From a Raven's Shelf: October 2023

From a Raven's Shelf

October 2023 Edition

By Sarah Young


Hello, Friends:

Can you believe it is October already? I’m still staring at the pile of “summer reading” and thinking, “Oh, I’ll get to that this summer. . . .” Ah, well. If we read all the books in our stack, what would we have to look forward to?

I took a trip down my reading memory lane this month when I decided to pull out a book I hadn’t read for years but was part of a series I loved. Through the last three decades of the twentieth century, Alexander Kent, which was the pseudonym of Douglas Reeman, wrote a series of naval adventure stories set during and after the American Revolutionary War. The main character, Captain Richard Bolitho is a British naval officer, whose career Kent follows from book to book as Bolitho rises in rank and station. When I first read the series many years ago, I began with Sloop of War, which is not the first novel, but is the moment in Bolitho’s career that he is given the command of his own ship, and this is the book I returned to recently. The harrowing and sometimes brutal life of an 18th-century British sailor is told without stint or evasion, but the novel is not overly gruesome. Kent’s command of the historical moment is detailed and nuanced as he follows the career of one man buffeted by political tides over which he has no control, while remaining an honorable and steadfast military officer. If you enjoyed the Horatio Hornblower novels, you would like these novels as well.

More in the mystery vein this month, I picked up Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris. Harris is a phenomenally successful writer with several well-written, best-selling books. You are probably familiar with Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire books that begin with Dead Until Dark, adapted for television in the series True Blood. I prefer the Shakespeare’s Landlord series that features Lily Bard, a complicated but resourceful woman, who tries to escape the aftermath of violent trauma by settling in the small town of Shakespeare, Arkansas. She cleans houses, takes karate lessons, and minds her own business, sometimes spending sleepless nights walking through the dark streets of Shakespeare. On one of her midnight walks, she witnesses the disposal of a body, who turns out to be the unpleasant and disliked landlord of the apartment complex where she does many of her cleaning jobs. Despite her best efforts to remain uninvolved, she finds herself at the center of the investigation and suspicion. Charlaine Harris’s books always have a bit of an edge to them. They feature challenged characters who evolve through the series of books, and she does not pull punches too often or shy away from a little darkness.

A character many people say never evolves is Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, and I just finished reading an advanced copy of her latest adventure, Dirty Thirty. Once again, Stephanie is on the trail of fugitives who have skipped out on their bail. With her sidekick Lula, Stephanie gets into all kinds of scrapes and mischief and loses at least one more car, forcing her back to “Big Blue,” the indestructible Buick. I was pleased that in this book, Evanovich heavily features one of my favorite characters: Morelli’s big yellow dog Bob. Stephanie is charged with Bob's care while Morelli is out of town, and he proves to be a worthy partner in crime-solving! I like Evanovich’s books for the same reasons most people do: they are funny, sexy, predictable, and fast. The charge at some level against the books is that Stephanie is still doing basically the same things in the same somewhat inept ways she was doing them thirty years ago when the first novels came out, but Evanovich has made a conscious and specific choice not to age her characters as the series goes along, and that is not an uncommon choice in the mystery genre. This book feels a little different, however. There are some significant alterations in Stephanie’s life that suggest change may be afoot.

An entirely different kind of novel is my staff pick for this month. The Vicar by A.J. Chambers is a slam-bang, heart-stopping thrill ride of a spy novel that will not let you rest until you have ignored everything else around you and gotten through to the final scene. Chambers clearly knows the world of which he writes, and this deep dive into the dark corners of the military and spy universe is complicated and simple at the same time: there are bad guys who do horrible things and good guys who do bad things to stop them. The hero is an off-the-books MI5 agent nicknamed “The Vicar” because he controls a network of “parishioners” or fellow spies in the United States. When, one by one, they are “burned,” he sets out to save his last remaining agent and discover what has gone wrong with the organization. Soon he finds himself deep in international intrigue, with an apparent mole in MI5 and dirty bombs threatening the United Kingdom. Clear the stage for the new spymaster novelist on the scene. We will be hearing more from Chambers, I suspect.


Illustration by Michelle Urra for TIME

Speaking of spy novels, they feature rather heavily in TIME magazine’s recently published “100 Best Mystery and Thriller Books of All Time.” It’s quite an interesting exercise that offers an interesting “to be read” pile of its own. Such lists are never fully satisfactory because we can all think of books that are not included and usually wonder why in the world some titles made the cut. “Greatest” lists are like literature anthologies: they say as much about the times in which they are compiled as the books themselves. The way this list was created was rather interesting. In addition to TIME editors, seven writers of mystery thrillers were also included on the panel of judges. Megan Abbott, Harlan Coben, S.A. Cosby, Gillian Flynn, Tana French, Rachel Howzell Hall, and Sujata Massey joined the TIME editors in nominating and rating more than 250 books. The editors then evaluated the finalists “on key factors including plot payoff, suspense, ambition, originality, critical and popular reception, and influence on the mystery and thriller genre and literature more broadly.” The breadth of this criteria allows inclusion of novels that extend beyond a narrowly defined genre of “mystery” or even “thriller” and reminds one that great mysteries are simply great novels.

