September Reads: Tana French, Sophie Hannah, and Dennis Lehane
Now that summer’s over and the cool weather starts (hopefully) rolling in, it’s a good time to get a stack of new books and read. Here are six suggestions for your September list that should keep any fan of crime fiction—from the hard-boiled to the milder fare—happy as the days get shorter and the nights get longer.Broken Monsters Lauren Beukes (Mulholland, Sept. 16)In this compellingly disturbing follow-up to her 2013 breakout hit, The Shining Girls, Beukes takes readers on terrifying thrill rides through the crumbling streets of a very real Detroit. As a homicide detective, Gabriella Versado is used to grisly crime scenes. But even she’s shocked by the depravity on display when an eleven-year-old boy’s body is found fused to the bottom half of a deer in a stomach-churning case of human taxidermy. Beukes successfully weaves together the stories of five characters—tough cop and single mom Versado; her high school-age daughter, struggling to find her place in the world; a fame-hungry journalist named Jonno, new to the city; a homeless man with a checkered past, TK; and an artist, Clayton, whose mind is slowly unraveling—into a single, driven plot that will leave you guessing until the final reveal.Perfidia James Ellroy (Knopf, Sept. 9)Fans of Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet—The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz—will be ecstatic to know that Ellroy is starting a second, companion quartet. Perfidia, the first installment, takes place over three weeks in 1941, both before and after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The hefty novel’s (be prepared: it’s 720 pages) catalyst is the alleged murder-suicide of four members of the Watanabe family in Los Angeles (where else?). Readers familiar with the Ellroy universe will instantly recognize some familiar, albeit younger, faces: the ex-IRA cop Dudley Smith; William Parker, who will in time lead the LAPD; and Kay Lake, a woman as enigmatic as she is beautiful. Joining the group—and forming yet another quartet—is Japanese-American police chemist Hideo Ashida. As with all of Ellroy’s work, the intersection of power, crime, and corruption is a deadly one, but it’s a crash that the author portrays so well that we won’t, and perhaps can’t, look away.
The Secret Place Tana French (Viking, Sept. 9)
This fifth installment of French’s is loosely connected to the Dublin Murder Squad series. Instead of following one lead character, each novel features a different yet associated protagonist. The Secret Place follows the investigation into the murder of a student at a posh Dublin boys’ school, which runs parallel to the lives of four close friends at St. Kilda’s, the adjoining girls’ school. When Holly Mackey—daughter of undercover copper Frank Mackey, who led the charge in the cold case at the center of 2010’s Faithful Place—arrives at the police station to see Det. Stephen Moran, she shows him an anonymous postcard she found at school with a chilling message. “I know who killed him” is written above a picture of Chris Harper, whose body was found the previous year on school grounds. French alternates between the lives of Holly and her best mates Julia, Selena, and Becca in the year leading up to Chris’s murder and Stephen’s investigation into the unsolved case. His partner in crime solving is another strong French heroine: the competent, take-no-prisoners Det. Antoinette Conway. Readers can only hope she’ll carry her own book in the near future.
The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery Sophie Hannah (Morrow, Sept. 9)
Since reviews for this much-anticipated return of the famous Belgian detective with his little gray cells are embargoed until its publication day, there’s only enough information to whet a Christie fan’s appetite. Hannah’s previous psychological thrillers, featuring detectives Charlie Zailer and Simon Waterhouse, were a far cry from the Grande Dame of Mystery’s Golden Age locked-room puzzles, and The Monogram Murders promises to bring a fresh take on the fastidious Hercule Poirot. This new Poirot adventure—which finds the detective solving a head-scratching case in 1920s London—is, most importantly, authorized by the Christie family. It’s a daunting task to take over the reins of one of the most iconic characters in detective fiction, but Hannah’s compulsively readable style and eye for detail make her an excellent choice for the job. We’ll report back midday on September 9, after we’ve devoured the new book.
Broadchurch Erin Kelly (Minotaur, Sept. 16)
If not equally challenging as breathing new life into a beloved character, turning the novelization of a popular television show into a compelling stand-alone book is a close second. Erin Kelly, who’s adept at suspenseful tales such as 2010’s The Poison Tree and 2012’s The Dark Rose, takes the critically acclaimed British show of the same name and reinvents it on the page. David Tennant played the role of haggard Det. Alec Hardy, an outsider brought in to help with the case, with Olivia Coleman playing Det. Ellie Miller, a local cop who might be in over her head. In the titular British seaside town in Dorset, crime isn’t usually on the menu until the body of eleven-year-old Danny Latimer is found on the beach. It’s a given that a small town would be rife with secrets but Kelly avoids clichés and makes the shady pasts of some of Broadchurch’s residents utterly believable. Tennant and Miller’s performances won raves on the other side of The Pond—and the show is being remade in the States as Gracepoint, with Tennant reprising his role—and they’re equally compelling on the page: both are damaged, by their very different paths as police officers as well as by the case at hand, which touches them in unexpected ways. This might be one of the rare instances where it’s recommended to read the book and watch the show, rather than just stick to the printed page (or Kindle screen).
The Drop Dennis Lehane (Morrow, Sept. 2)
Not to be confused with Michael Connelly’s 2011 Harry Bosch novel of the same name, this is Dennis Lehane returning to the gritty streets of Boston with a tale that’s as heartbreaking and tough as Mystic River. In a curious parallel trajectory with Broadchurch, the film version of The Drop is set to hit movie screens this fall. The plot began as Lehane’s short story “Animal Rescue” in 2009’s Boston Noir collection from Akashic. From that, Lehane wrote the film’s screenplay and, in turn, fleshed it out into a tie-in novel. The film stars Tom Hardy as Bob, a down-on-his-luck Boston bartender whose instinctive act of kindness sets him on a path of destruction only someone as adept as Lehane could pull off. Noomi Rapace—of the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo film trilogy—costars as a woman who crosses Bob’s path and changes his life (you’ll have to wait and see if it’s for the better or not). Dirty money, Chechen thugs, and abject misery are all swirled around to make the perfect crime fiction cocktail.