I KILLED ZOE SPANOS: Kit Frick’s Highly Anticipated Novel Is Set To Blow YA Mystery Readers’ Minds

YA books have become some of the best-written novels, bar none.
I want to include a few YA thrillers on my review blog and that means I will feature other reviewers who have my respect and do their homework. Oh, and know how to write! Ludwig’s reviews are some of the best. Besides, I like hanging with my fellow tea drinkers.

The Rise and Rebellion of Women Noir Writers

“In noir, women’s place until fairly recently has been limited to two: muse, sexual object. The particular strength of the female noir vision isn’t a recognizable style but rather a defiantly female, indeed feminist, perspective.”—Joyce Carol Oates, introduction, Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge: New Stories of Mystery and Crime by Women Writers

Joyce Carol Oates, Editor  Akashic Books, Publisher

A review by Valerie J. Brooks, author of Revenge in 3 Parts

Women writers of crime, mystery, and noir have been kicking their male counterparts in the keister lately. Evidence of this is Akashic Books’ outstanding new anthology Cutting Edge. In the world of noir, Akashic wears the publishing crown of noir, from novels to over 100 noir anthologies set in cities around the world.

In this new anthology, authors Aimee Bender, Steph Cha, S.J. Rosen, Edwidge Danticat, and twelve others prove that women have the cutting edge over their male counterparts. Joyce Carol Oates who Akashic calls “a queen of the noir genre” puts her keen, dark eye to stories that skewer the gendered status quo of “femme-fatale.” No longer do women lure hapless men to their demise. Instead, these writers of femmes-noir, a subcategory of contemporary neo-noir, have a little fun at the expense of a crumbling patriarchal society.

The modern female noir and crime story covers a lot of ground. These stories with their strong sense of place and atmosphere kept me up late into the night and gave me thrills and chills.

Take for example my favorite story in the anthology, Aimee Bender’s “Firetown.” An erotic contemporary story is set in a Los Angles that is “crackling” after eleven months of wildfires. This story has the appeal of classic noir with its repartee and humor, its PI and beautiful client.

But the PI is female, owns an apricot-colored chair, and drinks whiskey, rocks, “to maintain image”; the beautiful client vapes and owns a cat; and other characters develop Etsy sites and drink pale ale. Never far away, however, are the fires, a physical and existential threat.

Another favorite is Bernice L. McFadden’s “OBF, Inc,” a terrifying contemporary tale set in office spaces that could be in any city. This is alternative current history where Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group and blacks are only allowed typewriters and analog phones. By the end of the story, you’ll learn what OBF stands for and why racism still burns hot in our current culture.

Whatever your taste in dark tales, you’ll find delicious ones in Cutting Edge. Steph Cha’s “Thief” is more crime than noir and Elizabeth McCracken’s “An Early Specimen” is more horror than crime. Justice, a favorite theme of mine, finds its way into Shelia Kohler’s “Miss Martin,” another story that raises the current curtain on dark days.

Round out this anthology with a Joyce Carol Oates story and Margaret Atwood poetry, and you have a gift to reread and read out loud. The cynical voices, themes, exemplary language, even the settings defy categories and would be comfortable in either literary or genre. To be scared, stimulated, transfixed, and entertained should be the motive of any writing. Cutting Edge is perfect reading for those with a taste for the nocturnal.

Authors included in the anthology:

Livia Llewellyn, S.J. Rozan, Lisa Lim, Lucy Taylor, Edwidge Danticat, Jennifer Morales, Elizabeth McCracken, Bernice L. McFadden, Aimee Bender, Steph Cha, S.A. Solomon, Cassandra Khaw, Valerie Martin, Sheila Kohler, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates

#noirfiction #cuttingedge #psychological #suspense #thriller #books #gifts

Val’s Review of Attica Locke’s HEAVEN, MY HOME

I can’t let Ludwig have all the fun reviewing crime and thrillers. Here’s my review of a book I highly recommend.