There are some expected entries in the list, which is ordered chronologically. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is often considered the first mystery novel and establishes some of the conventions of the genre. Then there are the obvious entries like The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, A May Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh, and The Crime at Black Dudley by Margery Allingham. Other classic mystery and thriller writers of the mid-twentieth century are also represented like Dorothy Sayers, John Dickinson Carr, Eric Ambler, Josephine Tey, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, and Ian Fleming. Then there are some classic novels as well, like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, and Stephen King’s The Shining.

There is also an array of diverse contemporary authors and novels that will likely feature in many such lists to come. Books like S.A Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s Winter Counts, and Robyn Gigl’s Survivor’s Guilt reveal that the mystery thriller is a thriving and expanding genre. Go to this list for some of your next best reads; it’s a very good place to start.

Happy reading to you all.

 


 

Sloop of War (The Bolitho Novels #4) By Alexander Kent Cover Image
$27.94
ISBN: 9780935526486
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: McBooks Press - October 1st, 1998

The year is 1778, the ship is the 18-gun HMS Sparrow, England's finest sloop of war, and the Captain is Richard Bolitho, sailing his command into the fury of battle.


The Complete Midshipman Bolitho (The Bolitho Novels #1) By Alexander Kent Cover Image
$22.34
ISBN: 9781590131275
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: McBooks Press - November 1st, 2006

Three novels in one! Sixteen-year-old Richard Bolitho joins the British Royal Navy as a young midshipman. Follow his adventures as he undergoes a severe initiation into the dangerous world of the great sailing warships! 1. Richard Bolitho: Midshipman 1772: a young Richard Bolitho joins the 74-gun Gorgon. Naive and untested, Bolitho must learn the ways of the navy quickly if he is to survive. 2.


Shakespeare's Landlord (Lily Bard) By Charlaine Harris Cover Image
$17.91
ISBN: 9781625676023
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
This book cannot be returned. Make sure what you're ordering is exactly what you want.
Published: JAB Books - January 24th, 2023

From Charlaine Harris, the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author behind HBO’s hit series True Blood and NBC’s Midnight, Texas, the first in a series of mysteries that hits as hard as its heroine…


Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood #1) By Charlaine Harris Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9780441008537
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Ace - May 1st, 2001

Sink your teeth into the first novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Sookie Stackhouse series—the books that gave life to the Dead and inspired the HBO® original series True Blood.


Dirty Thirty (Stephanie Plum #30) By Janet Evanovich Cover Image
$29.99
ISBN: 9781668003091
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Atria Books - October 31st, 2023

INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Janet Evanovich, the “most popular mystery writer alive” (The New York Times), is in top form as she sends Stephanie Plum on the trail of a stolen stash of dirty diamonds.

Stephanie Plum, Trenton’s hardest working, most underappreciated bounty hunter, is offered a freelance assignment that seems simpl


Staff Pick Badge
The Vicar By A. J. Chambers Cover Image
$26.99
This book is hard-to-find or out of print and we may not be able to get it. Email for more details.
ISBN: 9798200918102
Published: Blackstone Publishing - September 19th, 2023

Inspired by the author's own experience, The Vicar introduces Terry Nolan, an MI5 operative who, when he discovers his cover is blown and millions of lives are at stake, will do whatever it takes to stop enemy forces.


The Woman in White By Wilkie Collins, Matthew Sweet (Editor), Matthew Sweet (Introduction by), Matthew Sweet (Notes by) Cover Image
By Wilkie Collins, Matthew Sweet (Editor), Matthew Sweet (Introduction by), Matthew Sweet (Notes by)
$11.00
ISBN: 9780141439617
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Penguin Classics - April 29th, 2003

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter is drawn into the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his "charming" friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison. 


The Hound of the Baskervilles By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Christopher Frayling (Editor) Cover Image
$11.00
ISBN: 9780140437867
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Penguin Classics - October 1st, 2001

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles gripped readers when it was first serialised and has continued to hold its place in the popular imagination to this day. Could the sudden death of Sir Charles Baskerville have been caused by the gigantic ghostly hound that is said to have haunted his family for generations?


