Overlooked Books: Craig Johnson Recommends a "Magnificent Six"

Craig JohnsonAs part of our ongoing Mystery Month coverage at Booklist, we’ve been asking authors to tell us about books by other authors that deserve to be better known. Craig Johnson, whose Dark Horse (2009) is featured on this year’s Top 10 Crime Novels, was happy to oblige. His latest book is Junkyard Dogs (2010).

I love lists like this because they give me a chance to pull out some “less-known” jewels and let them shine. Now, by “less-known,” I suppose I mean that they didn’t get a two-page spread in the New York Times Book Review or bag the major awards they should have. I’ve limited my list to five books that were published last year and one that was published a few years earlier—the magnificent six as I like to refer to them.

Cold Moon Home, by Julia Pomeroy

I only have one problem with Julia Pomeroy—she doesn’t write a book every year. I read Cold Moon Home a couple of years back—2007, actually, and immediately fell for the second in the Abby Silvernale series. The writing is sharp, edgy, and rings like an upstate, New York belle.

Box 21, by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström

If it wasn’t so seedy, it’d make me want to visit Stockholm. I think those Scandinavians have a lock on the dreary, venal aspects of crime writing, and this one is a doozy. Drugs, human trafficking and revenge make for a heady mixture that’s easy going down—but watch for the aftertaste.

Hogdoggin’, by Anthony Neil Smith

Why isn’t Neil Smith a household name? Maybe it’s because he has a tendency to go farther than other authors are likely to go, to a place where all ethical cats are gray in the dark. Nobody does the over-the-top violence, language and plotting like Neil. He’s a guilty pleasure of mine—and he should be one of yours.

Liars Anonymous, by Louise Ure

The story of roadside-assistance operator Jessie Dancing nailed starred reviews in all four reviewing services and deserved it. This is Louise’s third book, and I think it might be her best. It’s so easy to get caught up in the puzzle-like plot, but it’s the characters that carry you through.

The Lord of Death, by Eliot Pattison

I like to travel, but when I can’t I read Pattison. Number six in the Shan series and doesn’t appear to me as if he’s lost any steam. The exotic locale is enough of a reason to read the entire series, but the masterful way that the cards of the protagonist’s back-story are dealt is what makes these books a must read. The yeti factory, just think about it.

A Thousand Cuts, by Simon Lelic

Okay, so it made Booklist’s top-ten mysteries of the yeara lot of odd books made that list . . . The ARC for this novel was given to me by no less than Kathryn Court, the president and publisher of Penguin USA who said, “I think you’ll like this.” She was right, I did. Following the aftermath of a school shooting, Lelic’s story deals with one of the things I find most intriguing; the fallout of desperate, violent acts. One of the most pleasing aspects was thinking I knew all along what the book was about—and being wrong.

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About the Author:

Keir Graff is the editor of Booklist Online and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix.

1 Comment on "Overlooked Books: Craig Johnson Recommends a "Magnificent Six""

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  1. hstay@hughes.net' Harriet Stay says:

    Hi Craig ~~ I’ve not read five of your six, but I did read and review Box 21 (Mystery News). Gave it five stars and a shouting endorsement. I keep searching for a second book by these two but so far nothing. Oh, I’ve ordered Junkyard Dog from Murder by the Book in Houston…just want you to know you’re still on my favorites list!

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