Attica Locke creates stories rich in setting and character and entwined with history. (Bluebird, Bluebird) The plot of her latest, HEAVEN, MY HOME, is not only intense but complex and multilayered. Levi, the nine-year-old son of an Aryan Brotherhood leader, goes missing. Texas Ranger Darren Matthews is assigned to find him. As crime novels go, that would be ordinary, except Matthews is black and must follow the law even when faced with legal and moral issues. One of the settings he’s called to, Hopetown, was created after the civil war for freed slaves. Now white supremacists live there too, making a living off people who are nostalgic for anti-bellum Texas.

Matthews comes into the assignment with personal problems, including a mother who doesn’t have his best interests at heart, a vulnerable marriage, and a past investigation that haunts him. As a character, he’s so fully fleshed out that I feel as if I know him, making his story the kind I yearn for as a reader.

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I won’t go into any more plot details as other reviews have covered those. I do enjoy how Locke interweaves Texas history in the novel, plus pulls us into a world in 2016 that is more conflicted than it was a few decades ago. Like a Pandora’s Box of Bigots, the racists have become emboldened and don’t fear the law. Levi the nine-year-old is a bad actor, but questions arise for Matthews as well as the reader as Matthews must put aside his feelings and search for the boy. Should Levi be held to same standards as his racists’ relations? Is his hate conditioning or something more rooted in his genetic make-up?

Locke leans heavily on the idea of forgiveness. Should we always try to forgive, or are there times we cannot afford to forgive?

I’m always drawn to crime and thrillers that ask big, bold, and uneasy questions like these. Early in the novel, Matthews says:

“Maybe the rules had to be different. Maybe justice was no more a fixed concept than love was, and the poets and bluesmen knew the rules better than we did.”

Maybe so. Think about that for a minute before you dive into the novel because once you do, you’ll be too swept up in not only what happens, but what choices the characters must make. Walk in their boots. Experience a time of both past and present, times that make moral and legal choices so difficult.

Bloody Creek Murder, A Winston Radhauser Mystery 6, Susan Clayton-Goldner

Another great novel I have to read! Now on my TBR pile. A great way to spend the summer–reading!

Jeannie Zelos Book Reviews

Bloody Creek Murder, A Winston Radhauser Mystery 6, Susan Clayton-Goldner

Bloody Creek Murder: A Winston Radhauser Mystery: #6 by [Clayton-Goldner, Susan]

General Fiction (Adult), Mystery and thrillers.

Well, by now Radhauser is feeling a bit like an old friend. I know if ever I had need of the police I want someone like him on the case. He’s moral, dedicated but not one of those folk who want to find someone to blame, anyone will do, for him it needs to be the right person.
This book shows too well the pressures the police often face by the media to find a culprit, but like Radhauser I feel finding the actual person who did the crime is important, not just someone to keep the police looking good in the eyes of the media. In this day though, when appearance is all, when money, elections, voting and popularity are so important its simple to be sucked in and take the easy route…

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Review of TEMPER CA–Heartbreaking & Healing

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Heartbreaking & Healing: a tale of love & loss in a small California town

Joy rolls into Temper CA, back to the town she both loves and hates and doesn’t understand, for her grandfather Isaac’s funeral. This universal tale of angst and confusion revolves around the relationship Joy had with her mother and father, hippies of the 70s who lived in one house with their friends and did the usual of the period—slept together, drank, built their shared house, took acid, and brought their child up to live free and discover life with little guidance.
The complications that arise are microscopic and macroscopic, from dealing with the secrets and truths of her upbringing as a child and why she went back and forth to live with her grandparents, to the larger issues of economic disparity and race.
Award-winning author Paul Skenazy draws us into Joy’s story with language that alternately soothes and upsets. The short chapters create suspense and tension as Joy pieces her life together, finding truths that keep her from being at peace with herself and her girlfriend Angie. As many of us who came from small towns can relate, Temper, CA introduced Joy to a family she thought she knew, but didn’t. My heart hurt for her when she realized she’d created her own past, and she wished things had been different not only for herself but for those she loved, and even those she thought she hated.
A brilliant novel, deserving of all accolades and our reading pleasure.
Paul Skenazy’s website: