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The Best Debut Novels in Crime Fiction: May 2022

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The CrimeReads editors make their picks for the month’s best debut fiction.



Harini Nagendra, The Bangalore Detectives Club

A truly auspicious beginning to a new series featuring an amateur sleuth, Kaveri, operating in 1920s Bangalore, aided by her sharp mind, her husband’s medical practice, and the preconceived notions about who she should be and where she should go. Her first case stems from a murder at a distinguished club, pointing to a nearby brothel and a wealthy Englishman, an investigation that allows Nagendra to show off her skills as a social critic and a first rate mystery novelist. –Dwyer Murphy, CrimeReads Editor-in-Chief


Isabel Cañas, The Hacienda

Isabel Cañas 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. –Molly Odintz, CrimeReads Senior Editor


Emma Bamford, Deep Water
(Gallery/Scout Press)

Bamford’s debut unspools a disturbing, mysterious tale of an island in the Indian Ocean, the British couple still seemingly under its ominous spell, and a ship’s captain who has to try to parse some truth from the unnerving accounts he receives after rescuing the couple on the open sea. The novel is dark, atmospheric, and bolstered by a lingering sense of dread that will keep readers breathlessly turning the pages. –DM


Robin Peguero, With Prejudice
(Grand Central)

A bold debut in the neglected realm of the legal thriller. Peguero, a former Miami prosecutor, brings readers into the courtroom at a high stakes murder trial, filling in the tableau the stories not only of the prosecutor, the public defender, and the judge, but also those of four key jurors. The result is a rich narrative and a compelling courtroom drama. –DM


Wendy Church, Murder on the Spanish Seas

Church’s charming debut introduces readers to Jesse O’Hara, a woman as intelligent as she is abrasive, currently adrift on a luxury cruise around the Iberian peninsula, bored out of her mind, drinking to excess, when she begins to piece together what appears to be an onboard terrorist plot. The writing is quick and smart and the story a nice balance of fun and thrills. –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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