The Hound of the Baskervilles By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Anne Perry (Afterword by) Cover Image
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Anne Perry (Afterword by)
$4.95
ISBN: 9780451528018
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Signet - July 1st, 2001

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson face a mystery on the moors in this classic caper from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: A Hercule Poirot Mystery: The Official Authorized Edition (Hercule Poirot Mysteries #4) By Agatha Christie, Louise Penny (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Agatha Christie, Louise Penny (Foreword by)
$10.99
ISBN: 9780063221086
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - December 28th, 2021

“This is Agatha Christie’s masterpiece, and if she never wrote another word, she’d have still gone down as the Queen.” –LOUISE PENNY, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Ingenious and unexpected.” –NEW YORK TIMES


The Maltese Falcon (Special Edition) (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Anniversary Edition) By Dashiell Hammett, Josephine Hammett Marshall Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780593311905
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard - August 9th, 2022

ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE'S 100 BEST MYSTERY AND THRILLER BOOKS OF ALL TIME • A special edition of this coolly glittering gem of detective fiction that has haunted three generations of readers, from one of the greatest mystery writers of all time. Featuring an introduction by James Ellroy.


A Man Lay Dead (Inspector Roderick Alleyn #1) By Ngaio Marsh Cover Image
$15.95
This book is hard-to-find or out of print and we may not be able to get it. Email for more details.
ISBN: 9781934609842
Published: Felony & Mayhem - November 16th, 2011

Ngaio Marsh was one of the queens (she has been called the empress) of England's Golden Age of mystery fiction. And in true Golden Age fashion, her oeuvre opens with, yes, a country-house party between the two world wars - servants bustling, gin flowing, the gentlemen in dinner jackets, the ladies all slink and smolder.


The Crime at Black Dudley (Albert Campion) By Margery Allingham Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781448216666
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Bloomsbury Reader - January 2nd, 2018

George Abbershaw is set for a social weekend at Black Dudley manor, hosted by Wyatt Petrie and his elderly uncle Colonel Combe, who enjoys the company of Bright Young Things. With Meggie Oliphant in attendance, George looks forward to the chance of getting closer to the girl he's set his heart on.


Rebecca By Daphne du Maurier Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780316575201
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Back Bay Books - September 5th, 2023

The multi‑million‑copy bestseller that has enthralled generations of readers. A haunting tale of obsessive love. A mesmerizing psychological thriller.

In Monte Carlo, our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck.


Crime and Punishment By Fyodor Dostoyevsky, David McDuff (Translated by), David McDuff (Introduction by), David McDuff (Notes by) Cover Image
By Fyodor Dostoyevsky, David McDuff (Translated by), David McDuff (Introduction by), David McDuff (Notes by)
$16.00
ISBN: 9780140449136
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Penguin Classics - December 31st, 2002

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read


The Quiet American: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) By Graham Greene, Robert Stone (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Graham Greene, Robert Stone (Introduction by)
$18.00
ISBN: 9780143039020
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Penguin Classics - August 31st, 2004

Graham Greene's classic exploration of love, innocence, and morality in Vietnam


The Shining By Stephen King Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9780345806789
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Vintage - August 27th, 2013

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE'S 100 BEST MYSTERY AND THRILLER BOOKS OF ALL TIME • Before Doctor Sleep, there was The Shining, a classic of modern American horror. Jack Torrance takes a job as the caretaker of the remote Overlook Hotel. As the brutal winter sets in, the hotel's dark secrets begin to unravel.


Blacktop Wasteland: A Novel By S. A. Cosby Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781250252692
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Flatiron Books - June 1st, 2021

A New York Times Notable Books of 2020

Like Ocean’s Eleven meets Drive, with a Southern noir twist, S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is a searing, operatic story of a man pushed to his limits by poverty, race, and his own former life of crime.


Mexican Gothic By Silvia Moreno-Garcia Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780525620808
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Del Rey - June 15th, 2021

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “It’s Lovecraft meets the Brontës in Latin America, and after a slow-burn start Mexican Gothic gets seriously weird.”—The Guardian
 
ONE OF TIME’S 100 BEST MYSTERY AND THRILLER BOOKS OF ALL TIME • WINNER OF THE LOCUS AWARD • NOMINATED FOR THE BRAM STOKER AWARD


Winter Counts: A Novel By David Heska Wanbli Weiden Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062968951
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Ecco - July 6th, 2021

ANTHONY AWARD WINNER FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL

THRILLER AWARD WINNER FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL

EDGAR AWARD NOMINEE FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL


Survivor's Guilt (An Erin McCabe Legal Thriller #2) By Robyn Gigl Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781496728296
Availability: In stock at our distributor’s warehouse; will be at the Raven in 3-10 bus. days! More at ravenbookstore.com/ordering-faqs
Published: Kensington - March 28th, 2023

“A groundbreaking series…razor-sharp, compulsively readable courtroom scenes.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Another barrier-breaking thriller from a voice missing too long from the mystery chorus.” —The Los Angeles Times Book Review