Sarah Weinman’s Top Five Not To Miss Crime Novels
I must thank Gillian Flynn and her smash bestseller Gone Girl. Because, once it was clear her book was going to be one of the biggest hits of 2012, I knew it would be an easy way to frame how to talk about my anthology of 20th century domestic suspense fiction, Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives. If people wanted to know what it was about, I could tell them “did you read Gone Girl? Did you love it? Then read the women without whom a book like that could never exist today.”
Unlike the group of authors who cut their career teeth between World War II and the dawn of Women’s Liberation, today’s female suspense writers are more overt in their examinations of toxic marriages, families, and communities – technology, too, has changed things. But human behavior, especially at its worst, doesn’t change from generation to generation, and so this list of five great recent crime novels by women certainly fits the grand, secret tradition of domestic suspense that’s been around all along.
I love the way Ephron has updated a common domestic suspense trope of an elderly woman living alone in a house under threat from some unseen force, setting it in a rapidly changing South Bronx neighborhood with a dignified nonagenarian who is more than equal to the threat, and then some.
Lippman’s portrait of an upper-middle class woman struggling to raise her young son by working as a suburban madam is exemplary, as if James M. Cain had updated Mildred Pierce for today with a dash of Margaret Millar’s psychological acuity. The suspense is ladled out drop by drop, so much so we see everything coming and yet remain utterly surprised at the end.
Don’t mess with cheerleaders. That’s one takeaway from Abbott’s latest. But the greater one is that teenage girls speak a language all their own, both wanting and disdaining authority and susceptible to tragic consequences. Girlhood never seemed so dangerous.
Disgraced lawyer turned investigative journalist McKenna Jordan Wright may be excellent at her job – and able to overcome a painfully public past – but she has a lot to learn about the man she married. Burke updates the “secrets within a marriage” motif common to domestic suspense novels with her signature melding of social media and technology with old-fashioned human behavior.
Those comparisons to Gone Girl – some even made by me – are both apt and not. Where Flynn went for Grand Guignol, Harrison chose icy elan, unraveling the corrosive relationship between Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert inch by excruciating inch. What a pity Harrison died before the novel was published, because I, for one, couldn’t wait to see what she was bound to do next.
Sarah Weinman is the news editor for Publishers Marketplace and writes the monthly “Crimewave” mystery and suspense column for the National Post. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the New York Observer, Slate, and the New Yorker online, among other publications. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahw .
Learn more and order your copy of Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives here:
Read is the spot to share your book recommendations, reviews, lists of absolute favorites, and thoughts on anything reading or writing related in general. Share yours here.
We first fell in love with Laura Lippman's mystery series ..
We collect the best book news…so you can spend more time ..
Before the holiday madness begins, make time for a quality ..
Freelance entertainment, film, and pop culture blogger Spencer Wade shares his ..
So much reading news this week, including the first time ..
If you're one of the few people who hasn't experienced ..