Cornelia Read's dry, pull-no-punches voice, sassy jokes, quick side references, and rapid-fire banter feel like a noir version of Gilmore Girls. Really, really noir.
The protagonist of her books, Madeleine Dare, is a twenty-something trying to enjoy normal young married life—a pursuit hampered by her family (Madeleine belongs to the poor hippie progeny of a sprawling aristocratic Long Island clan whose cruelty and warmth alternately draw her in and disgust her) and her fate (no matter where she goes, corpses just seem show up). In the first novel in the series, A Field of Darkness, Madeleine and her husband, Dean, are keeping house in Syracuse and trying to scrape by on income from his sporadic engineering projects and her underpaid newspaper work. Their domesticity is interrupted when Dean's dad tells Madeleine about a murder of two girls and then hands her a pair of dog tags that were found at the scene of the crime, about which he's never told anyone. Inconveniently, they just happen to bear the name of Madeleine's favorite cousin. Desperate to figure out whether her cousin is guilty of killing the girls or not, Madeleine sets out to solve the case. The gore involved is considerable, the risks terrifying, and the end, absolutely goose-bump-inducing. Yet, in spite of all the blood and doom, Madeline has charisma, and by the end of each tale you're convinced that you're her BFF, complete with an understanding of her high-low slang and her emotional relationship with Belgian shoes. (Look out for the fourth title, Valley of Ashes, due out in August.)—Nathalie Gorman