Monday, December 19, 2011

Staff Favorites for December 2011

Our staff here at The Mysterious Bookshop are always on the prowl for a new must-read mystery. Dan, Sally, Ian and, of course, Otto Penzler, have selected the cream of the crop, the cherries on top, the best mysteries of December 2011. Check ‘em out.

Otto’s Favorite:

Woodrell, Daniel, The Outlaw Album. Little, Brown. Very few American mystery writers have enjoyed more critical acclaim with less popular success than Daniel Woodrell, though he slowly is finding a larger readership, partly because of the excellent film made from his novel Winter’s Bone. His new collection is a thing of beauty, encompassing all the elements of “country noir,” a term he invented about a decade ago. Like his novels, the stories in The Outlaw Album are set in the poor countryside of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. His characters live hard lives in ramshackle houses or trailers, working at whatever jobs they can find in a region where no one can afford to pay them very much. There isn’t much in the way of law enforcement in the vast rural terrain, so the local populace has learned its own code of honor and administers justice as it sees fit. Only when despair is taken for granted could someone utter this line, as one character does: “Ma wants to be buried on the farm. She’d been happy here when she was too young to know better.” This worldview pervades the 12 tales in The Outlaw Album, each of which is a small polished jewel, and not a bad way to become acquainted with this poetic storyteller. Signed copies available. $24.99

Check out more of Otto's faves, as well as Dan, Ian and Sally's picks after the jump!

Also recommended:

Block, Lawrence, Afterthoughts, Mysterious Bookshop. Block had often considered writing an autobiography but finally admitted to himself that he would never do it. Instead, he collected introductions that he had written for reissues of various books over the years, many containing very personal stories and anecdotes which, when gathered in one place, form a loosely structured autobiography. Signed copies available. This is the only hardcover edition. $35.00

Block, Lawrence, The Night and the Music, The Mysterious Bookshop. The first collection of all the Matthew Scudder stories, including one specifically written for this volume and the Edgar-winning “By Dawn’s Early Light,” which he later expanded into the novel that is often regarded as his masterpiece, When the Sacred Gin Mill Closes. Block’s friend Brian Koppelman, the well-known Hollywood producer (The Illusionist), screenwriter (Walking Tall, Ocean’s Thirteen, Runaway Jury) and director (Solitary Man) wrote the introduction. The only hardcover published is a deluxe edition of 100 numbered copies, signed by Block and Koppelman. $150.00

Connelly, Michael, The Drop, Little, Brown. I hate being predictable and recommending yet another book by Connelly, but what do you want me to do? Ignore the fact that this amazing author has done it again and produced another compelling, non-stop adventure? Few writers have ever been as consistently terrific as Connelly. Here, Bosch is looking at a career that has only three more years before he’s forced into retirement. His sense of morality and justice makes him hungry for a bigger workload and he gets his wish: two complex cases with roots in the distant past, one a political conspiracy and the other an investigation that raises the possibility that a serial killer has been preying on the innocent for three decades. Signed copies available. $27.99

Dan’s Favorite:

Here are some of my favorites that also make great and unusual gift ideas for the holiday season!

Moore, Graham, The Sherlockian. Hachette. Last year's surprise bestseller is now doing gangbusters in paperback. In 1893 Arthur Conan Doyle made his famous decision to kill of the legendary Sherlock Holmes and fans everywhere were horrified. Years later he famously resurrected Holmes but what led to the decision remained a mystery. Supposedly he wrote about his reasoning in his journal but that diary went missing upon his death. Now in the present day the same famous diary holds the only key to an all to real murder involving a famous Sherlockian. Moore beautifully mixes fact, fiction and speculation in this wildly popular novel. $14.99.

Christie, Agatha, Star Over Bethlehem. Harper. This beautiful collection of Christmas writings by the Queen Crime makes a fabulous stocking stuffer. Many of these writings have been out-of-print for decades. There are lovely poems and Christmas stories with their original illustrations. A must for Christie fans. $12.99.

Coben, Harlan ed., Otto Penzler, series ed., The Best American Mystery Stories 2011. Mariner. The series is consistently the finest annual anthology of it's kind and this year is no exception. Includes stories by Lawrence Block, Loren D. Estleman, Ed Gorman, Brendan DuBois, S. J. Rozan and more. There's something here for every reader. $14.95

du Maurier , Daphne, The Doll. Harper. This new collection of previously lost stories by the brilliant writer of Rebecca and Jamaica Inn is a fabulous gift idea. The stories were written early in her career but her classic themes are all here. These are tales of jealousy, obsession, suspense and the dark side of love. $14.99

Ian’s Favorite:

This has been a banner year for the Rural Noir sub-genre and I wanted to take this opportunity to point out a few of the most noteworthy titles. First off, I was very glad to see Tom Franklin get nominated for the Edgar Award for Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (Harper Perennial, $14.99), and then go on to win the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is the tale of two childhood friends reunited through crime. What could be more heartwarming this holiday season? Secondly, Donald Ray Pollock, the author the brutal collection of stories Knockemstiff, came out with his first novel. The Devil All the Time (Doubleday, $26.95) continues Pollock’s special attention to depravity, but meshes with a sense of lyricism that is not unfamiliar to fans of James Lee Burke or John Connolly. I’m going to keep a close eye on this author.

Then we have the great Daniel Woodrell, so long the benchmark for quality rural noir. This year we’ve seen the reissue of The Bayou Trilogy in one volume (Mulholland, $16.99) and the release of Woodrell’s new collection of stories, The Outlaw Album (Mulholland, $24.99). Keep an eye out for some gorgeous reissues of his other novels in 2012, as well as a new novel if I’m not mistaken. Finally we come to two outstanding collections of short stories. Alan Heathcock’s Volt (Graywolf, $15.00) will certainly make my best of the year list. This is probably the standout volume of short stories for me this year. It’s hard to follow-through and have one great story after another, but Heathcock pulls it off. Coming in at a close second is Frank Bill’s Crimes in Southern Indiana (FSG, $15.00). Bill pulls no punches and his gritty, stripped-down language will knock you for a loop. I’m sad to say that the only signed copies we have are Pollock’s Devil All the Time and Woodrell’s The Outlaw Album, and not many at that, but take my word for it and read them all, signed or not. Or order them as gifts for those in your life who like to read about bad people doing bad things for all the wrong reasons (you know who they are). Happy Holidays!

Sally’s Favorites:

When I was a small child (as opposed to the large child that I have become) I used to hang a pillowcase at the end of my bed on Christmas Eve. This was because a stocking just would not accommodate the presents I was hoping to receive. Stockings hold candy and fruit and very small toys. OK, but dull. Pillowcases hold books! And lots of them. I was never disappointed. Santa obviously knew me well.

So here's a list of what I want to find in my pillowcase on Christmas morning:

Afterthoughts by Lawrence Block
The Drop by Michael Connelly
V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton
Soft Target by Stephen Hunter
The Corn Maiden by Joyce Carol Oates
A Killer's Essence by Dave Zeltserman
11/22/63 by Stephen King

All but the King are signed books. And I have not read them yet.

They are here at the store and I am suggesting that you follow my example and stow some of these gems in your pillowcase - or even those of your loved ones. It doesn't even have to be Christmas!

You can purchase all of our's staff's picks at or stop on by our brick and mortar store at 58 Warren Street (between W. Broadway and Chruch) in Manhattan.  

No comments: