CBTB's 2016 Holiday Gift Guide
'Tis the season! The holidays are right around the corner, and that means it's time to pick out books for the readers in your life! (Or to do some shopping for yourself!) I'm rounding up my most-recommended reads in a variety of categories to help you get your shopping done. My categories include classic mysteries, buzzy crime books, literary crime fiction, cops vs. killers crime books, and (in true CBTB style), essential Scandinavian crime fiction.
As always, if you have specific questions for me, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org - I'm happy to help!
Without further ado, happy shopping and reading!!
For the classic mystery reader, a.k.a. the reader who can't get enough Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes:
SNOWBLIND by Ragnar Jonasson - a stunning piece of Icelandic crime fiction that takes the classic Christie “locked room mystery” and sets it not in a room or a house, but in a small town in northern Iceland that’s been cut off from the rest of the country by a blizzard. (American readers: SNOWBLIND is coming to the US in January, but you can purchase it from the UK! Find it here on BookDepository.)
- JANE STEELE by Lyndsay Faye - Faye’s reimagining of Jane Eyre as a crime novel is equal parts homage to the original work and fiercely original feminist story. Faye is unique in the authenticity with which she captures the language and world of Bronte’s Jane Eyre. “Reader, I murdered him.” Amazon info here.
- LITTLE GREY CELLS - a quotebook featuring the best quotes from Christie’s most renowned detective, Hercule Poirot. Perfect for gift-giving! It's beautifully packaged, and will delight the seasoned Agatha Christie reader. Amazon info here.
- ENDLESS NIGHT by Agatha Christie - because no such list would be complete without a book from the Queen of Crime herself. ENDLESS NIGHT is my personal favorite Christie novel, and it’s sometimes overlooked. It’s written in quite a different style for Christie, but it’s dark and absorbing and brilliantly plotted, as ever. Amazon info here.
For the pop culture fanatic, a.k.a. the reader who loves keeping up with what’s hot. Don’t miss these buzzy crime books!
- THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 by Ruth Ware - the bestselling author of IN A DARK, DARK WOOD (optioned by Reese Witherspoon’s production company for film!) is back with another gripping, suspenseful read. Ware’s style is fast-paced and engaging, with influence drawn from Agatha Christie. In this story, a travel journalist witnesses a crime while on board a luxury cruise through the Norwegian fjords. Amazon info here.
- BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris - a buzzy debut that explores the dark, twisted secrets that can exist between even the most picture-perfect couples. Shocking and page-turning, with depictions of some disturbing abuses within the relationship. I grimaced, was repulsed, and ultimately couldn't put it down. Amazon info here.
- THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins - okay, this one is obvious. If your reader hasn’t read this book yet, it’s about time! Love it or hate it (I personally loved it), THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN has achieved unprecedented levels of success. Get them the book and tickets to see the movie! Amazon info here.
- I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh - a psychological thriller that reads like two books in one. This book has probably the craziest plot twist I’ve ever read! A huge debut for Mackintosh, and a much-talked about read. Amazon info here.
- THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR by Shari Lapena - while a couple is at a dinner party, a terrible crime occurs in their home: their infant is kidnapped. What follows from this crime strains their marriage and brings to light dark family secrets. Not quite as jarring or shocking as BEHIND CLOSED DOORS (mentioned above) - more slow-burning psychological suspense. Amazon info here.
- THE PERFECT GIRL by Gilly Macmillan - this book didn’t receive quite as much buzz as the others, but it absolutely deserves to be included in this list. This story of family secrets is more about character development and family dynamics than shattering plot twists, but I couldn’t get enough of it. Amazon info here.
For the reader who prefers their crime books with a literary bent:
- THE DINNER by Herman Koch - over the course of a dinner party, a family’s secrets are revealed, and they begin to come apart at the seams. Subtle, nasty, and insightful. Koch is one of my top 3 favorite authors, and this is my favorite of his books. Amazon info here.
