Dare Me by Megan Abbott. Why? Because she just keeps getting better. And if her novel-length treatment of the subject matter (cheerleader culture) is as unsettling as her short story Cheer was, the summer heat is going to be seriously undercut with the chill you’ll get from this one.
A Death in Mexico by Jonathan Woods. Why? Because of Woods’ unique tone. Throughout his story collection Bad Juju, he wrote solid, lucid prose that could color lightly lyrical, or jump the track on a dime and plunge into a frightening surreality. Was it the fever? Was it the medicine? I want to see where his first novel goes.
The Empty Glass by J.I. Baker. Why? More Marilyn Monroe conspiracy stuff and it may be another ten years before we get another paranoid stroll through the American Mid-Century from James Ellroy.
The Kings of Cool by Don Winslow. Why? Cause he’s the guy who gave us The Power of the Dog, California Fire and Life and The Winter of Frankie Machine. He’s got style to burn and will. Burn it, that is. You’re likely to get scorched too. So stand back and show some respect. Also, it’s a prequel to Savages – just in time for the movie adaptation by Oliver Stone in July.
Lake Country by Sean Doolittle. Why? Because nobody sells me character like Doolittle. You don't know what I mean? Pick up Rain Dogs or The Cleanup and let's talk when you're finished. Harrowing doesn't quite touch the set up for Lake Country either. Add it to Ryan David Jahn's The Dispatcher and Mark Allen Smith's The Inquisitor and 2012 is shaping up to be a good year to read about snatching a kid. Also, don't count on Doolittle to pull his punches. He brings the pain.
(The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli. I'll have lots of kind words about this one next week, so it's not really here... shhhh).
The Nervous System by Nathan Larson. Why? Because of his debut last year The Dewey Decimal System. Larson’s created a strange post-apocalyptic New York City and populated it with a compelling PI – an ex-soldier with a head full of memories he can’t trust, a host of debilitating phobias and tics and a propensity for triggering his latent lethal capabilities at inopportune times (all of which make him volatile, unpredictable and very dangerous). Can’t wait to see where this series goes.
Rough Riders by Charlie Stella. Why? Because it’s a sequel to two early Stella books - Eddie's World and Jimmy Bench-Press. Stella does dialogue, cops and knockaround guys so well, he could probably keep me engaged writing on autopilot, but Jeez, did you read his last one, Johnny Porno? Yeah, autopilot ain’t an option for him.
The Trinity Game by Sean Chercover. Why? Because I read Big City, Bad Blood and Trigger City in quick succession and that seems like forever ago. I'm also looking forward to seeing what Chercover's got in store for us without Ray Dudgeon this time.
The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter. Why? Because this is the most audacious sounding debut in a long time. Winter’s first novel is actually three – each taking place ten years apart and written in the style of their time’s leading crime writers. That's right, three books in one - each with a distinct style - each can be read independent of the others, but taken together will pay off in deeper fashion. Show off. I’m intrigued… and a bit intimidated.
(Plus a couple by sometime mystery writers turning out other work this year)
The Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Why? Cause it's Walter. This one's not going to be one of his more easily pegged as 'genre' outings like Over Tumbled Graves, or Citizen Vince, but the guy can write. Period.
This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs. Why? Well, Jacobs' debut novel Southern Gods was one of my favorites of last year - a potent mix of mystery and horror and blues music. This summer's book doesn't cross over to the mystery side, but I'm still piqued for Jacobs' zombie novel.
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