Crime By The Book’s Best Reads: January 2019
By Abby EndlerFebruary 6, 2019
Hey there, reader! It’s officially 2019, and I’m thrilled to highlight these five January books worth checking out. When I’m not reading crime fiction or writing about crime fiction as Crime by the Book, I can often be found perusing Criminal Element’s fantastic selection of crime book reviews and features.
So here’s how this feature will work: Each month, I’ll be sharing with Criminal Element readers my picks for best books of the month—but this list will have a unique twist. Rather than giving you a general rundown of the new releases I’m recommending each month, I’ll be dividing these lists into specific categories—and these categories will change on a month-to-month basis too. This will mean that no list will be exactly like the others. So make sure to check in at the end of each month to see what categories I’ve created and which books I’m choosing for each!
Without further ado, let’s dive right into my picks for Best Books of January 2019!
Best New Paperback
The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
No one does crime fiction quite like Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Blending a classic police procedural structure with a serious dose of horror-inspired darkness, Sigurdardottir’s work consistently makes for superb reading material — but her newest series, which begins with The Legacy, is her best work yet. The Legacy launches Sigurdardottir’s Children’s House series, and now is the perfect moment to dig in: book two in the series, The Reckoning, will be released in the U.S. in hardcover in just a few weeks (February 12th). The Legacy introduces readers to Detective Huldar of the Reykjavik police, and to Freyja, a child psychologist with expertise in treating young victims of trauma. When a case arises that calls on both of their expertise, Huldar and Freyja are drawn into a web of decades-old secrets and their present-day fallout. The Children’s House series tackles dark themes and topics, but it does so with sensitivity and insight; readers will find themselves cheering for Huldar and Freyja as they seek justice for society’s most vulnerable members. Now available in paperback, The Legacy is a masterful procedural infused with the author’s dark imagination.
Best Weekend Binge-Read
The Drowning by J.P. Smith
If watching genuinely distasteful characters get their comeuppance sounds up your alley, The Drowning by J.P. Smith is the weekend binge-read for you. In his brand-new psychological suspense novel The Drowning, J.P. Smith delivers an engaging story of a successful businessman with a dark past — and a secret that refuses to stay buried. Alex Mason’s life is picture-perfect. He has a high-powered job, a beautiful family, a lavish home… you name it, he’s got it. But underneath his perfect facade, Alex is hiding a dark secret. When he was a teenager, Alex worked as a camp counselor at an esteemed summer camp outside of New York. One day, while teaching swimming lessons at camp, Alex became frustrated with a young boy who refused to get in the water. That boy, Joey, couldn’t swim — but that didn’t stop Alex from bringing him out to a raft in the middle of the lake and leaving him there. It was Alex’s attempt at tough love, a sort of “sink or swim” lesson meant to force the boy to confront his fears. But then Alex forgot about the boy in the business of the day. And when he went back out to the raft to retrieve him hours later, the boy was gone, never to be seen again. When sinister happenings begin plaguing Alex’s family in the present day, he has reason to suspect that same boy might be back for revenge. The Drowning is an easy-to-binge psychological suspense novel that delivers hair-raising tension while remaining largely free of gore or violence, making it an excellent choice for readers who want something a bit lighter — though no less creepy.
The Smiling Man by Joseph Knox
Noir readers, this one’s for you! If he isn’t already on your radar, Joseph Knox is an author to keep your eye on. On the heels of his critically-acclaimed debut Sirens, Knox and his protagonist, police officer Aidan Waits, are back in The Smiling Man. Knox writes gritty, razor-sharp Noir with a strong sense of place and a dose of electric personality — and the gorgeous U.S. cover for The Smiling Man somehow manages to capture all of this so perfectly. I can’t wait to add this gorgeous book to my bookshelf! (And to read it, too!)
Best New Overseas Read
Red Snow by Will Dean
Will Dean catapulted onto the U.K. crime fiction scene with his 2018 release Dark Pines — and he’s back this spring with his newest thriller, Red Snow. Dean himself is originally from the U.K., but he now lives in rural Sweden, which is exactly where his atmospheric and chilling crime novels are set, too. Red Snow is, then, a true hybrid of the Scandinavian and U.K. crime fiction traditions; paced like a police procedural, infused with the chilling and melancholy atmosphere of Scandinavia, and topped off with a dash of dark humor all Dean’s own. In Red Snow, Dean takes readers on a twisty investigation into the heart of his fictional town of Gavrik, Sweden. When a body is found displayed in an almost ritualistic manner at the Grimberg licorice factory, the business at the heart of the Gavrik economy, local reporter Tuva Moodyson is tasked with covering the story. But the closer she gets to the truth, the stranger the case becomes. Can Tuva uncover the criminal behind the “Ferryman” case before the killer catches up with her, too? Red Snow is equal parts engaging mystery and darkly humorous portrait of small-town life — it’s easy to see why Dean’s reputation has taken hold so firmly overseas.
Most-Anticipated February Release
The Hiding Place by C.J. Tudor
C.J. Tudor cemented herself as one of my favorite authors from the moment I turned the final pages of her outstanding debut, The Chalk Man. I didn’t think it possible, but her sophomore novel is even better. Available in the U.S. on February 5th, The Hiding Place is an exceptional psychological suspense story that blends astute psychological insight with dark, horror-inspired touches. (If you’re a reader who is cautious about paranormal elements in their crime fiction: yes, there are a few paranormal occurrences here — but I didn’t find them distracting or overdone at all, and I’m picky!) Set against a town in England that has seen better days, The Hiding Place follows a man who returns to his former hometown under dubious circumstances. Why has Joe returned to this dismal town? Why has he lied his way into a teaching job at the school he himself attended? Why is he renting a home that was the site of a brutal murder-suicide? And what on earth does this have to do with his own past, and the horrible tragedy that befell his family? If this all sounds like too much ground for one book to cover, never fear. C.J. Tudor masterfully crafts a story as rich and layered as it is downright creepy. The Hiding Place is an outstanding suspense story that pushes boundaries and thoroughly entertains, from the first page to the very last.