Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Do You Read What I Read?

From Frank

It is that time of year, where the giving of gifts abound... we here at 7 Criminal Minds are suggesting that a) books make great presents, and b) we can help you choose.

But first, a disclaimer - people's taste differ. I don't tend to read cozy. I do dig the harder-edged stuff. So my recommendations will probably reflect that preference. Maybe the person you're buying for fits the same bill.

And second, another disclaimer of sorts - you should read the authors on this blog! There's such diversity in terms of sub-genre, topic, and style that I guarantee that as long as your intended recipient reads mystery of some kind, you'll find several possible titles. I've read work from everyone here and while they don't need my endorsement to validate what they've done, I'm here to tell you - it is all high quality mysteries!

That said, I'll make my recommendations for other writers outside of this blog, and try not to overlap too much with what's been put forward already.

My Charlie-316 series co-author Colin Conway has created a vibrant crime world called the 509. The 509 is the telephone area code for Eastern Washington, and that's where these books are set. There is a set of procedurals, beginning with The Side Hustle, that feature alternating narrators. This is really cool, because you get a different outlook on characters when seen through the eyes of these varied viewpoints. There are currently five books in the procedural line, with more coming.

Colin has a couple other series coming out that will be set in the 509 world, as well as a pair of short story collections and an anthology featuring other authors writing in this setting. One of the new novel series is along the lines of the classic former-cop, amateur PI variety, and the other is a little more whimsical. The latter isn't a cozy by any means (for that, you can check out his Cozy Up series), but it isn't as hard-edged as the procedurals or the PI series. I'd place it on the lighter side of Sue Grafton in the spectrum.

Some of these books haven't been formally announced yet, so watch Colin's website for more info, or sign up for his newsletter. Point is, he's got you covered regardless of what kind of mystery you lean toward. You can hear him talk about this on my podcast, Wrong Place, Write Crime.

Another Spokane native, Brian Thornton penned a three-novella tome called Suicide Blonde. I've only read the title story so far, set in the Vegas of the past. It's a wonderful period read, and Brian absolutely put me right there in that place and time. It's reminiscent of the classic crime tales but written with a modern sensibility to it. I'm looking forward to reading the other two entries!

Brian also edited two separate volumes of crime fiction anthologies featuring crime fiction inspired by the music of Steely Dan. A Beast Without a Name and Die Behind the Wheel were responsible for some award-winning stories and feature a murderer's row of today's crime fiction authors.

Brian was on the podcast to talk about both of these projects.

Kate Anslinger's Grace McKenna series has an interesting premise - when she looks into the eyes of a criminal, she gets visions of what their victims experienced. This gift is also a curse and the repercussions of spotting this in a chance encounter drive Grace's actions in the first novel. The McKenna novels are a bona fide series now, so readers can follow her though multiple tomes.

Was Kate on the podcast? Sure was.

Okay, I said I didn't dig cozies earlier. This is true. They just don't do it for me.

Most of the time, anyway. Libby Klein's Poppy McAllister series is a definite exception. Libby writes such funny situations and has such vibrant, memorable characters that even I liked these books - and they are definitely cozies, folks. Poppy is a fun mess and her Aunt Ginny is tons of elderly fun. 

The series is up to six titles now (or will be by next June), and all of them end in the ...Can Be Murder branding. I haven't read them all yet and the one I'm looking forward to in particular is Wine Tastings Can Be Murder.

On top of being a great writer, Libby is a wonderful person. If you don't believe me, you can see for yourself by listening to her on the podcast.

Speaking of great writers, Matt Phillips is quite simply a latter-day Elmore Leonard. Yes, I know that's a comparison that gets bandied about quite a bit. Usually, it's an over-sell. But with Matt, I think it is completely valid praise. He has his own style, for sure, but it is reminiscent of Leonard in terms of the writing and the character work.

His novels are set in California. Countdown, which is my favorite, capitalizes on the changing landscape of our world, specifically when marijuana is legalized in California. That's another thing that's great about Matt's work - the setting. He writes from San Diego and there is most certainly a flavor of that city in his books. It reminds me of Don Winslow's The Winter of Frankie Machine in how unobstrusively yet completely the setting is infused into the book.

Want to more about Matt? Strangely enough, you can hear him on my podcast.

And speaking of Matt, he's the lead-off hitter for season three of A Grifter's Song. This is a serial novella anthology series about a pair of grifters, Sam and Rachel. They're a couple bound by love for each other and love of the con. Each novella is penned by a different author, set in a different city, with a different con that is resolved in each episode. There is also an over-arching meta-arc at play, though, as the pair is being pursued by a vengeful mob capo from Philadelphia. 

The first two seasons include installments from me (episodes 1 and 12), JD Rhoades, Lawrence Kelter, Gary Phillips, Colin Conway, Jim Wilsky, Eryk Pruitt, Asa Maria Bradley, Holly West, Eric Beetner, and Scott Eubanks. Consider this a recommendation not only for their episode of this series but for their other work as well, of which there is a varied and outstanding selection.

Season three kicks off (so I guess I'm transitioning to football metaphors now) with Matt's A Rule of Thirds, and will be followed by Lawrence Maddox, Jonathan Brown, Michael Pool, Carmen Jaramillo, and S.A. Cosby.

Readers can get the digital versions of any of these stories individually. But if you subscribe to the season, you get a discount (essentially a free episode), as well as an additional, subscriber-only episode. You'll also get the episodes earlier than the street date.

And while this last entry is definitely a holiday recommendation, it also serves as this post's blatant self-promotion element, as well.

I hope that as you read this, you are safe and healthy, and looking forward to a much-improved 2021! And although I've shed the Covid beard, it feels wholly appropriate for an end-of-year photo.

Frank Zafiro


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks for your list of books, Frank. All the best for the holidays.

Libby Klein said...

Some great holiday reads here! Thank you for including me!

Susan C Shea said...

It's a smart and interesting list, thanks. I intend to pick up a couple on it for early 2021 reading. Happy holidays, Frank!

Frank Zafiro said...

Thanks, everyone!

LIBBY, a well-deserved inclusion!

SUSAN, thank you for affirming that the list worked!