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Five Debut Novels You Should Read This February

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CrimeReads editors select the month’s best debuts in crime, mystery, and thrillers.



Sarah Pearse, The Sanatorium
(Pamela Dorman Books)

Sarah Pearse’s atmospheric thriller involves a naive hotelier destroyed by his own hubris when he attempts to turn the ruins of a sanatorium into a swanky new destination for travelers. First, his architect vanishes. Then, the staff start disappearing. And then, an avalanche traps the rest of the staff, to be picked off one by one. Lucky for the rest of the hotel’s trapped denizens, there’s a British cop visiting, and she’s determined to hunt down the attacker, even as the weather rages outside and threatens to obliterate the entire cast in one fell swoop. –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads senior editor


Abigail Dean, Girl A

This one is so effed up. Abigail Dean’s intense debut begins with a settling of affairs: Dean’s central character, Lex Gracie, has been named as the executor of her mother’s will, and her new duties bring up some horrific childhood memories: she and her siblings grew up in a House of Horrors (the story is based loosely on the Turpin Family), where they were chained to their beds and starved until Lex was able to escape and rescue the others. In order to settle her mother’s affairs, Lex must reconnect with her brothers and sisters, who are all dealing with long-term traumas and deep-seated resentments of their own, as the world outside continues to exploit them for their memories. –MO


Allison Epstein, A Tip for the Hangman

Epstein’s debut is a clever concoction of genres, with a generous helping of historical fiction, espionage, class critique, and theatrical flair. She reimagines Christopher “Kit” Marlowe, the celebrated playwright, as a young Oxford student recruited into England’s service as a spy, a profession which allows him to put on his first plays, to great acclaim. Epstein vividly conjures up the world of Elizabethan theater, building off details of the scene’s wild history, and adds on top a genuinely compelling spy story, creating an exuberant, irreverent romp through literary history. –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads editor-in-chief


Alison Wisdom, We Can Only Save Ourselves
(Harper Perennial)

Wisdom’s debut is a psychological thriller about a teenage girl who disappears—have I lost you yet? Okay, good. So Alice Lange, model student and all-around teen dream who has more than enough votes to be homecoming queen twice over, flees her stifling small town with a charismatic and sinister drifter (are drifters ever not sinister?) named Wesley. Alice ends up in a Manson-esque situation with Wesley and four other young women all living in the same house. But there can only be one queen, and the tension between the women quickly escalates until things get ugly. –Lisa Levy, CrimeReads contributing editor


Emilya Naymark, Hide in Place
(Crooked Lane)

Naymark’s Hide in Place is a heart-pounding thriller about a former undercover NYPD officer who has to go into hiding with her son. Their past eventually catches up with him, when her son disappears from the upstate town where they’ve built a quiet life. That brings her back into direct conflict with an old nemesis, the Russian mob. Naymark has a knack for swift, satisfying plotting, offering up insights into domestic life and family relations while moving relentlessly forward toward a chilling conclusion. –DM

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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