Second up in this series in which writers choose their top five crime novels is Nate Southard, author of Pale Horses.
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Most days, Sheriff Hal Kendrick can remember his wife’s name, but what frightens him are the days he can’t. When a local woman is found dead, naked and dumped on the banks of the Ohio River, Sheriff Kendrick is determined to solve the crime before Alzheimer’s disease destroys his ability to reason. No matter the cost, he will leave his county better than he found it, but murder is only the beginning, a spark that ignites a firestorm of violence, betrayal, and deceit.
Most mornings, former marine Korey Hunt can remember the previous night. Other times, he only remembers darkness. When a body is found on his family’s property, Korey wants to believe he’s incapable of murder. Deep down, however, killing is all he knows.
Death rides a Pale Horse, and no one in its path escapes unscathed.
Nate Southard's Top Five Crime Novels
The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay
Nate says: Tremblay, who once wrote an absolutely terrifying story about balloons, injects a fun bit of surrealism into the PI story with The Little Sleep. See, private investigator Mark Gevenich is narcoleptic, and his condition causes hallucinations. The resulting story is full of twists, absurd exchanges, and that twilight feeling where you can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t, like the teen reality show contestant in the opening chapter who wants help finding her stolen fingers. If you’re looking for something hardboiled but a little different, check out this one.
Much Mojo by Joe Lansdale
Nate says: The second of Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series is my favorite by a country mile. Still licking their wounds from the events of Savage Season, Hap and Leonard appear more vulnerable than in some of their other books. The voice Lansdale uses to tell the tale makes you feel right at home, like Hap Collins is telling you the story with one arm around your shoulders and a beer in his free hand. A few of Lansdale’s horror tendencies shine through, but it all works. I read the climax of this one while pacing back and forth in my living room.
Slippin' Into Darkness by Norman Partridge
Nate says: New Norm Partridge books don’t come around often, but they’re always a cause for celebration. His first novel is a masterpiece of, well, darkness. A former cheerleader-turned-prostitute kills herself, and her death brings together those whose lives she affected. The jocks visit a pornographer who still has a film reel of the cheerleader’s rape. A lonely drunk hurls beer bottles at her headstone in the middle of the night. There’s something particularly horrible involving an eight ball. Everything spirals together, and the climax is controlled chaos at its finest. Through all of it, Partridge writes with a style that crackles around the edges. His characters latch on and refuse to let go. This one might be hard to find, but it’s worth tracking down. It should be required reading for all writers of both crime and horror.
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Nate says: I know it’s marketed as a mystery, but Sharp Objects is easily the best horror story of the last decade. The last two chapters are some of the most terrifying words I’ve ever read. Before you get there, however, you’ll meet Camille Parker, newspaper reporter and cutter. There’s something so real and relatable about this character, a woman with only a few inches of her body unscarred, and the family she reunites with as she investigates a child murder in her hometown. Years before she wrote Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn proved to be a master with Sharp Objects.
Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli
Nate says: No one writes with the confidence and skill I’ve seen from Tom Piccirilli. With this novella, Pic writes the meanest, most heartbreaking story I’ve ever read. A nameless writer has nothing left but a gun and a loyal dog, and what he embarks on takes him through his past and hurtling toward a dead end. The meat of things is how Pic makes us feel for the guy. We experience every dash of hopelessness, anger, and sadness. We know this won’t end well, but we can’t look away. I’d tell you more, but this is a book you need to read before discussing in any form. Piccirilli is a master, and this is his best work.
For more information about Nate Southard:
website: nateshouthard.com | Facebook https://www.facebook.com/natesouthard