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This Month’s Best Debut Novels

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The CrimeReads editors select the month’s best debut novels in crime, mystery, and thrillers.



Vibhuti Jain, Our Best Intentions
(William Morrow)

The characters in Our Best Intentions are immigrants under the powerful sway of the American Dream. Babur Singh—call him Bobby—is a single dad who owns a rideshare business, Move with Bobby, which would also be a good name for a man with a van or a dance class. Bobby dotes on his daughter, Angie, and they live in a wealthy suburb where Angie never feels comfortable. When she stumbles on a body, a classmate named Chiara Thompson, on her way home from swim practice, the news rocks the town and sheds light on the issues of privilege and morality. Jain’s debut is an impressive feat, nuanced and unafraid to tackle some thorny issues. –LL


Philip Ellis, Love and Other Scams

Nothing brings two people together quite like desperation and a get-rich-quick scheme (I’m really hoping there’s some fan fiction that gets this going with The Sting.) In Philip Ellis’ utterly charming new novel, a down-on-her-luck graphic designer with a passion for pick-pocketing teams up with a handsome bartender with his own skills at purloining valuable objects after they discover a once-in-a-lifetime chance to steal an enormous diamond. –MO


Nathan Oates, A Flaw in the Design
(Random House)

This book has a complex premise which includes many of the issues we are grappling with as a society. Gil, a respected creative writing professor (I’ve heard they exist but don’t think I’ve seen one in the wild), agrees to take in his nephew, Matthew, after Gil’s sister and her husband are killed in a car accident. Gil and his wife aren’t crazy about the idea of suddenly having a 17-year-old boy in their home and are discomfited about taking Matthew in as he behaved strangely (creepy strangely) with their young daughter. With the bitter taste of that incident still lingering, and Matthew writing detailed stories about his parents’ death and the potential death of Gil’s family, Gil must decide if he is going to try and stop his disturbed nephew before something dire happens. –LL


Gerardo Sámano Córdova, Monstrilio

Part of a new wave of haunted house horror that continues to expand and redefine the genre, Monstrilio is about a woman who creates a monster from a piece of her dead son’s lung, feeding it bloody sacrifices as it grows into the image of her long-gone child. Her monstrilio is loved, cared for, and wholly monstrous. But are not the monsters among us also capable (and deserving) of love? Read this if you liked Sarah Gailey’s Just Like Home! -MO


Jinwoo Chong, Flux
(Melville House)

Flux is full of surprises and difficult to describe. Three storylines slowly begin to converge into a tale of time-traveling corporate serial killers. Woven into all three stories is a connection to a 1980s detective show featuring a now-canceled star facing damning abuse allegations. If you like stories featuring neo-noir style, corporate corruption, and anything else that wouldn’t be out of place in a slightly more humorous version of the Blade Runner universe, then check this one out! Also notable as an exploration of queer and Asian-American identities. –MO


Ren DeStafanoHow I’ll Kill You

(adult fiction debut)

DeStefano hits some high marks in How I’ll Kill You, a chronicle of three identical triplets who take turns at a very serious game. The sister at bat makes a man fall in love with her, murders him, and calls the other two sisters to help with the clean-up. So far, Sissy, the youngest, has always been on the cleanup crew. But as they hit Arizona the sisters decide it’s Sissy’s turn. Her mark is a widower named Edison (really? that’s a name now?), and as she works her love magic on him her sisters get restless and pressure her to finish the job so they can move on. But there is a complication: Sissy falls in love with Edison. Will her sisters finish her mission, and also do away with her? Or can she and Edison somehow escape and break the cycle? –LL

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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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