Although its primary goal is to put more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of children, the We Need Diverse Books grassroots movement (a 2015 LJ Mover & Shaker) is also opening the way for new voices to be heard in adult genres, including crime fiction and mysteries. And publishers and writers’ organizations are paying attention. Sisters in Crime (SinC), a group founded to support female mystery authors, recently released its 2016 Publishing Summit Report on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Mystery Community and announced the creation of Frankie’s List, a database of writers of color and LGBTQ+ authors. Curated by and named after Frankie Y. Bailey, SinC’s first African American president, this database will enable librarians to build more representative collections. The group also announced the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award, an annual grant of $1,500 for an emerging writer of color.
Collection development librarians looking to include mysteries by diverse authors into their collections can explore publisher imprints that focus on diversity. Kensington’s Dafina imprint has long specialized in fiction and nonfiction “of special interest to the African American consumer,” but it is increasingly releasing mysteries that are attracting broader acclaim, such as Jason Overstreet’s The Strivers’ Row Spy, a debut crime novel set during the Harlem Renaissance. Brooklyn-based indie publisher Akashic recently launched the Armory imprint, which it describes as “high-quality urban noir.” Soho Press’s popular Soho Crime imprint, whose forte is crime fiction set all across the globe, publishes well-regarded Asian American authors Henry Chang and Ed Lin. One can find Hispanic and some Native American authors through the El Paso, TX–based Cinco Punto Press.
From promising newcomers now arriving on the mystery scene to the pioneers who paved the way for today’s writers, this selective list presents authors who together embody diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and religion. They all enrich a venerable genre with their own unique perspectives.
Starred  titles are essential purchases for all collections.
Gordon, Alexia. Murder in G Major: A Gethsemane Brown Mystery. Henery. Sept. 2016. 268p. ISBN 9781635110609. $31.95; pap. ISBN 9781635110579. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 2940158455674.
African American classical musician Gethsemane Brown loses a gig and her luggage in Ireland, but, as luck would have it, she lands another job, leading a boy’s orchestra at St. Brennan’s school. One problem? Her lovely cliffside cottage is haunted by the ghost of the previous owner, who begs Gethsemane to help clear his name in his wife’s murder. A charming paranormal series launch with an appealing protagonist. (LJ 9/1/16)
Head, Cheryl A. Bury Me When I’m Dead: A Charlie Mack Motown Mystery. Bywater. Jul. 2016. 220p. ISBN 9781612940670. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781612940687.
Detroit-based PI Charlene “Charlie” Mack struggles with her sexuality and her ailing mother as she investigates a missing persons case in Birmingham, AL. A compelling mystery debut by the author of A Long Way Home: A World War II Novel. [See Erica Ruth Neubauer’s Mystery Spotlight feature, “Edge-of-Your-Seat Thrills,” LJ 4/15/16.—Ed.]
Johnson, Carrie H. Hot Flash. Dafina: Kensington. (Muriel Mabley, Bk. 1). May 2016. 265p. ISBN 978149703996. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781496704009.
Menopausal at 49, forensic firearms specialist (and single mom) Muriel Mabley wonders if she is too old for the job. Murder, the exposure of her secrets, and the disappearance of her sister from the witness protection program force Muriel to realize that she cannot trust anyone, not even the cops. A sobering look at Philadelphia’s gritty side.
Overstreet, Jason. The Strivers Row Spy. Dafina: Kensington. (Renaissance, Bk. 1). Aug. 2016. 448p. ISBN 9781496701763. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781496701770.
Overstreet’s debut introduces Sidney Temple, the FBI’s first African American agent, as he keeps an eye on rival leaders Marcus Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois in 1920s Harlem. Solid local color and involving historical details. (African American Fiction and More, 5/18/16)
Thomas, Sherry. A Study in Scarlet Women. Berkley. (Lady Sherlock, Bk. 1). Oct. 2016. 336p. ISBN 9780425281406. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698196353.
Miss Charlotte Holmes has never quite felt comfortable with her aristocratic origins. With the aid of a few compatriots and a brilliant mind, Charlotte is about to “reinvent herself as master sleuth Mr. Sherlock Holmes.” Two-time RITA Award–winning romance author Thomas has turned the story of the beloved investigator on its head while keeping the details on point. (LJ 10/15/16)
Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem & Anna Waterhouse. Mycroft Holmes. Titan. 2015. 336p. ISBN 9781783291533. $25.99; pap. ISBN 9781783291540. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781783291564.
