To celebrate the release of her new novel, Andrea Bartz shares her top 10 hipster thrillers you need to add to your list.
In my new novel, The Lost Night, a woman is forced to confront what really happened back in 2009, when she and her postgrad friends turned Brooklyn into a playground—going to wild concerts, dancing at warehouse parties, and drinking a little too much PBR and picklebacks. When their beautiful ringleader, Edie, was found dead near a suicide at the end of a long, drunken evening, the group mourned and moved on. But a decade later, Edie’s best friend, Lindsay, uncovers evidence that suggests not only that Edie might have been murdered, but also that her closest friends may have been involved. To solve the mystery, Lindsay must dive back into her boho, hard-partying, free-spirited past…much like the characters in these ten hipster-tinged thrillers.
- The Winter Sister, Megan Collins
In this accomplished and beautifully written new psychological thriller, Sylvie, an (understandably) broody 30-year-old tattoo artist living in the boho mecca of Providence, returns to her boring Connecticut hometown to take care of her sick mother. Sylvie’s been avoiding her hometown—and her past—since her sister was murdered sixteen years ago, and the move forces her to confront the dark truth about what really happened all those years ago.
2. The Hand That Feeds You, A.J. Rich
A 30-year-old grad student has to play detective when her fiancé is found dead—apparently mauled to death by one of her beloved dogs. The mystery plays out across Brooklyn, with scenes set in such cool-kid landmarks as Barcade, the original dive-y video-game-themed drinking hole.
3. Placid Girl, Brenna Ehrlich
In this indie YA thriller, a sulky teenage drummer, bored of her suburban existence, grows mildly obsessed with punk singer Haze. No one’s heard from the masked musician in five years, so when someone claiming to be Haze starts flirting with her over social media, she sets out to unmask him once and for all.
4. Desperate Characters, Paula Fox
The 1970 novel drops us into the lives of Otto and Sophie, a childless couple fumbling around the crime-filled streets of Brooklyn Heights. (It was 1970, so Brooklyn Heights was still a “changing neighborhood.”) Though the couple is middle-aged, the drama that enfolds them hits all the hallmarks of hipsterdom: danger and confusion in an area where they don’t feel they belong, musing over whether creating art is worthwhile in a chaotic world, and a series of bizarre events, including an incident with a cat that keeps showing up in their apartment. It’s hard, you see, to be a wealthy, white gentrifier.
5. Motherless Brooklyn, Jonathan Lethem
Lionel Essrog, Lethem’s Tourette’s-afflicted narrator, works for a below-the-line detective agency headed by gangster Frank Minna. When Minna is stabbed to death, it’s up to Lionel to crack the case. Fine, these characters are more hardcore than mumblecore, but tell me this view of acceptable Brooklyn doesn’t scream hipster: “Everything east of the Gowanus Canal…apart from small outposts of civilization in Park Slope and Windsor Terrace, was an unspeakable barbarian tumult.”
6. The Infinite Detective, Sara Grans
Claire DeWitt might be the quintessential hipster: From her San Francisco home, she spouts Zen-isms, snorts coke, hooks up with skinny, arty, pretty young things (of all genders), takes advice from a shaman-turned-homeless man, and is borderline obsessed with a long-dead French detective named Jacques Silette. She’s also a damn good PI, and in the latest book in the noirish series, she sets off to Las Vegas to find her own would-be killer—and, along the way, must face down her past.
7. You, Caroline Kepnes
Scrappy Joe Goldberg’s likes include obscure books and esoteric literary references. His dislikes include shiny, fake, toothpaste-commercial biddies (see: Peach Salinger), trust fund kids, Dan Brown, and the dull, slovenly masses. Meanwhile, the object of his obsession wants to be a writer and can’t stop doing pickleback shots in Greenpoint, and hererstwhile flame is getting an artisanal soda company off the ground. Joe—who’s equal parts compelling and creepy as he homes in on his prey—may claim to hate Brooklyn hipsters, but doesn’t that make him the hippest of the hipsters?
8. Hipster Death Rattle, Richie Narvaez
This forthcoming novel hits the nail on the head: There’s a serial killer on the loose, slashing up young urban creatives in Williamsburg, Brooklyn’s coolest hood. Grab your thick-framed glasses and your mustache wax because the cover alone is all-in on the arty subculture.
9. The Perfect Mother, Aimee Molloy
A mystery set among a bougie group of Park Slope moms—it was bound to happen, and it’s delicious. The May Mothers (so named because their babies were all born that month) meet up twice a week in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. One sultry night, they dress up and go out for drinks at their hood’s hippest bar, and one of the six-week-old babies is snatched from his crib.
10. Temper, Layne Fargo
Theater kids grow up to become perhaps the most entertaining kind of hipster. This is definitely evident in Fargo’s sharp and twisty forthcoming thriller, set in Chicago’s indie theater scene. When a struggling actress lands the role of a lifetime, she must grapple with the show’s mercurial, domineering director, the playhouse’s manipulative cofounder, and the dangerous secret she uncovers about the production.
Andrea Bartz is a journalist and the author of the debut thriller The Lost Night, which was optioned for development as a limited series with Mila Kunis set to produce. Previously, she was a senior editor at Glamour, Fit Pregnancy, Psychology Today, and other magazines. In 2010, she coauthored the blog and book Stuff Hipsters Hate, and her second novel, The Herd, will be published in 2020.