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Essential Reading: Crime

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Rene Böhmer

Photo by Rene Böhmer. See more of Rene's work at

Halloween has come and gone, but at Literary Mama we're still hovering in the realm of spooks, spies, and even real-life criminals with this month's reading recommendations.

For those of you who like to take a deeper probe into the human stories behind the shocking headlines Abigail Lalonde, Social Media Editor, thinks you may like this book: "I've been on a true crime kick lately, so when a friend of mine recommended The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich I couldn't wait to start it. The book is nothing short of a beautiful, brutal story of the murder of six-year-old Jeremy Guillory by Ricky Langley juxtaposed with the author's memories of being molested by her grandfather. Make no mistake, this book will leave you gutted. I'm not sure there is a genre of literary true crime memoir, but that is exactly what Marzano-Lesnevich created. She bravely tells her story to the reader, including adult conversations with her family about the events that took place during her childhood and how she intended to write about them. The honesty that lives in the words of Marzano-Lesnevich should be used to teach memoir. At no point did she shy away from her own demons when researching those of convicted murderer Ricky Langley, which is why the book is so successful. There's something very therapeutic about reading this book—like the author allowed me as the reader to go on her journey of healing, and by the end of the book I felt like I had."

Andrea Lani, Senior Editor and Literary Reflections Editor, recommends this classic detective series with a strong female protagonist: "Mystery is my favorite genre, but I'll pass on excessive gore, gratuitous violence, and killers whose only motive is a psychological disorder. Instead, give me a caper with an amateur sleuth, a villain with a good reason to want her out of the picture, and a lot of mad-cap adventures in between. Among my favorite heroines is Dr. Victoria Bliss, brilliant art historian with the handicap of being tall, blond, and buxom, who frequently finds herself kidnapped, buried in underground tunnels, and shot at. Her sidekick, when she can't shake him, is her short, rotund boss at the museum in Munich, Herr Doktor Anton Z. Schmidt, and her nemesis/love interest is the international art thief John Smythe. Vicky's adventures take her through Germany, Rome, Sweden, and Egypt, and there's enough history thrown into each volume that you can count the books as educational reading rather than recreational. Nevertheless, they're always entertaining, with Vicky and the bad guys (there's always a pack of them, and Vicky—and the reader by extension—is not always sure who they are until it's too late) hot on the trail of treasure, and each other. Vicky's adventures begin with Borrower of the Night, first published in 1973 by the author Elizabeth Peters. Her sixth and final installment, The Laughter of Dead Kings, came out in 2008, and though cell phones were now part of Vicky's crime-fighting equipment, she herself had barely aged a day, which is part of the magic of fiction."

Kim Ruff, Creative Nonfiction and Fiction Editorial Assistant, suggests this collection of scary stories selected by a master storyteller: "I was eight years old when I discovered my favorite author—Stephen King. However, it wasn't by reading one of his books, it was by watching a movie based on his book Firestarter. I fell in love with Drew Barrymore's character, Charlie. In my mirror, I pretended that I was Charlie—sweet, cute, brave, and feared (jean jacket and wavy, blonde locks too). I wanted to repeatedly watch the movie, but that wasn't an option for me in the 1980s, so somehow I came to own a copy of King's book of the same name. I devoured Firestarter and over the years I have read nearly every book written by King. Thirty-four years later and I still have a longstanding, deep respect for King's storytelling. So when he recommended the publication of six scary stories not written by him, but selected by him, to be included in a collection aptly titled, Six Scary Stories, I couldn't pass up reading the collection. King was presented with the six stories and asked to choose one as a winner of a British-based competition, but he said he was '. . . stunned—and absolutely delighted—to discover that all six of the stories sent on for my consideration were very good indeed.' And, indeed, he was spot on! I read Six Scary Stories through my Amazon Kindle app and clicked through each page at the speed of light, soaking up every detail in full suspense with an increasing curiosity and resolve, as with any classic scary story, to find out what happens in the end. The details in each story sucked me in and made me bite my nails, hold my breath, and gasp out loud; they caused my stomach to turn and had me turning on all of the lights when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night—all the classic signs of great, scary storytelling. There is something for everyone in this collection: the spooky, the chilling, the breathtaking, but as King says, 'I'll have no part in spoiling the experience . . . this is where I let go of your hand and send you off with your six not entirely trustworthy guides.' "

Which crime, mystery or horror writers and characters feature on your bookshelf? Share with us in the comments or tweet us @LiteraryMama. You can also follow us on Instagram @Literary_Mama and Goodreads for more recommendations.


Nerys Copelovitz is a British born marketing writer and mother of three who now lives in Israel. Her writing on parenting and living in a hot spot can be found in the Times of Israel, Grown and Flown, Scary Mommy and Kveller. When not sweating over a hot keyboard, or stove, she likes to read and swim, though not in tandem.

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