Basketball great Abdul-Jabbar teams with scriptwriter Waterhouse for this engaging, well-researched reimagining of Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s older brother. Mycroft is quickly rising through the government ranks when he joins his best friend Cyrus Douglas on a journey home to Trinidad to investigate the mysterious deaths of children. Their harrowing adventure broadens the Holmes canon. (LJ 8/15)
Chazin, Suzanne. No Witness but the Moon. Kensington. (Jimmy Vega, Bk. 3). Oct. 2016. 344p. ISBN 9781496705174. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781496705181.
In her third procedural starring Latino homicide detective Jimmy Vega (after Land of Careful Shadows and A Blossom of Bright Light), Chazin offers a powerful and highly charged tale ripped from recent headlines. A standoff between Vega and a burglary suspect leads to the shooting death of an innocent, undocumented man. This series was inspired by the author’s outreach work with Hispanic immigrants. (LJ 10/15/16)
Dev, Sonali. A Change of Heart. Kensington. Sept. 2016. 322p. ISBN 9781496705754. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781496705754.
Two years after Dr. Nikhil Joshi’s wife, Jen, was murdered in Mumbai after uncovering a black market organ transplant ring, Nic meets a woman who reveals that she received Jen’s transplanted heart, and she has a message for him. Romance author Dev’s (The Bollywood Bride) unusual Indian American romantic crime thriller has strong crossover appeal. (LJ 8/16)
Hall, Rachel Howzell. Trail of Echoes: A Detective Elouise Norton Novel. Forge: Tor. May 2016. 320p. ISBN 9780765381170. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466878037.
Hall’s third series outing (after Land of Shadows and Skies of Ash) has African American detective Elouise “Lou” Norton returning to the L.A. housing project where she grew up to investigate the murder of 13-year-old Chanita, who appears to be one of several young victims, all girls and all exceptional: dancers, artists, scholars. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 5/6/16)
Herbert, A.L. Murder with Macaroni and Cheese: A Mahalia Watkins Soul Food Mystery. Kensington. Aug. 2016. 266p. ISBN 978161773161. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781617731778.
This cozy sequel to Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles (2015) has Halia (short for Mahalia) and her wisecracking sidekick Wavonne back in action as they try to solve the murder of “mean girl” Raynell at their high school reunion. Caterer Halia serves up her famous macaroni and cheese with a heaping side order of wit. Funny and smart, with delicious recipes. (African American Fiction and More, 8/26/16)
Lin, Ed. Ghost Month. Soho Crime. (Taipei Night Market, Bk. 1). 2015. 336p. ISBN 9781616953263. $26.95; pap. ISBN 9781616955410. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616953270.
Jin-nan, who had left UCLA to care for his terminally ill father, inherits the family food stand in the Taipei night market. He soon learns that his former girlfriend has been murdered. Lin, who also writes the Manhattan-set Robert Chow procedural series, offers a captivating behind-the-scenes look at night markets and other Taiwanese traditions. Incensed, the second title in the series, was released in October. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 7/18/14)
Alem, Raja. The Dove’s Necklace. Overlook. May 2016. 480p. ISBN 9781590208984. $28.50; ebk. ISBN 9781468312355.
The discovery of the naked body of a young woman in an alley in Mecca has Nassar, the investigating detective, confronting painful memories of the honor killing of his own sister by their father. Deeply held beliefs conflict with modern life in this provocative mystery, which earned its author the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, making her the first woman to be so honored.
Honda, Tetsuya. The Silent Dead. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Reiko Himekawa, Bk. 1). May 2016. 304p. tr. from Japanese by Giles Murray. ISBN 9781250061591. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466867314.
This first book in Japan’s best-selling crime series introduces Reiko Himekawa, a 29-year-old lieutenant in the Tokyo Metropolitan Homicide Division. Reiko’s squad is investigating the discovery of a body wrapped in blue plastic, tied with twine, and left in a suburban Tokyo neighborhood. The closer Reiko comes to solving the murder, the closer she is to becoming the next victim. Reiko is a winning, smart, and fearless heroine. (LJ 5/1/16)
Khan, Ausma Zehanat. The Language of Secrets. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2016. 336p. ISBN 9781250055125. $25.99; pap. ISBN 9781250055170. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466858251.
