Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Gabriel García Márquez
“On the morning that they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.” Thus opens Márquez’s brilliant non-linear murder mystery based (loosely) on a real-life killing. In a small Colombian town, Angela Vicario is rejected by her husband for not being a virgin. When she admits to having slept with Nasar, her twin brothers loudly announce their plan to kill him. Everyone knows he’s going to be killed, so why does no one step in to stop the murder? And if everyone knew, is everyone to blame? The novella lacks Márquez’s trademark magical realism, but it’s filled with his concerns about family, small-town life, and Latin American masculinity.
In a Lonely Place
Dorothy B. Hughes
“It’s harder to come back than it is to arrive.” The heyday of hardboiled noir wasn’t just a boys club. Dorothy B. Hughes—among others—wrote thrilling hardboiled novels that every crime fan should read. Her best-known is probably In a Lonely Place, which was also made into a classic film with Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart. The novel follows an ex-fighter pilot, Dix Steele, who teams up with an LAPD officer to hunt down a misogynistic serial killer and rapist.
Before Moshfegh became a Man Booker finalist with her debut novel, the literary mystery Eileen, she published the short, weird, and fantastic novella McGlue. “I wake up,” the book starts. “My shirtfront is stiff and bibbed brown. I take it to be dried blood and I am a dead man.” The titular McGlue isn’t dead, but he might have killed his best friend. He’s still drunk, being held prisoner on his ship, and trying to clear away the fog of his memory. Moshfegh does a virtuoso job of creating a 19th-century sailor voice in this inebriated nautical tale of murder and memory.
The New York Trilogy
Three short postmodern mysteries for the price of one, The New York Trilogy collects Auster’s “anti-detective fiction” works from the mid-1980s: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room. Each of the novellas takes classic hardboiled and mystery tropes and reinvents them into a surreal detective tale. A mystery novelist receives a strange phone call in the dead of night that drags him into a metafictional mystery involving Paul Auster. A series of men named after colors—Blue, Brown, White, and Black—are caught in a tangled web of spying. A mysterious disappearance leads to an investigation of family, friendship, and artistic creativity. These are detectives stories turned inside out, but they’re as fun as they are philosophical.
When we started compiling Tiny Crimes, we had two things we wanted to accomplish. The first was to explore the breadth of crime fiction, looking beyond the hardboiled to writers of all different styles and backgrounds. Crimes are a universal aspect of human life, and crime fiction can pop up anywhere from a dive bar to an interstellar spaceship.
The second thing we wanted was to keep the stories short: little tales of murder and mystery that you could read during a coffee break or a corporate break-in. Tiny Crimes is full of sharp, short tales, like the quick stab of a knife in a dark alley. The 40 stories in the anthology include work from Carmen Maria Machado, Yuri Herrera, Benjamin Percy, and Amelia Gray, to name just a few.
In that vein, here’s a list of “tiny” crime novels—great (yet very short) books you can read in a day. These stories traverse different styles and cultures, but each tells a thrilling little mystery in less than 200 pages.
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