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10 Debut Novels You Should Read This Month

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



Nicole Glover, The Conductors (HMH)

Glover’s debut is a captivating blend of genres, tapping into strands of historical fiction, mystery, and fantasy. The Conductors tells the story of Hetty Rhodes, a former conductor on the Underground Railroad, now settled in Philadelphia, practicing magic and taking on unsolved cases the police won’t touch. A new job takes her through some mysterious corners of postwar Philadelphia and offers up startling revelations about the city’s new order and the lingering effects of community trauma. –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Editor-in-Chief


Alexandra Andrews, Who Is Maud Dixon? (Little Brown)

It’s always hard to meet your idols, and when the bored, disenchanted young writer of Alexandra Andrew’s debut is hired to be the assistant for the famously reclusive author Maude Dixon, she’s bound to find her hero to be rather disappointing. What she doesn’t expect is the wild adventure she and her employer embark on as Maude tries to cure a stubborn case of writer’s block with some rather questionable behavior—and then disappears, allowing her protegé a chance to cast off her own identity in favor of a rather more prestigious name. But the twists and turns don’t end there… –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads senior editor


Sarah Penner, The Lost Apothecary (Park Row)

Penner’s gripping debut, The Lost Apothecary, is bound with two narratives, one a tale of nineteenth century London’s predatory men and the apothecary shop that sells women potions to help stop them, and another a story in present-day London, focused on an historian in a bad marriage who finds herself on the trail of a centuries-old mystery. The secrets resonate across eras and fill this novel with a sense of the elusive ties that bind our cities, and the injustices passed down from generation to generation. –DM


Nadine Matheson, The Jigsaw Man (Hanover Square)

In a gritty modern London, DI Angelica Henley gets a gruesome new case after body parts from two different people are discovered at the side of the river. Do the murders have anything to do with the infamous Jigsaw Man, who’s been imprisoned for years? Is it a copycat killer, or is the Jigsaw Man sending directives to an accomplice from the inside? –MO


Femi Kayode, Lightseekers (Mulholland)

Lightseekers is a dynamic and feverishly excited thrill ride of a novel. Kayode’s psychologist narrator is headed to a small college town in the heart of Nigeria to investigate the murders of three students. Why were they murdered? Why did the whole town seem to participate in the killings? And what could possibly have been their motive? You will never expect the twist at the end. –MO


Debbie Babitt, Saving Grace (Scarlet/WW Norton)

Babitt’s debut casts a wide net. Protagonist Mary Grace Dobbs has a Harry-Potter-Before-Hogwarts childhood: orphaned at age 11, she is forced to live with her Bible-thumping, Bible-selling uncle, an invalid aunt, and a very, very mean cousin. When she finally makes some friends—including a bestie at last—they up and disappear. Adult Mary Grace is the sheriff of the town of Repentance and the mother of a sixth grader when another child vanishes. There are similarities to the old disappearances, and some white supremacists in the mix too. Mary Grace has a lot going on in Repentance, and repentance. –Lisa Levy, CrimeReads contributing editor


Sara Davis, The Scapegoat

In Sara Davis’s debut novel, N investigates the circumstances of his father’s death, which leads him to a mysterious hotel built over a former Spanish mission. As he untangles the mystery, he begins hallucinating about his past—and worrying if he’s playing into the hands of a larger conspiracy. –Walker Caplan, Lit Hub Staff Writer


Ava Barry, Windhall (Pegasus)

A tantalizing mystery about a clash between old Hollywood and new, as a modern-day reporter dives deep into the lore of the town’s Golden Age hoping to prove a now-reclusive director murdered his girlfriend. A modern copycat crime raises the stakes, and Barry mines all the Hollywood glamor and mystique to show something grimier and base beneath the surface. Windhall is an assured debut with a searching sensibility and a captivating cast of characters. –DM


Angeline Boulley, Firekeeper’s Daughter (Henry Holt)

In Boulley’s debut, Daunis Fontaine is an eighteen year old living near the Ojibwe reservation, adrift after high school, straddling two worlds but feeling at home in neither, when a new relationship and a troubling series of events draws her into an FBI undercover operation. She finds herself enlisted in an effort to root out a dangerous new drug coming into the area. While her skills and knowledge are being put to use, she finds her allegiances beginning to splinter as new secrets about family and community emerge. Boulley conjures up a complex world of competing traditions and desires, all with a heart-pounding mystery driving the action forward. –DM


Alex Finlay, Every Last Fear (Minotaur)

Every Last Fear delivers on the title’s promise, with an onslaught of dredged up memories and crimes and a community whipped into a frenzy. The story revolves around an NYU student who finds out his family has been killed by a supposed gas leak. He returns home to bury them at the same time a true crime documentary is seeking to exonerate his brother, previously convicted of a heinous murder. The story’s strands come together in thrilling fashion, with plenty of twists and turns to keep readers enthralled. –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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