The City & the City by China Miéville (Winner of World Fantasy Award, Hugo Award and Arthur C. Clarke Award).
When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he investigates, the evidence points to conspiracies far stranger and more deadly than anything he could have imagined.
Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own. This is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a shift in perception, a seeing of the unseen. His destination is Beszel’s equal, rival, and intimate neighbour, the rich and vibrant city of Ul Qoma. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, and struggling with his own transition, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of rabid nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one.
As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them and those they care about more than their lives. Casting shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & the City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic heights.
First lines: I could not see the street or much of the estate. We were enclosed by dirt-coloured blocks, from windows out of which leaned vested men and women with morning hair and mugs of drink, eating breakfast and watching us.
In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff (Edgar Award winner for Best First Novel).
Stefanie Pintoff’s acclaimed and award-winning debut is the taut historical tale of Detective Simon Ziele, a man who lost his fiancée in the 1904 General Slocum ferry disaster and thereafter flees New York City for Dobson, New York, to escape the memories of her death. But months into his tenure, he catches the worst homicide of his career: a young woman brutally murdered in her own bedroom in the middle of the afternoon. His investigation quickly takes him to Columbia University criminologist Alistair Sinclair and one of his patients.
But what could lead this Michael Fromley, with his history of violent behavior, to target such a proper young lady? Is Michael really behind the murder or is someone mimicking him? Ziele must discover the truth in this story of a haunted man on the trail of a killer while on the run from his own demons.
First Line: The scream that pierced the dull yellow November sky was preternaturally high-pitched.
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter: A Novel by Mario Vargas Llosa, translated by Helen R. Lane (Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature)
Mario Vargas Llosa’s masterful, multilayered novel is set in the Lima, Peru, of the author’s youth, where a young student named Marito is toiling away in the news department of a local radio station. His young life is disrupted by two arrivals. The first is his aunt Julia, recently divorced and thirteen years older, with whom he begins a secret affair. The second is a manic radio scriptwriter named Pedro Camacho, whose racy, vituperative soap operas are holding the city’s listeners in thrall. Pedro chooses young Marito to be his confidant as he slowly goes insane.
Interweaving the story of Marito’s life with the ever-more-fevered tales of Pedro Camacho, Vargas Llosa’s novel is hilarious, mischievous, and masterful, a classic named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review.
First Line: I was very young and lived with my grandparents in a villa with white walls in the Calla Ocharan.