Hello mystery fans! I have for you a detective novel from the ’30s with a twist that holds up...
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Jun 16, 2021

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Recruited to join an FBI task force after witnessing an attack, Vivian Steele finds her by-the-book ways clashing with Diplomatic Security Agent Jacob Cruz. When Vivian’s past comes back to haunt her and secrets hidden by the government thrust her into a web of danger, can she accept Jacob’s reckless ways as exactly what she needs to stay alive?

Hello mystery fans! I have for you a detective novel from the ’30s with a twist that holds up and a fascinating deep dive into cults–I’m just all over the place this week with your recommendations. And in case you’ve been waiting impatiently for The Box In The Woods to release, it’s now out–run to it! (Review)

The Conjure-Man Dies: A Harlem Mystery by Rudolph Fisher

This classic detective novel, written in the 1930s, should have been the start to a great crime writing career but was sadly cut short by the author’s death at age 37.

This is worth reading just for the fact that it’s a novel set in the 1930s written by Rudolph Fisher, an African American doctor, musician, and writer–making it the first-known detective novel written by an African American author. It’s also worth reading for the actual story. I find a lot of times when reading classic mystery books that they aren’t “surprising” through today’s eyes because of the amount of books that have since done the same thing. In this case, I found that the twist still held up even today.

The story starts with Frimbo, an African immigrant mystic living and working in Harlem, being found dead by two local friends, Bubber Brown and Jinx Jenkins. They call Dr. John Archer who later ends up assisting the Harlem detective, Perry Dart, on the case. I won’t give away anything in the plot so instead I’ll say the time and setting are brought to life through many of the characters’ conversations, and you’ll get an interesting look at where things stood with forensics (fingerprints!) and medicine at the time.

If you’re a listener, I highly recommend the audiobook which is narrated by J. D. Jackson, who you may know from his excellent voice work on Bluebird, Bluebird and Three-Fifths.

(TW: brief mentions of domestic abuse/ colorism and ableism in banter between 2 characters throughout)

cover image of Cultish by Amanda Montell

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell

Montell takes a deep dive into cults, specifically the language used in order to gain and sustain power, and has written a book that is fascinating, eye-opening, and just a dash terrifying. It’s written in a completely accessible way—perfect for any reader who loves playing the “did you know” game—since Montell seems to be a person who is just herself fascinated by cults. That fascination stems from learning as a young child that her father escaped a cult his parents raised him in.

You get histories on some of the most known cults—and the realization that you may have been holding onto incorrect information all this time—but the book casts a wider net in looking at how that same language is also used by companies and in social media marketing. The question then becomes: when is it used for good, bad, or a middle ground?

A few things I found particularly interesting that are still bouncing around in my brain: brainwashing doesn’t exist and is widely not accepted by experts; the beginning key element of cults is creating an “us vs them” dichotomy, something playing out very loudly recently in U.S. politics; the cult member who survived the mass killing in one cult then later joined another cult. If your brain has been craving an engrossing read lately, this is your book.

(TW mass suicide cult case/ guru who uses triggering language related to suicide discussed in detail/ mentions suicide case, detail/ mentions cult leaders and doctrines allowing all types of abuse, including sexual assault, not detailed)

From The Book Riot Crime Vault

9 Great Books About Female Spies


Browse all the books recommended in Unusual Suspects previous newsletters on this shelf. See upcoming 2021 releases. Check out this Unusual Suspects Pinterest board and get Tailored Book Recommendations!

Until next time, keep investigating! In the meantime, come talk books with me on Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and Litsy–you can find me under Jamie Canavés.

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