The 10 best detective novels of 2017
The books that rocked in 2017 are a diverse group: a great mix of real crime, mystery, horror, and non-traditional offerings that are captivating in themselves. As always, they offer the most disturbing version of the escape: faced with the worst of humanity, one always manages to get lost in these stories and to feel enriched by them.
By Katie Kitamura
Word of warning: this astonishing book isn’t your regular-paced detective story, so if you want something ultra-traditional with a big reveal at the end, you might want to skip this one. But if you’re more caught up in the lies we tell each other when bad things happen, A separation will delight you. It is the story of a woman who travels to a Greek seaside town when her ex-husband goes missing. There she must face the truths about her failed marriage, her own inability to truly know her husband, and the grief that comes with grieving the loss of something important. Kitamura’s novel may be more of an emotional thriller than a thriller, but that’s where its enduring strength lies.
By Jac Jemc
A struggling couple leaves town and moves to a small town and gets a lot for a house, but all of these unexplained phenomena keep happening – shadows appear with no bodies attached, mysterious sounds permeate their house, nightmares become indecipherable from reality. Is their marriage falling apart or is their spirits? The grip of it may remind you of many haunted house stories you’ve seen, heard, or read, but the extra goosebumps are brought on by Jac Jemc’s hypnotic language, which makes it so difficult to separate the feverish dream from reality and the metaphor of the truth.
By Adam Sternbergh
Somewhere away from the grid in a small town in Texas, people with troubling pasts whose memories have been erased can start over – they get new names and identities and very little internet access. Think of it as a bizarro-world meets the Old West witness protection program. When a series of murders disrupt the sleeping town, all of its inhabitants are under suspicion, and it’s up to a sheriff named Calvin Cooper to try to piece it all together. Half mystery, half speculative fiction, half Western, The blind, written by new Yorkthe own Adam Sternbergh, is a fun and inventive thriller that perfectly mixes genres.
By Katherine Faw
Told in short vignettes (really short, sometimes only a few sentences), Ultraluminous is the story of an anonymous New York prostitute whose clients include ultra-rich men with nicknames such as “junk-bond guy” and “the guy who buys me things”, and, from her time in Dubai, a bomb-builder mercenary she calls “the sheikh”. She details their interactions explicitly and at a breathtaking pace, and also with great contempt. As this short, propelling romance rushes to its inevitable climax, it manages to be both a scathing dismantling of capitalism and a semi-sincere ode to the pharmacy / fancy food grotesque that is Duane Reade’s sushi.
By Monica Hesse
After a spate of arson attacks (over 70) in 2012 and 2013 that crippled the desolate rural county of Accomack, Virginia, reporter Monica Hesse stepped in among the residents to tell their story in poignant detail. Hesse recounts the overwhelming effort of the ordinary citizen to respond to fires and try to anticipate them, one of which is the volunteer firefighters team who have lost countless hours of sleep and are physically and emotionally exhausted. The culprits turn out to be some sort of Bonnie and Clyde from the fire, and their entire grueling and bizarrely Freudian story is interesting in itself. But more so, especially in the real crime genre, it’s refreshing to read a compelling story in which the hours of investigative manpower are four or even five digits, but the number of bodies, at least. , is zero.
By Hideo Yokoyama
If you don’t necessarily need every book you read to hit you with the momentum of the plot very quickly, the Japanese police procedure six four could be for you. It’s big and heavy and relatively slow, but, wow, the payoff is well worth it. It’s a fascinating look at the ins and outs of the Tokyo Police Department bureaucracy and how internal politics determine if, when and how crimes are solved. Not only is six four a satisfying read, but it’s a good reminder that justice is different depending on the laws that govern you.
By Dan Chaon
Literary writer Dan Chaon continues to get darker and darker in his subject matter, and we’re here for it. The subject of his latest novel is Dustin Tillman, a psychologist who learns that his cousin, accused of murdering members of their joint family decades before, is released from prison on the basis of new DNA evidence. Meanwhile, drunken brotherhood boys are dying left and right, and a patient in Dustin is convinced it is the work of a prolific serial killer. As Dustin investigates humanity’s meanest impulses, he must try to maintain his professionalism and sanity. Bad will is a captivating meditation on memory and evil and how far we will go to make sense of it all.
By Caite Dolan-Leach
They don’t do a lot of mysteries like that anymore. A cleverly built game with clearly presented clues but the most unreliable narrators, Dead letters is the story of Ava, a young woman who returns to her family’s vineyard in upstate New York after her twin sister goes missing. In a twist worthy of Agatha Christie, her missing twin leaves Ava on a treasure hunt that will require resources and creativity and a clear head to solve – and in a family of alcoholics, clear heads are hard to come by. That the family dysfunction so essential to the disappearance is underpinned by love gives this novel a big heart as well as a big brain.
By Attica Locke
Darren Matthews is a black Texas Ranger who has been forcibly suspended for helping a man whose granddaughter was harassed by a member of the Aryan nation. The first book in Attica Locke’s gritty Empire Highway 59 series is filled with hatred, fear, and racial tension, and that’s before it even gets to the actual murders Darren will investigate. The east Texas town Locke makes so atmospheric and dreadful is both a place Darren belongs to and where the remnants of the Jim Crow South linger like a curse. That the author is also a writer for Fox’s Empire is a testament to its remarkable range.
By David Grann
It takes a combination of extensive research and superb writing to make a book about a shameful moment in American history read like a thriller. David Grann did it. It brings to life a series of gruesome murders of members of the Osage Indian Nation that took place in a mineral-rich region of Oklahoma in the 1920s, making real life more shocking and relevant than ever today. Moon Flower Killers brings humanity to Native American victims whose stories have never really been told, and unravel a plot of hatred and greed that permeated nearly every area of government.