- THE BIRD TRIBUNAL by Agnes Ravatn - an intense and unusual work of psychological suspense that observes the interactions between an unlikely pair: a reclusive man and a woman hired to care for his house. Set against the backdrop of a remote Norwegian fjord, this short book is brooding, dark, and breathless. (American readers: this book is currently only out in the UK, but you can find it on BookDepository.)
- THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT by Kate Hamer - a stunning and lyrical crime novel that explores the aftermath of a young girl’s disappearance. This book is deeply emotional, suspenseful, and it has a mystical element to it that I absolutely loved. A truly unique and heartbreaking story. Amazon info here.
- THE TRESPASSER by Tana French - the newest installment in French's Dublin Murder Squad series, but it can definitely be read as a standalone - I did it myself. A police procedural that proves genre distinctions sometimes really don't apply. French writes with beautiful, rich prose, and a keen eye for social issues. Amazon info here.
For the fan of TV cop dramas, a.k.a. that friend who can't get enough of Criminal Minds:
- EENY MEENY by M.J. Arlidge - this is book 1 in Arlidge’s DI Helen Grace series, a supremely entertaining series that pits Detective Inspector Helen Grace against a whole slew of criminals. In EENY MEENY, Helen hunts down a serial killer who is kidnapping pairs of people and forcing them to choose who lives in a very Saw-like setup. Chilling, addictive, and fast-paced. Amazon info here.
- THE KILLING LESSONS by Saul Black - a truly twisted and layered crime novel that pulls readers into the mind of a pair of ruthless killers who are criss-crossing the United States, leaving a trail of bodies in their past. Amazon info here.
- THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS by Sara Blaedel - a personal favorite author, Blaedel is consistently praised for the accuracy with which she portrays police investigations in her native Denmark. THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS is the perfect place to start with Blaedel’s Louise Rick series - a series which blends the best of Scandinavian crime fiction with gritty police investigations and twisted killers. Amazon info here.
- PERFECT DAYS by Raphael Montes - there might be no better book to give you a glimpse into the mind of a psychopath than this one. Only buy this if you know your reader is up for some twisted reading material - but if they are up for it, this would be a great choice. Amazon info here.
For the fan of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, who doesn't know what to read next -- a.k.a. essential Scandinavian crime books:
- THE SNOWMAN by Jo Nesbo - Nesbo is the king of Nordic Noir in my book, and his Harry Hole series has taken the world by storm. Gift THE SNOWMAN for a reader looking for a fast-paced, action-packed read; gift book 1 in the series, THE BAT, for the reader who wants a slow-burning introduction to Nesbo's work. Nesbo's books are probably the closest in style to Larsson's of the titles represented on this list, but I love them even more. Amazon info here.
- FACELESS KILLERS by Henning Mankell - the grandfather of Nordic Noir, Mankell's Kurt Wallander series is a true staple. (You might recognize that name from the eponymous BBC show!) Inspector Kurt Wallander is called to a farmhouse, and discovers a bloodbath. The ensuing investigations reveals racial tensions in Wallander's community. Amazon info here.
- THE ICE PRINCESS by Camilla Lackberg - Lackberg has written one of the most endearing, accessible series within Nordic Noir. This is book 1 in her Fjallbacka series, and it introduces readers to Detective Patrik Hedstrom and crime writer Erica Falck. When Erica's childhood best friend is brutally murdered, she begins her own investigation into the crime. Amazon info here.
- HELL FIRE by Karin Fossum - Norway's Queen of Crime proves why she's earned her legacy in her latest novel to be published in the US. This story is layered, heartfelt, and deeply emotional. Where many Scandinavian crime novels rely heavily on violence, Fossum's novel is primarily a character study. Her characters are rich and vivid, and I cried at this book's conclusion. This book is the furthest from Larsson's style, but Fossum is a staple in the genre, and her books are well worth a look. Amazon info here.
That concludes my 2016 Holiday Gift Guide! I'd love to hear from you if you have questions, or are looking for specific recommendations. Please don't hesitate to reach out!
Happy holidays, friends! Wising you a joyful holiday season, and of course lots of reading time!