STARRED REVIEW
July 2021

The Hold List: Get a clue

STARRED REVIEW
July 2021

The Hold List: Get a clue

July 2021

The Hold List: Get a clue

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BookPage readers look forward to Private Eye July all year long, and this year we’re getting swept away in the spirit of the (somewhat grisly) celebration, too. Here are the mysteries, thrillers and good old-fashioned whodunits on our reading lists this July.


When No One Is Watching

I’ve finally finished putting myself back together after reading Zakiya Dalila Harris’ next-level debut novel, The Other Black Girl, and it feels vital that I finally check out Alyssa Cole’s first thriller, which emerged—kicked in the door, more like—as the literary answer to the seminal Black horror film Get Out, by way of Rear Window. Cole uses the premise upon which countless domestic thrillers are built: A woman who questions her own sanity starts to wonder if something is very, very wrong in her neighborhood. Mortgage and rental rates are skyrocketing, and then strange stuff—bad stuff—starts happening to longtime Black residents who don’t want to sell their homes to predatory realtors. Because Cole has a background in writing historical romance, she also illuminates how the gentrification of predominantly Black neighborhoods is preceded by a long racist history of displacement, redlining and social control. Horror and reality are definitely shacking up in this tale, and I’m ready for the whole ride.

—Cat, Deputy Editor

 

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

One of my favorite films of 2020 was Charlie Kaufman’s I’m Thinking of Ending Things, a weird, wild movie that gets stranger and bolder with each passing minute and that provided one of the absolute best “What on earth did I just watch?” viewing experiences I’ve had in a long while. I had always planned to read the book, but I bumped up Iain Reid’s wintry 2016 thriller to the top spot on my reading list once I learned its ending reportedly goes in a different direction than the film’s. I usually prefer my Private Eye July picks to be on the fluffier end of the spectrum, as I do my best summer reading poolside, but I think I’ll have to make an exception to see where Reid takes me. There’s a perverse pleasure to be found in reading books set in frigid environments while enjoying the summer heat, but hopefully I’ll get goosebumps all the same.

—Savanna, Associate Editor

 

15 Minutes of Flame

I wanted to read this book before I even knew what it was about. I took one look at the cover, said aloud, “I would like to live inside this picture of a New England candle store steeped in autumnal frivolity,” and added it to my TBR. Other books have since buried it on my bedside table, but I’m digging it out for Private Eye July. 15 Minutes of Flame is the third in Christin Brecher’s Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery series, about Stella Wright’s idyllic life as a candle store owner and, of course, the murders she solves along the way. In true cozy mystery fashion, Brecher’s series keeps the pages turning without raising the stakes high enough that your pulse quickens, which is the exact right speed for my anxiety. And since it takes place in October, I’m hoping the fictional nip in the air will help get me through the rest of summer.

—Christy, Associate Editor

 

Truly Devious

I wasn't reading many mysteries in 2018 when bestselling YA author Maureen Johnson published Truly Devious, her first book about teen detective Stevie Bell. So when I picked up The Box in the Woods, Johnson’s fourth book featuring Stevie, to consider it for this issue of BookPage (check the YA review section for more), it wasn't as a committed fan but as a novice. Needless to say, I'm a fan now. Johnson's sparkling prose and Stevie’s droll humor had me cackling and eager to read aloud especially delightful passages to my very patient partner. This July, I can’t wait to bury myself in the story of Stevie’s first great triumph against a decades-old cold case at the exclusive Ellingham Academy. Best of all, I know the story of the investigation unfolds across three whole books, and for a reader who's always a little sad that great books have to end, there's nothing better.

—Stephanie, Associate Editor

 

Big Little Lies

Typically, if you’re a hardcore bibliophile, you’re supposed to read the book before you watch the adaptation. In this case, I came to the TV series first—and with career-defining performances from Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman, how could I resist? From what I’ve heard, the show and the book are actually very different. Several characters in the book, including Madeline and Renata, had roles that were too small for such powerful actors, so the adaptation expanded their involvement—and their flaws—to make them more dynamic on the screen. Even if this is true, the book had to run in order for the show to fly. I’m interested in seeing whether the book provides a clearer motive for the main murder and if the story’s concern with domestic abuse is more pronounced. I may even try reading the book and watching the show at the same time to spot the differences. Only then will I decide which I think is better.

—Eric, Editorial Intern

Get the Books

When No One Is Watching

When No One Is Watching

By Alyssa Cole
William Morrow
ISBN 9780062982650
I’m Thinking of Ending Things

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

By Iain Reid
Scout Press
ISBN 9781501126925
15 Minutes of Flame

15 Minutes of Flame

By Christin Brecher
Kensington
ISBN 9781496721433
Truly Devious

Truly Devious

By Maureen Johnson
Katherine Tegen
ISBN 9780062338051
Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies

By Liane Moriarty
Amy Einhorn Books
ISBN 9780399167065

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