For National Crime Reading Month, we asked some of our authors to recommend some of their favourite crime fiction novels. This week we are joined by Kia Abdullah, author of contemporary and gripping thrillers including Next of Kin and Take it Back.
I was at a literary festival recently when the conversation turned to Girl A, the brilliant novel by Abigail Dean. “I loved it,” said a fellow writer, “but it’s not really crime, is it?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, puzzled.
“Well, it’s a lot deeper than that.”
I was taken aback because while it’s true that crime fiction can be quick and loud – the razzle-dazzle version of its quiet literary counterpart – good crime fiction can be so much more than that. It can explore universal themes such as strife, loss and grief; it can inform and illuminate, and even say something profound.
The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker is one such novel. “I killed a little boy today,” starts the admittedly loud first line, spoken by Chrissie, our 8-year-old narrator. What sounds like a pulpy premise – a child killer grows up to have a child of her own – evolves into a powerful meditation on poverty, neglect, malice and redemption, interspersed with moments of unbearable poignancy. Like all the best crime fiction, it tackles heavy themes but is never less than gripping.
Equally compelling is Winnie M Li’s Complicit, a #MeToo novel set in contemporary Hollywood. Drawing on Li’s own experiences as a young producer, it paints an unsettling portrait of power: the excesses of men who have it and the exploitation of women who don’t. Perhaps most strikingly, it shows how easily we too might be complicit. On occasion, I found myself thinking, “Well, I would have acted the same way” – and therein lies the rub.
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden tackles a different system of abuse: that of drugs and violence on a Native American Reservation in South Dakota. It follows Virgil Wounded Horse, a local enforcer who doles out justice when it’s denied by the American legal system. Haunting, lyrical and deeply atmospheric, it offers yet another example of what good crime fiction can do.
Discover Kia Abdullah’s most recent novel Next of Kin here, a legal thriller that explores the aftermath of a tragic accident and the vilification of childless women.