This wonderful list of top noir novels comes to Mulholland Books courtesy of Reed Farrel Coleman. Tell us in the comments how many of these books you’ve read…and let us know of any omissions!
Red Cat by Peter Spiegelman
From one of the great underappreciated writers in the crime fiction genre. Red Cat has it all, including the sexiest cover image ever. But the real magic is in the writing. The best dovetailing of plot and subplot I have been fortunate to come across. A masterful PI story of blackmail, performance art, sex, and dysfunctional families.
The Shanghai Moon by SJ Rozan
Sometimes the best books about the Holocaust are not set in Europe. That is surely the case in The Shanghai Moon, a novel set in today’s New York Chinatown and in Shanghai’s Jewish Ghetto circa WWII. It is a heartbreaking tale of murder, robbery, romance, and myth drawn with Rozan’s deft and evocative hand. Why this book didn’t garner more attention is a mystery worthy of Lydia Chin and Bill Smith.
The Last Good Day by Peter Blauner
In the days immediately following 9/11, many authors were compelled to take on the stunning events of that day by rushing at the subject full-speed ahead. Not Blauner. He comes at it obliquely, using negative space, letting suburban drama and tragedy shine an indirect light on the greater horror that had occurred a short commuter train ride away.
The Graving Dock by Gabriel Cohen
The best book in the Jack Leightner series. Better even than the Edgar Award–nominated Red Hook. Here Leightner, a NYPD homicide detective, has to deal not only with bodies washing ashore, but with parts of New York City that often go ignored: its waterways and harbor islands. Cohen uses them not only as a backdrop, but as an allegory for the dark, unexplored, and often ugly places in the human heart.
Die a Little by Megan Abbott
Sure, Megan is a hot commodity these days, but before Dare Me, before her Edgar-winning Queenpin, and her other superb novels, there was Die A Little. This claustrophobic tale set in 50s LA features Hollywood in all its horrible glory. There’s a studio fixer, addiction, prostitution, and maybe even room for a little true love. Maybe.
A Prayer for Dawn by Nathan Singer
A supremely disturbing, very ambitious, yet entertaining novel that defies easy description. It took courage to write it and maybe a little to read it. You’re unlikely to forget it. It would be silly to say more.
Closing Time by Jim Fusilli
Tragedy of a grand scale done in microcosm. The magic is Fusilli’s ability to make protagonist Terry Orr’s pain universal while making it our own to bear. A book of contrasts, particularly Terry’s grief and revenge fixations set against his daughter’s remarkable resilience. He, too, shows a side of Manhattan that, until then, was left relatively unexplored.
Author’s Note: Yes, a lot of these folks are my friends. So what? Yes, most of these selections are set in and around New York City. Again, so what? It’s my list. I promise you that there isn’t a stinker among them. You may not love them all, but you will love some. These books all deserved way more attention than they received.
Reed Farrel Coleman is the author of eighteen novels. He is a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year and a two-time Edgar Award nominee. He has also won the Audie, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. He is an adjunct instructor in English at Hofstra University and a founding member of Mystery Writers of America University. He lives with his family on Long Island.