Sorry, folks—we got a little behind with the column, but there’s been so many wonderful new novels in translation coming out this fall, I had to do at least one more new release roundup before the end of the year. Below, you’ll find an eclectic melange of mystery, thriller, and horror, with plenty of cross-overs that, like an idiosyncratic phrase in another tongue, are ever so tricky to pin down. Thanks, as always, to my colleagues Olivia Rutigliano and Dwyer Murphy for their contributions to the blurbs below. Special thanks as well to the many passionate small presses and hard-working translators responsible for the enormous amount of work that brought these delicious new novels to English readers.
Juan Cárdenas, The Devil of the Provinces
Translated by Lizzie Davis
A strange, meditative work, The Devil in the Provinces follows a biologist back to his hometown in Colombia as he looks after his mother and is drawn into the mysteries surrounding his brother’s murder. The novel balances a compelling crime story with a willingness to delve into the unexplained phenomena of a life coming untethered. –DM
Kaori Fujino, Nails and Eyes
Translated by Kendall Heitzman
This literary Japanese horror has earned comparisons to The Vegetarian and Tender is the Flesh (hint, hint). Narrated by a young girl with sinister intentions toward her stepmother, Nails and Eyes is a taut and entrancing novella, with additional disturbing stories rounding out the page count, all feeling very 90s-era Tartan video. The volume is part of a new series of Japanese short classics being issued by Pushkin Press, known on CrimeReads for their excellent Pushkin Vertigo series of classic detective fiction.
Marie NDiaye, Vengeance Is Mine
Translated by Jordan Stump
In Marie NDiaye’s sinister and spellbinding new novel, a lawyer is hired by the husband of a woman accused of murdering her three children, despite her lack of experience in high-profile trials. Meeting him unlocks memories for her of a childhood visit to a palatial home, perhaps occupied by the husband’s family, and wonders if she perhaps met her new client when she was 10 and he was 15. But what happened between them? And why can’t she remember the details? Half suspense novel, half dark fairy tale, Vengeance is Mine is a literary tour-de-force.
Juli Zeh, About People
Translated by Alta L. Price
At the peak of the pandemic, a woman splits with her boyfriend over his increasingly rigid commitment to environmentalism and heads to the German countryside. The new home needs unexpected work, she and her dog promptly clash with their menacing neighbor, and unexplained things are happening all around her. This literary thriller is an intense exploration of fear and isolation.
Gustavo Eduardo Abrevaya, The Sanctuary
Translated by Andrea G. Labinger
In what reads as a David Lynch take on Red Harvest, a couple is on their way to a remote cabin when their car breaks down, stranding them in the middle of nowhere. In a quest to find assistance, they find themselves in a sinister village ruled by a despotic mayor, a fire-and-brimstone priest, an insidious, lewd, police squad, and more strange denizens. Soon, the wife goes missing. None of the townspeople are interested in finding her. And her husband must search far and wide for any allies…
Jo Nesbø, The Night House
Translated by Neil Smith
Jo Nesbo’s upcoming horror novel is a delightful contrast with the author’s usual work; in The Night House, classic horror tropes are reinvented as an unreliable narrator tries to block out terrible, knowing voices. One by one, his schoolmates begin to vanish, and he’s quickly pegged as the suspicious, angry outsider who must be behind the killings. Will he lose the girl he loves next? And is he, perhaps, the real danger? There are some wickedly clever reveals that I will not talk about here but you must read this book so you, too, can be properly surprised.
Hye-Young Pyun, The Owl Cries
Translated by Sora Kim-Russell
Hye-Young Pyun’s stunning psychological thrillers delve deep into the horrors of being human and the oppressive mechanics of modern society, and The Owl Cries demonstrates a writer at the top of her game. In The Owl Cries, a ranger has vanished from a mysterious forest and its secluded company town of loggers and researchers. His brother, a divorce lawyer, embarks on a lackadaisical investigation into the disappearance, but soon finds himself mired in the town’s corruption and enmeshed in its secrets.
Mónica Ojeda, Nefando
Translated by Sarah Booker
(Coffee House Press)
Ojeda’s novel is a deeply unsettling mashup of genres and influences. With two young women at the center and a wide cast of eccentrics and seers, we’re brought into close contact with a warped vision of intensified youth and horror. –DM
Anne Eekhout, Mary and the Birth of Frankenstein
Translated by Laura Watkinson
Between Poor Things and this rich historical novel, there’s a lot of Frankenstein content coming out, this autumn. Hot Frankenstein Fall, we might say! I don’t know. I’m sorry. >grunts and drags self away< Anyway, I’m sorry to joke because I take Anne Eekhout’s wonderful novel extremely seriously. It’s about the strange, electric summer in 1816 Geneva when Mary Shelly conceived of Frankenstein, but also the even stranger, less-famous summer in 1812 Dundee when Mary made a powerful bond with a girl named Isabella. –OR
Laurent Petitmangin, What You Need from the Night
Translated by Shaun Whiteside
What You Need from the Night captures the complex dynamics of a widower and his two sons, one of whom rebels against his left wing father by joining in with a far right crowd. The two grapple over the moral education of the younger son, and their conflict grows as the behavior of the right wing nationalists in town escalates. A fascinating portrait of politics tearing a family apart, and a haunting noir about the ways in which love competes with morality.
Nicola Lagioia, The City of the Living
Translated by Ann Goldstein
I don’t think it’s possible to praise this book enough. The City of the Living is a novel, but it closely follows a real-life crime committed in Italy in 2015, when two young men, after a days-long drug binge, brutally murdered another young man in a senseless and bizarre crime. Nicola Lagioia teases out all the complex threads of the case, including the ambiguous sexual dynamic between the perpetrators, the homophobia that colored public response, the victim’s right wing sympathies, and the enormous class differences between the killers and their target. With obvious echoes of Leopold and Loeb, this novel also evokes the same sensibilities as Micah Nemerever’s These Violent Delights. Also, be warned: if you look it up, you will get the song Ciao Amore stuck in your head for quite some time.
Delphine de Vigan, Kids Run the Show
Translated by Alison Anderson
Damn, this book got dark. Like, you think it can’t get any darker, then it does. In Kids Run the Show, the younger child of a prominent mommy vlogger is kidnapped, and as the search continues, the reader begins to wonder if the child might be better off wherever they are than at home being constantly filmed. De Vigan has written a blistering critique of influencer culture, the erasure of privacy, and the exploitation of children. The prophetic ending takes us decades into the future to contemplate the psychological wounds of a generation raised to perform on the internet, for a deeply unsettling experience.