This follow-up to Khan’s acclaimed debut, The Unquiet Dead, reunites readers with detective Esa Khattak, a thoughtful, reserved, practicing Muslim who heads Canada’s Community Policing Section. Esa learns that his old friend Mohsin Dar, who has been killed on a camping trip, had been working undercover to investigate a terrorist cell planning an attack on New Year’s Day. An involving study on the complexities of living as a Muslim in a Western country. For his next adventure, Esa will travel to Iran in Among the Ruins, which releases in February 2017. (LJ 12/15)
Quartey, Kwei. Gold of Our Fathers. Soho Crime. (Darko Dawson, Bk. 4). Apr. 2016. 368p. ISBN 9781616956301. $26.95; pap. ISBN 9781616958046. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616956318.
Ghanaian detective Darko Dawson, in the wake of his successful crime solving in Murders at Cape Three Pointe, has been promoted to Chief Inspector in his fourth outing. But with success comes sacrifice. Darko must move from the capital city of Accra to the remote Ashanti region of Obuasi, where illegal gold mining is a lucrative, exploitative, and, in the case of a dead Chinese miner, deadly crime. Quartey’s latest reveals the economic underbelly of world politics. (LJ 4/1/16)
Bailey, Frankie Y. What the Fly Saw. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Detective Hannah McCabe, Bk. 2). Mar. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781250048301. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466849105.
In her second near-future procedural after The Red Queen Dies, Albany, NY, detective Hannah McCabe and her partner Baxter investigate the strange murder of funeral director Kevin Novak, found in the basement of the funeral home with an arrow from his own hunting bow in his chest. Bailey also pens the Southern crime historian Lizzie Stuart series (Forty Acres and a Soggy Grave) and has written about black writers in the genre in African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study (2008).
Bland, Eleanor Taylor. Windy City Dying: A Marti MacAlister Mystery. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. 2003. 320p. ISBN 9780312320485. pap. $21.99.
In 1992’s Dead Time, Bland introduced the first African American female police detective in crime fiction, Marti MacAlister, recently transferred from Chicago to the small town of Lincoln Prairie, IL. In her tenth outing, Marti confronts challenges from her past involving her late husband and a group of children, now teens, she had counseled a few years ago. Bland also edited the 2004 anthology Shades of Black: Crime and Mystery Stories by African-American Authors. (LJ 12/02)
Himes, Chester. The Collected Stories of Chester Himes. Da Capo. Mar. 2000. 446p. ISBN 9781560252689. pap. $20.
Better known for his “Harlem Cycle” detective novels such as Cotton Comes to Harlem, Himes wrote short stories over 40 years from his first time in prison in the 1940s. These 60 emotionally challenging tales explore the black American experience. (LJ 5/15/91)
Hirahara, Naomi. Sayonara Slam: A Mas Arai Mystery. Prospect Park. Apr. 2016. 280p. ISBN 9781938849732. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781938849749.
In 2004’s Summer of the Big Bachi, Hirahara introduced mystery readers to a distinctive Asian American sleuth: Mas Arai is an elderly Japanese gardener from Altadena, CA, and a survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima. His investigation in Snakeskin Shamisen earned Hirahara an Edgar Award in 2007. Fans will welcome back the reluctant, curmudgeonly, and irresistible investigator as he probes a murder at the World Baseball Classic being played at Dodger Stadium. The complex history between Korea and Japan, especially during World War II, provides clues to the case. (LJ 4/1/16)
Mosley, Walter. Charcoal Joe: An Easy Rawlins Mystery. Doubleday. Jun. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9780385539203. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385539210.
In the 14th series installment, Easy Rawlins buys a share in a detective agency, is ready to propose to his longtime girlfriend, and is set to send his daughter to a good school in a good (white) neighborhood. Then two white men are shot to death in Malibu, and black postgraduate student Seymour Brathwaite is charged. Calling in a favor is Seymour’s father, an old acquaintance of Easy’s by the name of Charcoal Joe. This past April, Mosley made history by becoming the first African American author to be named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. (LJ 5/15/16)
Owned and operated by two journalists who love reading crime stories, from police procedurals to atmospheric noir and thrillers, the site includes reviews and events coverage and features a good mix of international and American authors.
A boon for mystery lovers with strong community engagement. The site helps readers decide what to read next via reviews, book discussions, quizzes and trivia, and extensive lists.
A useful resource guide for fans of mystery, crime, thriller, and suspense. It has reviews and awards, but the site’s strength lies in indexes of such factors as diversity, genre, historical period, location, and job (of series characters).
Users can discover books across all genres, on this site that mixes reviews, fan fiction, and resources for writers, resulting in a strong community of and for book lovers.
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This database of reading recommendations, articles, reviews, and lists was developed by librarians for avid readers. It is highly favored by readers’ advisory librarians for identifying read-alikes; its unique “appeal factors” approach helps searchers sharpen and target their results set.
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