Bodies in the Library’s recommendations come out the last day of each month and they aim to bring together great crime fiction reads for fans of the genre. The lists are eclectic and diverse, and they celebrate contemporary crime fiction writers and classics alike.
Southern culture is a big thing for me. My Mum brought me up listening to Johnny Cash and I carried on the family obsession by becoming June Carter Cash’s biggest fan as soon as I had access to the Internet. I love a good pair of cowboy boots, and my English-speaking friends think it’s funny I “y’all” people around even though I have a British accent.
So when it came to picking up my crime fiction reading, I steered towards the South as soon as I could. Even though it was British literature what first sparked my interest in the genre, US literature and especially Southern crime fiction have become a bit part of my comfort reading. There is something about the complex socio-cultural environment and the constant struggle between tradition and innovation that make of these books perfect crime novels. The following list contains both personal favourites and well-known and respected novels that depict the South in all its gory glory 😉
Where the Crawdad Sing by Delia Owens
Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick for September is set in North Carolina’s marshes and masterfully combines myths and social prejudices with a crime story set in 1969. Bonus points for having two young women as main characters who defy the South’s apparently fixed social hierarchies.
Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter
A must-read for forensics fans, the first novel in the Grant County Series depicts a charming small community disrupted by the brutal killings of local young women. With doctor Sara Linton and her hot ex-husband Chief of Police Jeffrey Tolliver as main characters, Slaughter’s book includes crime, romance – racy scenes assured! – and social reflection all in one book.
The Bayou Trilogy by Daniel Woodrell
I must admit I still haven’t read Woodrell’s celebrated trilogy, but it comes highly recommended from both fans of the genre and the critics for its scenic depiction of the South and a thrilling crime narrative. The trilogy includes: Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing, and The Ones You Do.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
The first novel from the queen of contemporary crime fiction and recently adapted to television by HBO with talented Amy Adams as its leading lady, this novel will appeal to those of us fascinated by Southern gender roles and aesthetics and the darkness that lies underneath china sets, 1950’s inspired dresses, and Southern hospitality.
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
Praised for her relevant depiction of the 21st century South, Locke plays with the underlying tension between tradition and modernity through the intervention of complex main characters who are perfectly aware of their historical and political situation. In this case, Obama’s administration is put in relation to race politics and the South’s traumatic past where horror tales of slavery still haunt millions of families.
The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter
An atmospheric family drama perfect for fans of Flynn’s Sharp Objects. Meg Ashley’s life is perfect thanks to a best-selling horror novel her mother wrote forty years ago. However, she knows there is something more to her mother’s writing than what meets the eye, and she makes it her goal to uncover one of the darkest family secrets of all times. Set in Georgia, the meta-literary element of this novel is simply perfect for fans of BookRiot and the TV show Younger.