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Don’t let big names like Michael Connelly and Hillary Clinton overshadow these fall thrillers

FALL THRILLERS
(Doubleday Books/Thomas & Mercer/Morrow/William Morrow)

On the Shelf

Five fall mysteries you shouldn't miss

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This fall, mysteries and thrillers are led by sure-fire attention-getters like Michael Connelly’s “The Dark Hours,” John le Carré’s final spy fest, “Silverview,” and debut mysteries from broadcast journalist Tamron Hall (“As the Wicked Watch”) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (“State of Terror,” with bestselling veteran Louise Penny). But I’m most excited by five contenders flying a little lower beneath the radar, all well worth adding to your queue.

Sally Rooney, Anthony Doerr, Maggie Nelson, Richard Powers, Jonathan Franzen — the list goes on. Four critics on kicking off a big, bookish fall.

Book cover of "These Toxic Things" by Rachel Howzell Hall
(Thomas & Mercer)
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These Toxic Things
By Rachel Howell Hall
Thomas & Mercer: 413 pages, $25
Sept. 1

The latest from the L.A. native and Times Book Prize finalist features Mickie Lambert, a young woman whose work on a digital scrapbook for an elderly Santa Barbara Plaza curio shop owner is upended by the woman’s death. Was it really suicide? The mystery plots are twisty and grabby, but also worth noting is the realistic rendering of a Black L.A. neighborhood locked in a battle over gentrification.

Rachel Howzell Hall’s new novel, “And Now She’s Gone,” breaks the crime-fiction mold; its success proves a long line of publishers wrong.

Book cover of "Harlem Shuffle" by Colson Whitehead
“Harlem Shuffle,” by Colson Whitehead
(Doubleday Books)

Harlem Shuffle
By Colson Whitehead
Doubleday: 336 pages, $29
Sept. 14

True, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner (“The Nickel Boys,” “The Underground Railroad”) dabbled in mystery tropes in “The Intuitionist,” but this one is solidly in the genre pocket. Featuring a slightly “bent” furniture salesman from Striver’s Row caught up in a caper-gone-wrong, the novel nails the complexities of a bygone New York, from the marvels of the World’s Fair to the Harlem riot’s despair.

Book cover of "The Ninja Betrayed" by Tori Eldridge
(Agora/Polis Books)

The Ninja Betrayed
By Tori Eldridge
Agora: 336 pages, $17
Sept. 14

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Eldridge takes Lily Wong, a Culver City-based Chinese Norwegian ninja, and her mother from L.A. to Hong Kong amid pro-democracy protests and a high-stakes Wong family corporate board meeting. Drawing on her background as a fifth-degree black belt in To-Shin Do ninjutsu, Eldridge established Lily in her first two ninja mysteries as a protector of women and youth; here she expands her portfolio into corporate and family intrigues, triads and even a little romance.

During the pandemic, book sales rose across the U.S. This fall, publishers are counting on major releases to keep it up — but also a return to normal.

Book cover for "Reprieve" by James Han Mattson
(William Morrow)

Reprieve
By James Han Mattson
Morrow: 416 pages, $28
Oct. 5

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Like Whitehead’s “The Intuitionist,” Alyssa Cole’s “When No One Is Watching” or Zakiya Dalila Harris’ “The Other Black Girl” “Reprieve” straddles genres in the best possible way. The late 1990s murder of a man in Quigley House, a full-contact haunted house in Lincoln, Neb., during a contest gone awry, and the ensuing trial are just part of the story. It’s the compelling flashbacks from diverse contestants and others that drive Mattson’s deeper examination of America’s addiction to horror, casual racism, deteriorating political climate and a whole lot more. Sure to spark conversation and debate at book clubs across the land.

Book cover of "All Her Little Secrets" by Wanda M. Morris
(William Morrow)

All Her Little Secrets
By Wanda M. Morris
Morrow: 384 pages, $17
Nov. 2

In a fresh perspective on the legal thriller, Ivy League-educated Ellice Littlejohn is the only Black lawyer in an Atlanta family firm. Summoned one morning to the office of her boss, Michael, she finds the general counsel (and, oops, her lover) dead from an apparently self-inflicted wound. Things get messy when she’s quickly promoted into Michael’s old job and the cops come sniffing around, forcing her to juggle a family secret with the dawning awareness of something shady going on in the executive suite.

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Times Book Prize finalists Rachel Howzell Hall, Ivy Pochoda, S.A. Crosby, Jennifer Hillier and Christopher Bollen talk about race, place and genre.

Woods is a book critic, editor and author of the Charlotte Justice series of crime novels.


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