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The Best New Crime Fiction of This Month: May 2022


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The CrimeReads editors select their favorite new fiction this month.

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Deon Meyer (Transl. K.L. Seegers), The Dark Flood
(Atlantic)

Meyer brings readers another tense thriller with meticulous plotting, delving into corruption in South Africa’s power structures, police abuses, and land schemes. Detectives Benny Griessel and Vaughn Cupido, facing exile, go on the search for a missing university student and computer programer, a case that will once again send them down the mean streets of a broken system. Meyer is one of today’s most skilled crime craftsmen. –DM 

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Isabel Cañas, The Hacienda
(Berkley)

Isabel Canas takes the gothic novel to the haciendas, just as Sylvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic took on the history of silver mining and imperialism. In The Hacienda, set just after the Mexican War for Independence, heroine Beatriz has been dispossessed of her family fortune after her father’s fall from political grace and subsequent execution. She finds a husband she feels will elevate her status and protect her mother from persecution, but strange happenings at her new estate and rumors of hauntings threaten to derail her new life, and a sexy local priest who moonlights as a witch is her only hope of survival. Lush, beautiful, and completely deserving of the comparisons to Rebecca, The Hacienda is essential reading in the gothic revival. –MO

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Adrian McKinty, The Island
(Little, Brown)

When a newly united family sets off from Washington to Australia, and from the outback to an isolated island far off the beaten track, it’s supposed to be an occasion for bonding and building the foundation of their new lives; instead, it turns into a divisive nightmare, in which the elements, the infighting, and mysterious local forces seem to conspire against the family’s survival. McKinty’s thrillers are drenched in atmosphere and foreboding, a perfect unity of adrenaline and evocation, controlled by a steady-hand and a clear eye, a writer quickly making himself a claim as a master of the form. –DM

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Anne Heltzel, Just Like Mother
(Tor/Forge) 

Heltzel’s novel joins other recent works in asking hard questions about how to overthrow patriarchy without perpetuating it. In this case, a cult of Mothers is definitely giving the wrong message on how to overcome gender divisions to their brood of honored daughters and neglected sons. Decades after the cult’s dramatic dissolution, two former members, children when last they met, reunite and shed a dark illumination on each others’ memories. Lyrical and grotesque, Just Like Mother is written in gorgeous and shattering prose that also manages to be surprisingly comical. Perfect for those who wish Liz Nugent was writing dystopian cult thrillers. –MO

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Elizabeth Day, Magpie
(Simon and Schuster)

An absolute pressure-cooker of a novel, Day’s Magpie follows a couple who take in a boarder named Kate, thinking a little extra rent money will finally put them in a position to start a family, but when the boarder’s behavior starts to disrupt their relationship, and when fertility troubles further strain the situation, an investigation into Kate’s life turns up some troubling new revelations. Day draws out the tension and produces a chilling novel that won’t soon be forgotten. –DM

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James Lee Burke, Every Cloak Rolled in Blood
(Simon and Schuster)

There’s an intensity of feeling to Every Cloak Rolled in Blood that makes it the rival of any novel Burke has ever written. An almost overwhelming sense of grief runs through the story, as Aaron Holland Broussard mourns the recent loss of his daughter by seeking to help two locals caught up in a world of crime and opioid abuse. The story weaves through an odyssey of local corruption, loss, and echoes of the spiritual. Nobody brings poetry to crime fiction quite like James Lee Burke. –DM

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Sarai Walker, The Cherry Robbers
(Harper)

I cannot wait to read cult fave Sarai Walker’s delightfully feminist take on the classic gothic novel. In her sophomore effort after her surprise hit debut Dietland, Walker takes us into a fictional version of the Winchester Mystery House, where the many daughters of a firearms magnate have been trying to escape their bizarre home, only to die soon after their weddings. Decades later, the sole survivor of the family finds herself thrust into the spotlight when her true identity is discovered, and must learn the secrets of her haunted home or die trying. I assume there will be many secret rooms and moving staircases, just as in the OG Winchester Home, which I still have yet to visit because it’s owned by Disney and tickets are way too expensive now. –MO

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Chris Pavone, Two Nights in Lisbon
(MCD)

An exhilarating new thriller about a woman who wakes up quite mysteriously in Lisbon, only to find that her husband has disappeared. She goes on the search for the missing man, the missing hours, all the pieces of her life that suddenly aren’t adding up too coherently. Pavone brings a Hitchcockian flair to the compelling setup. –DM

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Mick Herron, Bad Actors
(Soho)

Mick Herron’s sensational espionage series is winning plenty of new devotees thanks to the Apple TV adaptation, and just in time Herron is back with a new story of Britain’s passed-over and put-out spies, led by Jackson Lamb, this time drawn into a complicated game involving a senior political operative who’s gone missing and a Russian spy chief who’s off the grid in London. Herron brings his inimitable style to cat-and-mouse action and continues with his vivid portrait of the so-called “intelligence” world. –DM

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May Cobb, My Summer Darlings
(Berkley)

When I picked up May Cobb’s delightful debut last year, I became an instant fan, and her sophomore effort sounds just as fun. In a small Texas town beset by an unending heat wave, three best friends since childhood will find themselves torn apart by the arrival of a new (sexy) interloper. Sign me up! –MO

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Karen Winn, Our Little World
(Dutton)

Oh, the jealousies of children. There is nothing more intense than want. In Karen Winn’s eerie, evocative coming-of-age novel, set in 1985, two sisters have a fierce rivalry, and one ends up dead. But before that, the sisters spend one long, sticky summer searching for a missing girl, along with the rest of their town. As the search continues, dark secrets come to the fore, and the sisters’ small town paradise begins to crumble. –MO

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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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