Noir fiction

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem

Only Jonathan Lethem could turn an homage to the classic noir style into a wildly inventive exploration of language, loyalty, and the principles of Zen Buddhism. Lethem’s fascination with noir played a major role in his debut novel, Gun, with Occasional Music. In Motherless Brooklyn, the reader is treated to a gritty interpretation of noir filtered through an unforgettable narrator—Lionel Essrog. As always, Lethem’s writing is superb, and the construction of Lionel’s narrative voice is a rare accomplishment.

Lionel Essrog is an inexperienced detective who has a complicated relationship with language. Lionel is always looking for an antidote – some sensation or substance that will temporarily quell the feral language percolating in his brain. White Castle hamburgers can have therapeutic properties, and fear will work in a pinch. But Lionel’s mind always reverts back to an intricate arrangement of associative tics, repetition, and wordplay.

The Song is You by Megan Abbott

The Song is You

Jean Spangler disappeared on the night of October 7, 1949. She applied her lipstick, straightened the seams on her stockings and kissed her daughter good-bye. Jean was beautiful and ambitious - and was never seen again after that night. Her broken purse and a cryptic note, found in a park, were the only clues. The case has never been solved.

Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem

Gun, with Occasional Music

In Gun, with Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem blends dystopia and noir in order to depict the Oakland of the future: a surreal world where the written word is obsolete and animals wear clothes and behave as humans. It’s also a place where corrupt Inquisitors run amok and one’s social standing is determined by “karma points.”

In the midst of this disorienting environment, Conrad Metcalf is a reassuringly anachronistic figure. Rather than serving the monolithic institution known as the Office, he embraces his own brand of investigation, walking the streets and asking questions as a Private Inquisitor. The Office has tolerated his presence and unorthodox methods, but their complacency evaporates once Conrad starts working for a new client: Orton Angwine.

The Killer Inside Me

By Jim Thompson

Go to catalog

"Lou Ford is the deputy sheriff of a small town in Texas. The worst thing most people can say against him is that he's a little slow and a little boring. But, then, most people don't know about the sickness --the sickness that almost got Lou put away when he was younger. The sickness that is about to surface again. An underground classic since its publication in 1952, The Killer Inside Me is the book that made Jim Thompson's name synonymous with the roman noir."

Reserve this title

Swing by Rupert Holmes

Swing, by Rupert Holmes

Rupert Holmes’ Swing has more than a touch of noir—and its own soundtrack. Set in San Francisco in 1940, vagabond jazz musician Ray Sherwood has been made a very interesting proposition. A beautiful, young Berkley music student wants him in a most peculiar way. She’s won an international contest for composers, and her piece needs to premiere at the Golden Gate Exposition in just a few weeks. What she needs from Ray are his talents to orchestrate her music for many instruments. Ray is enchanted by Gail’s breezy joie de vivre and her snappy patter even as his own troubled past makes him hesitate. But the tenor veers from sweet romance to dangerous liaison when a lovely woman plunges to her death mere feet from the happy couple, changing this composition’s theme from serenade to police siren.

Gun, with Occasional Music

By Jonathan Lethem

Go to catalog

Gumshoe Conrad Metcalf has problems-not the least of which are the rabbit in his waiting room and the trigger-happy kangaroo on his tail. Near-future Oakland is an ominous place where evolved animals function as members of society, the police monitor citizens by their karma levels, and mind-numbing drugs such as Forgettol and Acceptol are all the rage. In this brave new world, Metcalf has been shadowing the wife of an affluent doctor, perhaps falling a little in love with her at the same time. But when the doctor turns up dead, our amiable investigator finds himself caught in the crossfire in a futuristic world that is both funny-and not so funny.

Also available on audio.

Reserve this title

Devil in a Blue Dress

By Walter Mosley

Go to catalog
"Devil in a Blue Dress honors the tradition of the classic American detective novel by bestowing on it a vivid social canvas and the freshest new voice in crime writing in years, mixing the hard-boiled poetry of Raymond Chandler with the racial realism of Richard Wright to explosive effect."
Reserve this title

The Intuitionist

By Colson Whitehead

Go to catalog

"It is a time of calamity in a major metropolitan city's Department of Elevator Inspectors, and Lila Mae Watson, the first black female elevator inspector in the history of the department, is at the center of it. There are two warring factions within the department: the Empiricists, who work by the book and who dutifully check for striations on the winch cable and such; and the Intuitionists, who are simply able to enter the elevator cab in question, meditate, and intuit any defects.

"Lila Mae is an Intuitionist and, it just so happens, has the highest accuracy rate in the entire department. But when an elevator in a new city building goes into total freefall on Lila Mae's watch, chaos ensues. Sabotage is the obvious explanation: It's an election year in the Elevator Guild, and the good-old-boy Empiricists would love nothing more than to assign the blame to an Intuitionist, and a colored one at that. But Lila Mae is never wrong.

"The sudden appearance of excerpts from the lost notebooks of Intuitionism's founder, James Fulton, has also caused quite a stir. The notebooks describe Fulton's work on the 'black box,' a perfect elevator that could reinvent the city as radically as the first passenger elevator did when patented by Elisha Otis in the nineteenth century. When Lila Mae goes underground to investigate the crash, she becomes involved in the search for the portions of the notebooks that are still missing and uncovers a secret that will change her life forever."

Reserve this title

Fearless Jones

By Walter Mosley

Go to catalog

"Paris Minton is minding his own business--a small used bookstore of which he is the proud proprietor--when a beautiful woman named Elana Love walks in and asks a few questions. Within the next twenty-four hours, Paris has been beaten up, made love to, shot at, and robbed, and his bookstore has been burned to the ground. He's in so much trouble he has no choice but to get his friend Fearless Jones out of jail to help. Fearless Jones is an army veteran, a man who is proud of his accomplishments during World War II, and refuses to step into the background now that the war is over. Violence dogs Fearless's every step, and Paris has tried to keep his distance. But there's no friend like the one you need. The two set out to find the elusive Elana Love, and every step leads them deeper into a bewildering vortex of money and betrayal."

Reserve this title

Noir

By K.W. Jeter

Go to catalog
Ex-information cop McNihil is enlisted to find the murderer of a young executive in a futuristic L.A., where the rich can seek forbidden thrills, indulging safely and anonymously in illicit fantasies through the use of computerized simulations known as prowlers.
Reserve this title