As winter trudges on in the Pacific Northwest, there’s no better time to stay in and read. Consider these four crime-fiction picks this month, perfect for reading on a chilly afternoon.
Liz Moore’s “Long Bright River” (Riverhead, $26) brilliantly works within the tradition of literary writers (think Richard Price, Laura Lippman or Dennis Lehane) who use crimes as frameworks for compassionate studies of morality, social issues and family bonds. Michaela “Mickey” Fitzpatrick and her younger sister Kacey were raised in an opioid-ravaged stretch of Philadelphia by their formidable grandmother after their mother overdosed. Now Kasey is an addict and a prostitute in that same neighborhood, while Mickey is a single mother and a cop. Mickey strives to keep track of her wayward sister, and every time she hears about a missing woman, her heart stops — is it Kacey? When Kacey does vanish, the story sprints in unexpected and riveting directions.
“The Last Passenger” (Feb. 18, Minotaur, $27.99) is Charles Finch’s latest atmospheric Victorian mystery about aristocratic private detective Charles Lenox. (A writer naming his main character after himself? Intriguing.) An unidentified corpse found on a train snags Lenox’s interest and triggers an investigation that widens to examine how the venomous turmoil of pre-Civil War America is spreading to England (where slavery is already illegal). Lenox’s tentative love life, and his rapport with his stalwart, perceptive valet, nicely balance the book’s grim theme.
Elizabeth Little’s “Pretty as a Picture” (Feb. 25, Viking, $27) is a doozy. Marissa Dahl is a smart, gifted and sought-after film editor, but also a hot mess of self-worth issues, compulsions and problems relating to everyday life. When a brilliant, legendarily demanding director summons her to a remote island, she’s reluctant — but, for the sake of her career, she can’t say no. The director is making a film about a real-life murder that took place there decades earlier, and the disaster-prone shoot has started to echo that crime. Both a captivating thriller and a snarkily funny send-up of Hollywood pretensions, the book glories in movie references — film fans will be especially rewarded.
Jeff Lindsay, the author of “Just Watch Me” (Dutton, $26), is best known for his “Dexter” TV series, but here he introduces Riley Wolfe, master thief and ultra-cool customer. As the book opens, Wolfe steals a gigantic sculpture during its grand unveiling (cue the helicopter), but such stunts bore him; he needs a bigger challenge, and finds it when he resolves to swipe the crown jewels of Iran, especially the legendary (and real-life) pink diamond known as the Daria-i-Noor. Watching Wolfe plan and execute his seemingly impossible caper is pure pleasure.