As an author of mixed race, I always sit up and pay attention when I discover diverse crime fiction. The following authors and their thrilling reads weave representation into the plot while their multicultural heroes work tirelessly to help (or hinder) the case. From a Chinese-American detective in New York to a French-Moroccan lawyer grappling with nanny issues, each of these stories satisfies to the last immersive page.
Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett (The Detective by Day series)
Garrett kicks off this list of diverse crime fiction with her debut, Hollywood Homicide. Her protagonist, mega-broke, semi-famous actress, Dayna Anderson, is the quintessential amateur sleuth as she sets out to solve a deadly hit-and-run, and maybe grab its fifteen thousand dollar reward in the process. While searching among L.A.’s hot spots, Dayna’s pursuit of a paycheck turns into genuine desire for justice for the victim—until someone tries to kill her. Full of knowing quips about L.A. and wielding a solid plot, it’s no wonder this mystery earned a host of accolades, including both an Agatha and an Anthony Award for Best First Novel. Garrett herself is a veteran writer for CBS’s Cold Case and co-founder of Crime Writers of Color. Those looking to devour a quick and entertaining read should grab their copy then check out the sequel, Hollywood Ending.
Lucky by Henry Chang (A Detective Jack Yu Investigation series)
The fifth book in the Jack Yu series, this latest installment serves up the same great noir suspense set against New York’s Chinatown. Detective Jack Yu investigates when a Chinatown gang leader “Lucky” Louie wakes from a coma after 88 days—a lucky number in Chinese culture, and on Easter Sunday. But Jack, Lucky’s boyhood blood brother, fears his friend’s good fortune is about to change for the worse. As Lucky undertakes a series of acts against the Chinatown criminal underground, Jack must do whatever it takes to stop him—before Lucky’s enemies do. Each page is choc full of the tension and longing that readers of the genre will appreciate, with references to Chinese-American culture—and food—that enrich every scene. Chang’s characters are as intersectional as they are complex, and he ably gives voice and specificity to this pocket of American life in crime fiction.
The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani (translated from Chanson douce)
Beginning with the murder of two small children by their nanny—the recounting of which will give you chills—The Perfect Nanny throws the reader into the deep end of this Paris-based, tour de force thriller. When French-Moroccan lawyer Myriam returns to work, she and her husband Paul must find the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. Louise, a devoted woman who plans kiddie parties and sings to the children, turns out to be the caretaker of their dreams, and the couple quickly becomes dependent on her. Jealousy and resentment mount with each chapter until tensions peak, exploding into hot-button issues of class, race, and motherhood. Translated from the French Chanson douce, it was awarded the Prix Goncourt in 2016, while The Perfect Nanny was named Best Book of the Year by multiple American lists when it was published stateside in 2018. Whether you read it in French or English, you will be hooked from the first page.
August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones
Protagonist August Snow navigates race and urban decay in Detroit in this fast-paced read. As a police officer of mixed-ethnicity—African-American and Mexican-American—he fights the corrupt cops and politicians until he’s forced to leave the city and return to his childhood home. Before long, he’s asked to investigate unusual activity at a business magnate’s private wealth management bank; he declines. The next day she turns up dead of an apparent suicide, which August dismisses as a lie. He dives into solving the real circumstances of her death, and gains the interest of Detroit’s gamut of criminals. Winner of the Hammett Prize and the Nero Award, August Snow gives private detective crime fiction new life, while highlighting Jones’ personal love for his hometown of Detroit. Despite the violence one would expect of a taut narrative depicting murder, sex, and unexpected plot twists, August Snow showcases plenty of heart in this hard-boiled mystery.
The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong
Finally, a list of crime fiction is not complete without an unreliable narrator, and The Good Son keeps you guessing until the bitter end. Jeong’s twenty-six-year-old protagonist, Yu-jin, wakes to find his mother’s body in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish home in Seoul. Having experienced seizures all his life, Yu-jin has difficulty recalling the previous night—except the sound of his mother calling his name. He sets off on a three-day journey to uncover what happened and the truth about his family in this twisted tale of mother and son that asks, who can you trust if you can’t trust yourself? Award-winning translator Chi-Young Kim ensures English-speaking audiences don’t miss a beat in this edition, allowing Jeong’s prose to slice across each page with chilling accuracy. Shocking and addictive, this psychological thriller set in the wealthy yet isolating neighborhoods of Seoul is a must read.