Crime By The Book’s Best Reads: October 2018

Hey there, reader! It’s been great collaborating with Criminal Element on this “Best of the Month” series, and I’m thrilled to highlight these five October books. 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 October 2018!

Most Compelling Protagonist

The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

I think I’m now officially three-for-three on Criminal Element posts mentioning Ragnar Jonasson… but it’s because he really is that good. This month, Jonasson launched a brand-new trilogy in the US with The Darkness—and despite how much I love his Dark Iceland books (Snowblind, Nightblind, etc.), this new series takes the cake. By now, we all know just how well Jonasson can write about Iceland; his books are infused with the rich, mysterious atmosphere of his home country. We also already know how excellently he can write mysteries that draw from classic detective fiction; Jonasson’s affinity for the work of Agatha Christie shines through in all his writing. But The Darkness sees Jonasson developing yet another strength of his writing even further: it delivers one of the most compelling protagonists I’ve read in ages. The Darkness introduces readers to Hulda Hermannsdóttir, a Detective Inspector with the Reykjavik police force. When Hulda is forced to retire early to make room for a younger police officer on the force, she makes it her singular mission to solve one final case—and the case she chooses finds her delving deep into a very dark web. Hulda is one of those rare gems in crime fiction. She is relatable, endearing, tough, independent, and so very human, readers will find themselves cheering for her as she faces the injustices and discrimination in her own workplace and the dangers in Reykjavik’s underbelly. This is a superb series launch from Jonasson—I’m already looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.


Best Creepy Halloween Read

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

Who can resist a spooky, supernatural mystery come Halloween? If you’re in the market for a particularly chilling suspense read to devour this fall, look no farther than Sharon Bolton’s superb standalone The Craftsman. In this compelling procedural-meets-supernatural story, a detective returns to her former hometown for a macabre appointment: the funeral of a convicted serial killer she helped put behind bars years prior. This man’s crimes? Burying children alive in the coffins he made for the local funeral parlor. But now, as our protagonist returns to this town and revisits the site of these past horrors, she begins to wonder if the right person was really put away all those years ago…

There are some incredibly addictive—and seasonally-appropriate!—supernatural references in this story, but at its core it really is a procedural, meaning this mystery will work well even for readers who don’t typically love supernatural thrillers. The Craftsman is richly atmospheric and impossible to put down. And speaking of fantastic protagonists—Florence Lovelady, the police officer at the heart of this gripping crime novel, is one for the books. This was my first of Sharon Bolton’s books, but it certainly won’t be my last!


Best New Paperback

The Midnight Witness by Sara Blaedel

Sara Blaedel is one of the biggest names in Scandinavian crime fiction, and this fall, her U.S. publisher (Grand Central) is releasing brand-new editions of the original three books in her bestselling Louise Rick series! The Midnight Witness is the very first Louise Rick book, and it introduces readers to the beloved Copenhagen detective and her best friend, journalist Camilla Lind. I’ve been a fan of Blaedel’s books for years now, but this October was the very first time I had the opportunity to read Blaedel’s very first Louise Rick book—and what a fun read it was. I tend to consider Blaedel’s books a perfect choice for readers new to the Nordic Noir genre, and The Midnight Witness is a welcome reminder why. Blaedel writes detail-oriented, gritty crime fiction with a big, beating heart at its core. Though these books are (naturally!) quite dark stories, they don’t rely on the over-the-top gore of some of their peers. Instead, Blaedel focuses on realistic portrayals of police work and of her characters, and it’s this appealing blend that has earned her a legion of fans around the world. In The Midnight Witness, Louise Rick is busy investigating the murder of a young woman in Copenhagen, Denmark, when her best friend—a crime reporter—asks her to look into yet another dark crime: the murder of a journalist. Louise soon finds herself drawn in two directions, struggling to make sense of the seemingly senseless string of crimes plaguing her city. If you haven’t yet read Blaedel’s books, now is a great time to start.


Best Book About Books

Open Your Eyes by Paula Daly

I don’t know about you, but I love books about books. If this describes you too, you’ll want to make a note of Paula Daly’s Open Your Eyes. In this domestic suspense novel, the wife of a bestselling crime writer finds her life upended when her husband goes from crime writer to crime victim. Jane Campbell always preferred to let her husband, Leon, handle life’s messiness; she would much rather focus on raising their children and keeping their domestic life moving smoothly. But in the wake of a brutal attack that leaves Leon hospitalized and in a coma, Jane must suddenly open her eyes to the secrets her husband has been keeping from her. There’s so much to love about this story. If you’re a fan of domestic suspense, you’ll find Paula Daly’s tale of marital secrets thoroughly engaging. If you love books about writers and writing life, you will love all the “insider details” Daly injects throughout her suspense story. (Think commentary on book readings, the publishing process, and more.) Protagonist Jane is a bit of a tough pill to swallow at the story’s outset, but one of the strongest components of this story quickly becomes her development as a character; readers will be riveted by the personal transformation Jane undergoes, and they will be cheering for her and her newfound self-reliance every step of the way. Open Your Eyes is sly, subtle suspense—a great choice for a sophisticated domestic suspense read.

Read our review of Open Your Eyes!

The October Release I Want to Read Next

Under My Skin by Lisa Unger

So many books, so little time… that old saying is just so very true. At the beginning of the month, Lisa Unger released her newest psychological thriller Under My Skin, and it looks absolutely fantastic. I’m still trying to make room on my (seemingly never-ending) reading list to dig into this one—it has all the components of a psychological thriller that I love, and I can’t wait to see what twisty, addictive story Unger has in store for readers in its pages.

Plot Details: What if the nightmares are actually memories?

It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?

The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts—there are periods of time she can’t remember, and she’s unable to tell the difference between what is real and what she’s imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband’s death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?

See also: Best Books of September 2018

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