It’s an old cliché in writing; a dark revelation or creeping dread causes our hero to shiver, despite the summer heat. Usually this is portrayed as ominous, a tell-tale sign of something bad coming our hero’s way. But in the middle of a Missouri summer, I’d go in for just about anything that made me forget about the heat and humidity. Maybe the best company for a hot day is a cold-blooded criminal? Beat the heat with one of these three crime novels, guaranteed to have you breaking out in a cold sweat.
The Burglar in the Library by Lawrence Block:
Thief turned bookseller Bernie Rhodenbarr has always stayed cool under pressure, but the latest mystery he finds himself in may finally land him in the hot seat! Deciding to take a winter holiday along with his best friend, dog washer Carolyn Kaiser, Bernie finds himself trapped by a blizzard in a stately mansion in upstate New York. Weathering the storm with them are a cast of bizarre characters right out of an Agatha Christie novel. The comparison becomes even more apt when the first body turns up…
Once again, Bernie is forced to solve the mystery to keep his friends safe and clear his own name. But with the storm outside getting worse, the phones down, and the body count steadily growing, Bernie needs to hurry before he too finds himself on ice!
*This book is part of a series, but each volume is a fun, standalone adventure!
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon:
This novel begins with a fascinating premise; what if, rather than founding Israel in the Middle East, Jewish survivors of World War II had created a community in Alaska? In this world, Sitka, Alaska has become a city of millions, a home to the Jewish people in the far north. Meyer Landsman has been a police officer in this city his entire adult life, and it has taken its toll. Landsman is divorced, drunk, and destitute, living in a shabby hotel that barely keeps out the Alaskan cold. When a fellow hotel resident is murdered, only a few rooms away from Landsman, he finds himself and his partner, half-Tlingit, half-Jewish Berko Shemets, dragged into a mystery involving chess, organized crime, and Kabballah.
At once an homage to the hard-boiled mysteries of Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammet and a fascinating piece of alternate history science fiction, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union went on to win the 2007 Nebula Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best SF Novel, the Hugo Award for Best Novel, and the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for Best Novel. It was shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel and the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel.
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith:
The State is all knowing. The State is all powerful. The State is always right. There is no crime.
These are the truths that Soviet Union security officer Leo Demidov has learned to believe all his life. It is Winter, 1953, and Stalinist Russia is at its peak. All citizen’s needs are met: health care, food, shelter, security. The people live free from the excesses and crimes that tear apart the decadent West. Each day, Leo works to protect the perfect society he believes in. As a member of the MGB, The State Security Service, Leo has the power to arrest, torture, and even kill anyone who could threaten the worker’s paradise. While he does not relish it, Leo reasons that this brutality is a necessary evil, and puts it out of his mind. Until something happens that he cannot ignore. A serial killer of children is on the loose, and the State cannot admit it. Forced to realize the dark truths about his “perfect” society, Leo finds himself at war not only with a relentless killer, but with the State he has served for so long.
This Cold War thriller may be the perfect thing for a hot summer day, but be warned, it really is chilling. This book contains graphic depictions of drug use, cruelty, and violence. Not for younger readers.