January 7, 2023
It’s a crime that there isn’t more time for all the books we intended to read in 2022 and now here comes more—five enticing books to fight for our attention.
Four are actual crime novels featuring high finance and corruption in India; murder in an 1850s Wild West bordello; a compromised Russian assassin; and a Swedish serial killer. In addition, a last book from the great Janet Malcolm—a photo-memoir of her life.
Buyer, The Center for Fiction Bookstore
Age of Vice
By Deepti Kapoor
Published by Riverhead Books
It begins with a violent car accident as a Mercedes mows down five migrants on the New Delhi Ring Road. Filled with political corruption, wealth, and gangsters in contemporary India, Kapoor’s second novel is an irresistible, immersive, flashy crime story with great settings. The three main characters range from a servant who works for a wealthy family, an heir to that fortune, and a female journalist. Like all good epic Godfather-like family sagas, Kapoor captures decadence, danger and the domestic dynamics that make this genre so delicious and cinematic. You can’t stop reading once you begin.
Rubble of Bubbles
By Dzanc Books
Published by Josip Novakovich
Acclaimed for his sense of wit and wry observation of contemporary Russian life, Croatian-born Novakovich’s new novel combines farce with trenchant political observation. It is the early 2000s when a financially devastated American arrives in Saint Petersburg to restart his life. He is picked up by a cab driven by a police officer who tells him Russia is “a horrible country full of crooks and thieves.” The novel reads a bit like the comedy routine, ‘Who’s on First?’ From the satirical title to an appearance by Putin himself offering a devil’s bargain, here is a crime novel that celebrates the absurd..
Blaze Me a Sun
By Christoffer Carlsson
Published by Hogarth
Translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles
This bestselling Swedish literary noir, dubbed ‘a novel about a crime,’ is more of a character study than a traditional Scandinavian mystery. Police officer Sven is on duty when a young girl is found raped and barely alive the same night as a political assassination. Then a second girl is reported missing. These murders haunt Sven until he retires a few years later and his son joins the force. This is a subtle and totally absorbing novel that is both a cold case investigation and a study of what happens to the ones left behind when a senseless crime is committed.
A Dangerous Business
By Jane Smiley
Published by Knopf
Jane Smiley’s latest even has a mysterious plotline—featuring two amateur sleuths in 1850s Gold Rush California. The bordello Eliza finds herself working in after her husband dies in Kalamazoo is a far cry from home, but she relishes her independence and the sense of camaraderie. When two prostitutes turn up missing, she and her friend Jean decide to solve the case. As the epigraph states, “being a woman is a dangerous business, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” With echoes of E. A. Poe and a lightness of touch that is both appealing and compelling, these early feminist detectives are a delight to follow..
By Janet Malcolm
Published by FSG
Malcolm’s work is experiencing a resurgence of interest since her death in 2021. In her new collection, subtitled On Photography and Memory, she delves into her own family history, from Prague in the ’30s through childhood in New York City, and an impressive literary career that was not without its bumps. (In the Freud Archives was embroiled in a decade-long libel suit which she won.) As fellow New Yorker writer Ian Frazier notes in his admiring foreword, “she had a wit derived from Eastern European intellectual absurdity.” Along with younger generations just discovering her work, fans will relish this great journalist’s brilliant essays and beautiful prose.