Wondering what crime novel to read this summer? Well Strong Words is here to help.
In each of our print issues, Strong Words has a double page spread packed with reviews of the latest crime and thriller novels. We also interview and profile leading crime novelists.
In the meantime, here are a few suggestions of new, upcoming and evergreen books to pack in your suitcase.
The Good Son – You-Jeong Jeong
Quite possibly the coolest thriller of the summer, The Good Son has already amassed sales of millions in South Korea and a TV adaptation surely isn’t too far away. It features the story of Yu-Jin, a man who is woken in the night by the smell of blood who then discovers his mother murdered on the living room floor. Trouble is he is off his medication and he can’t remember anything of the night before. Read it before everyone else does.
The Force – Don Winslow
This has recently landed in paperback and so is ideal for a bit of poolside reading. It’s a NY crime drama that focuses on Detective Sergeant Denny Malone who leads an elite unit to fight gangs, drugs and guns in the city.
Yet despite of his squeaky clean reputation Malone is not averse to the odd trip to the dark side. In fact he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash. Now he’s caught in a trap and being squeezed by the FBI. To complicate things he is also a bit of Robin Hood character – loved by some of the city’s poorest inhabitants.
Rich in detail and boasting a -powerful, and sometimes harrowing narrative, The Force is a portrait of a complex man making tough decisions in a city that’s becoming ever more incendiary as every days passes. Massively recommended.
American Kingpin – Nick Bilton
Set to become one of the most read thrillers of the summer, American Kingpin is the story of how a twenty-six-year-old libertarian programmer named Ross Ulbricht launched the ultimate free market: the Silk Road, a clandestine website hosted on the Dark Web where anyone could trade anything—drugs, hacking software, forged passports, counterfeit cash, poisons—free of the government’s watchful eye.
This is the story of the government’s epic two-year hunt for the site’s elusive proprietor, a chase complicated by the fact they had no leads, no witnesses, and no clear jurisdiction. All the investigators knew was that whoever was running the site called himself the Dread Pirate Roberts.
It is a story that is brilliantly told by Nick Bilton. Ideal if you love a bit of tech with your crime.
I’ll be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara
Surely one of the most common 21st century delusions is that, given the time, most everyone reckons they’d make a pretty unstoppable detective. The late Michelle McNamara showed all of us how it’s really done. In her relentless quest to identify seventies serial psycho the Golden State Killer, she built a caseload of 3,500 files, plus enough additional documentation and evidence, both physical and digital, to compete with the Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse as a symbol of infinity.
To her, though, assembling troves of murder fragments came naturally: “I was a hoarder of ominous and puzzling details,” she wrote. “I developed a Pavlovian response to the word ‘mystery’. My library record was a bibliography of the macabre and true. When I meet people and hear where they’re from I orient them in my mind by the nearest unsolved crime.”
But McNamara’s obsession was of orders of magnitude removed from the armchair sleuth. Instead of following a delicate string that tenuously guides the seeker from clue to clue to revelation, she first chose to assemble and review every available pixel of a vast incomplete picture, like reporting on a football match by examining every blade of grass, as one of them may contain a crucial trace of information. Or may not.
Although McNamara calculates her quarry was responsible for 10 murders and up to 50 rapes and sexual assaults, starting in northern California in 1976, then moving south to the Greater LA area, where his activity ceased in 1986, he left few clues and his case, when she began to focus on it, was very cold indeed. Although she left it uncracked, the light she has poured on her subject means this one will not be allowed to fade from view. Such was the intensity of her effort though, it may well have contributed to her death at 46 from heart failure. Still want to be a detective?
Sex Money Murder – Jonathan Green
Sometimes the truth can be even stranger than fiction. That’s the case with Sex, Money, Murder, which chronicles the rise of one of NYC’s most notorious gangs of the late 80s and early 90s. It’s a devastating portrait of a New York City borough going down in flames, and of the detectives and prosecutors struggling to stem the tide of violence. Drawing on first-person interviews, police reports and court transcripts, Sex Money Murder, gives an extraordinary perspective on modern-day America.
Night Falls Berlin – Jack Grimwood
A cracking historical crime novel, Nightfall Berlin is set in East Berlin in 1986 a few years before the wall came down. Major Tom Fox is in the city on a mission to repatriate an old traitor. The trouble for him is that the East German secret police, the Stasis, have it in their heads that he is a killer. The book crackles along at very fast pace with lots of twists and turns, and the period detail, which captures a city in the verge of transition, is superb.
Lullaby – Leila Slimani
The winner of the Prix Goncourt in France (like the Booker prize) this book was translated into English recently and in spite of its literary creds is actually a really easy read. It is the story of a nanny, who on the face of it seems perfect for the role, yet who kills the two children she is charged with caring for. Harrowing at times, yet utterly addictive Leila Slimani is superb at offering insight into the psychology of the killer. It has an interesting take on race and gender issues too.