, but based on my experience… I’d say any book written by her is a must-read).
PETER SWANSON, THE KIND WORTH KILLING
@mixedbagofbooks review from March 2017: “Similar to my experience with HER EVERY FEAR [another book by Swanson], this book was not at all what I expected - it was SO much better. I give it five stars. I cannot even tell you how many jaw-dropping moments there were for me in this book. Chock-full of twists and intriguing storylines and characters - I was one hundred percent hooked the entire time… THE KIND WORTH KILLING also switches point-of-view between characters, but unlike HER EVERY FEAR it is written in the first person narrative. It also switches between time periods, which takes a little to get used to, but is necessary to the mysterious/suspenseful nature of the storyline(s). If you are a fan of Gone Girl or Girl on the Train, then you will LOVE this book!! I personally liked it better than both; without giving anything away, I think this is the case because of the likability of one of the central characters. While HER EVERY FEAR's twist/premise is dark and rather gruesome (which I liked), the twist(s)/premise in THE KIND WORTH KILLING is dark, but the actions of most characters are backed up by a kind of skewed "moral" logic that is SO interesting and smart - nothing is black and white, good or bad, right or wrong necessarily. I am rambling even more than my last post, but seriously guys: move this to the top of your TBR list.”
Swanson’s next release: BEFORE SHE KNEW HIM, pub date: 5 March 2019, William Morrow (consider this one ‘click click’ preordered)
Alright, I have a case to solve… I mean, a book to read, so that’s all for now, folks. I hope this post has inspired you to don your detective caps and go on a [dead] serious (possibly never-ending) crime fiction kick with me this month!