It’s been a good couple of years for female debut writers in crime fiction. Eva Dolan, Sarah Hilary and Kati Hiekkapelto have impressed critics with their gritty social realism and subtle, layered styles. Paula Hawkins and Clare Mackintosh achieved international acclaim with their twisty plotting and dark themes. We have enjoyed and reviewed all of the above, but for New Talent November this year we want to draw your attention to lesser-known but equally promising women authors to keep an eye on for 2016. Mark my words: you are going to hear much more about them in years to come!
We got very excited back in 2014 about Jaquiery’s debut novel The Lying Down Room, featuring origami-folding, half-Cambodian Parisian detective Serge Morel. Death in the Rainy Season is the second novel in the series and has Morel holidaying in his mother’s homeland and getting pulled into a tricky investigation when a well-connected French public figure is murdered in Phnom Penh. The atmosphere of the country, with its extremely troubled recent history, is perfectly captured in this complex police procedural. Involving both Cambodian and French police, it’s a story of betrayal, corruption and the imperfect world of NGO do-gooders. Good news: a third novel is on its way, taking Morel back to Paris and its troubled banlieues full of immigrants.
Death in the Rainy Season on Amazon
Cambodia is likewise the backdrop for the White Crocodile, a tense thriller by KT Medina which came out in June. It features Tess Hardy, a mine-clearing expert who travels to the ‘killing fields’ to solve the mystery surrounding her ex-husband’s death. The terrible legacy of the civil war is still all too evident, but locals blame the White Crocodile, a voracious mythical creature, for the countless tragedies which seem to beset their community. In particular accidents are happening to foreign aid workers and there’s been a string of kidnappings and murders of young, single mothers. The author skilfully weaves the personal sadness and ambivalence of her main protagonist into a suspenseful story set in a landscape of great natural beauty and harsh contradictions.
White Crocodile on Amazon
Chicago-based writer Mary Kubica’s career is on the up after her debut novel The Good Girl was a 2014 bestseller. It’s been followed up with Pretty Baby, another standalone psychological thriller where ordinary people are caught up in a dangerous situation. Heidi is a social worker, living with her ordinary family (complete with sulky teenager) in the suburbs of Chicago. She feels sorry for a bedraggled runaway girl and her baby, whom she encounters at the train station, and decides to take them in. Needless to say, there is something slightly off about the young mother: are they about to be repaid for their kindness with horror? You may think you have heard this type of story many times before, but Kubica proves to be a mistress of misdirection and subverting of expectations. The tension and innuendo is subtly ratcheted up throughout, right up to the explosive finale.
Pretty Baby on Amazon
Gilly MacMillan is a multi-talented writer. She is an artist and photographer, and her ability to evoke imagery in her writing puts Burnt Paper Sky a notch above the current batch of psychological thrillers. The book is a compelling page-turner, with a touch of dysfunctional family about it. Rachel Jenner is still struggling to come to terms with her life as a single mother, but she appears to be devoted to her son Ben. As they go out for a walk in the woods outside Bristol, she lets the eight-year-old run ahead to the swings… and he promptly goes missing. Soon Rachel finds her personal tragedy made far worse by an extremely public trial by media (and social media). A timely insight into how judgemental statements both on- and offline place unrealistic expectations upon parents.
Burnt Paper Sky on Amazon
Mechtild Borrmann is not really a newbie author, as she’s published five novels in her native Germany since 2006. Silence is her first to be translated into English. Winner of the 2012 Deutscher Krimi Prize for best crime novel, the book effortlessly blends past and present, and multiple narrative strands. August 1939: six young people band together in Germany at the start of World War II. Their friendship is about to be put on trial as they land on opposite sides. Flash forward to November 1997: Robert Lubisch brings the group back together for the first time in decades to investigate a tragic family secret. When one of the friends turns up murdered, trust is shattered and we are in for a very sad but believable story, full of unexpected twists and strong characterisations.
Silence on Amazon
Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm may be a bit of a slow-burner for hardcore thriller fans, but no-one can dispute its strong characterisation. The main protagonist, Grace, lives under an assumed name in Paris, where she works in antiques restoration. Back in her native Tennessee, her husband and his accomplice (who was also Grace’s lover) are being paroled from jail. They’ve served three years for a museum robbery that Grace orchestrated. Everything they stole has been recovered except for a painting Grace smuggled out when she fled to Europe. Suspense builds as we wait for her crimes to catch up with her. This is in fact the story of ‘becoming’. A small-town girl turns into international femme fatale and art thief. Her search for love and identity, which often leads to ‘unbecoming’ behaviour makes for a very original literary thriller that also plays on the tropes of the heist novel.
Unbecoming on Amazon
Have you spotted an up-and-coming woman author that we haven’t mentioned on the site? Do let us know in the comments below. Here are the female authors we pipped for 2014.