I have two main literary loves: murder mysteries and books that push the boundaries of storytelling. So naturally, I’ve been excited to find murder mysteries that push the genre in new and exciting ways. I like books that play with the narrative structure to tell a compelling and haunting story of murder most foul. That may mean using footnotes, second person, changing bodies (not just changing point of view) and more to add to the mystery. Here’s my list of seven “postmodern” murder mysteries spanning countries, time periods and, obviously, structural styles. Enjoy!
The Seven and 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
This list is dedicated to this book. I loved loved loved this. Aiden Bishop wakes up in a new body on the same day to try to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle. He has to use the strengths and overcome the weaknesses of each body to gather clues to identify the murderer at a mansion. But he learns that there are parties who are out to stop him from figuring it out. It’s taking point of view to a whole new level.
After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill
Crime writer Madeleine d’Leon is writing a book about a new character named Edward McGinnity who is trying to solve a murder at an art gallery opening. But Edward is also writing a book about a crime writer named Madeleine…Soon the lines of reality blur between the two characters, each unsure who is writing who. It’s a fascinating study of the creative process, writer responsibility, and the line between life and art.
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Editor Susan Ryeland is reading Alan Conway’s newest murder mystery, which takes place in a small English village. In the novel, detective Atticus Pünd is trying to solve a murder at a local manor house named Pye Hall, but soon the bodies pile up. However, as Ryeland continues to read, she discovers that the book and real life have some disturbing twists.
The Borrowed by Chan Ho-Kei, Translated by Jeremy Tiang
In The Borrowed, Hong Kong detective Kwan Chun-dok is known as the Eye of Heaven for his success in crime solving. His successes are told in reverse chronological order, covering six important cases over seven decades from the Leftist Riot in 1967 to 2013. Through this unusual narrative, the story talks about how history is not linear but circular.
The Portrait by Iain Pears
In this short novel, a self-exiled artist is painting a portrait of an old art critic friend. But as he paints the portrait, he tells a story of their friendship and his friend’s betrayals of artists and other people in their circle. This novel told in the second person, an unusual narrative choice, tells a tale of murder and revenge.
The Athenian Murders by José Carlos Somoza
Herakles, the Decipherer of Enigmas, is looking into the murder of a pupil at Plato’s Academy in Ancient Greece. As Herakles investigates and finds himself in the aristocratic underground, the work is being translated by a modern day translator. As the translator works on the text, he detects a second meaning that he is trying to uncover. The story includes footnotes which are essential to the text.
The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda, Translated by Alison Watts
Hisako is the only person to survive a cyanide poisoning that killed 17 people at a party in a clinic in a coastal Japanese town. There’s a cryptic message left by the possible killer, and many think that Hisako was involved in the poisoning even though the prime suspect has died by suicide. The story is told through the perspectives of several people including witnesses, police investigators, family members, Hisako herself, and others.