I’m so excited to share my third blog post in my CBTB Recommends holiday feature! (In case you missed it, you can find my first CBTB Recommends post here.) The idea behind this feature is simple: you send me your bookish questions or recommendation requests, and I’ll feature them in a blog post exactly like this one!
If you need help picking out a mystery to read this winter, are trying to decide on a thriller to give as a holiday gift, or just have a bookish question you’d like to ask, please feel free to fill out the form at the bottom of this post submit your question! Think of this as a bookish advice column that's here to help you find your next perfect read. I’ve loved answering these reader inquiries so far, and am so excited to see what questions you guys share next. Happy reading, and thank you so much to those of you who have participated so far! Xx A
Question 1: Witty, Older Crime Fiction - and Forensic Thrillers!
Hi there! I don't usually read crime novels. I read several of Kathy Reichs' books and kinda liked them, but they were too repetitive after some time. I recently read all of Sherlock Holmes and liked it a lot and would love something similarly witty and smart. I don't like to be scared too much and prefer if forensics are involved. Something from the 20th/21st century. Any suggestion as to what I might read next? Thanks and enjoy your holidays! Greetings from Slovakia.
When it comes to witty and not-too-scary crime fiction, I personally think there’s no better choice than Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot books. Christie is the Queen of Crime for a reason - her books are smart, impeccably-plotted mysteries that don’t rely on gore or shock value to surprise the reader. If you loved Sherlock Holmes, you’ll love these too! With Hercule Poirot, the reader also gets a welcome dash of flair and personality: Poirot is an eccentric and endearingly over-the-top Belgian detective, and his sense of humor (and fantastically grand sense of self) make for such enjoyable reading. Probably the most famous Hercule Poirot mystery is MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS - it was recently made into a movie, too! The Hercule Poirot books can be ready in any order you like - while they all involve the same main character, each case is a standalone mystery. While you're delving into the world of Agatha Christie, it's also worth sampling her brilliant novel AND THEN THERE WERE NONE. This is not a Hercule Poirot mystery, but it's a totally masterful and impeccably plotted read - and another example of what a fantastic job Christie does of writing suspenseful and intriguing mysteries that don't rely on shock value to be chilling.
Because you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes already, you might also check out Lyndsay Faye’s new Sherlock Holmes short story collection, THE WHOLE ART OF DETECTION: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. These are original stories written by Faye that feature Conan Doyle’s infamous characters. Writing stories that carry on the legacy of such famous characters is no small task, but I personally wholly enjoyed this collection! Faye has received major renown for her Holmes stories - her genuine passion for Conan Doyle's work and her deep knowledge of his canon make her superbly qualified for this undertaking. The result is a short story collection that feels like revisiting old friends—I kept my copy next to my bed and dipped into these short stories whenever I needed a little peaceful and nostalgic reading time.
The majority of the forensics-focused crime books I read tend to be a bit darker; I actually am not sure if I've ever read a forensics-focused crime book that didn't involve chilling plotting, so this recommendation might not quite fit the bill for what you're looking for. But just in case: my personal favorite forensics thriller that I’ve read recently was Tess Gerritsen’s first Rizzoli & Isles book, THE SURGEON. THE SURGEON launches Gerritsen’s bestselling Rizzoli & Isles series - I’ve personally only read books 1 and 2, so I can’t speak to whether or not the series gets repetitive over time. But I will say, I totally devoured this book! THE SURGEON features two very unique and strong female leads - one is a detective and one is a medical examiner. The true main character of this book is Detective Jane Rizzoli, but Maura Isles (the medical examiner) also plays a role. (Isles becomes more prominent in the next book in the series, but this book still involves a strong medical and forensic thriller angle!) Again, this is definitely a dark and harrowing read—but it's a very strong one if you're looking for a forensic thriller.
Question 2: Dark & Twisted Thrillers
I've been in a bit of a book rut. Recently I've picked up books that just weren't pulling me in even though they sounded really good based on the synopsis, therefore I didn't finish them. What books or authors do you recommend for immediate gripping reads that hook you from the first page? I love dark, twisted reads with a lot of suspense where I'm on the edge of my seat. I don't like slow paced reads. (I am the only one who didn't like Gone Girl. Mostly because of the writing style.)
If you haven’t yet read THE FOURTH MONKEY by J.D. Barker, this one needs to go on your TBR immediately. THE FOURTH MONKEY is every bit thrilling, entertaining, and just a touch dramatic in the best possible way. And speaking of dark and twisted—this book has that covered, and then some. If you’ve ever seen the movie Se7en or read (or seen!) The Silence of the Lambs, you’ll have a sense of what you’re in for with THE FOURTH MONKEY… but Barker adds his own cinematic edge to this serial killer thriller to fantastic effect. This book features a detective tracking down a serial killer, but with one super unique twist: the serial killer in question actually dies at the beginning of this book. On the serial killer's body, the detective discovers a small journal detailing his childhood and the dark events that caused him to become the way he is today. Readers experience the unfolding of the killer’s story alongside the detective - and in the process, discover that the killer may have kidnapped his next victim before he died, meaning that she is out there somewhere, waiting for the cops to rescue her before it’s too late. This combination - the gradual unraveling of the killer’s shocking backstory coupled with the race-against-the-clock to locate and save his next victim - makes for an edge-of-your-seat read that you’ll love! This book will send that reading slump of yours packing, I am quite confident.
If you prefer psychological thrillers over serial killer thrillers, this summer I absolutely tore through J.T. Ellison’s standalone thriller LIE TO ME, and would absolutely recommend that you check it out. LIE TO ME uncovers the secrets of a picture-perfect literary couple - two successful authors - whose life is shattered when the wife goes missing. Suspicion immediately falls on the husband, and readers are led through the winding maze that is this couple’s marriage to uncover the dark truth at its core. I absolutely loved this bookish twist on a psychological thriller - I always love reading books about writers and the literary world, and Ellison’s dash of literary drama adds a fantastic dimension of fun to this twisty read! Ellison’s book is what I like to call “popcorn reading” - it’s easy to binge-read and just plain fun to devour. This read won’t be as twisted or dark as THE FOURTH MONKEY, but it absolutely has its own chilling secrets to uncover—and perhaps more importantly when it comes to beating a reading slump, it has that kind of "just one more page" pacing that will keep you hooked. If you enjoy domestic thrillers (think BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris), you will love this read!
Speaking of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS—if you haven’t yet read this book, this is another one to add to your list. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris centers around another picture-perfect marriage, but this read delves into the subject of domestic abuse in a very visceral and gripping way. This book won’t be for everyone due to its subject matter, but I was absolutely riveted by Paris’ genuinely shocking novel of manipulation and lies. The topics explored here are very tough, but Paris' writing style is straightforward and easy to devour; I couldn't set this book down when I read it. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS features a wholly repulsive character whose abuses and deceits completely got under my skin—but it also features one of the most fantastic endings I could have imagined... and I'll leave it at that, so I don't spoil anything!
SUBMIT A QUESTION TO CBTB RECOMMENDS
Just fill out the form below! The more you can tell me about what kind of book you're looking for, the better. I'm so excited to hear from you!