The Killer in Me
Too Close to Breathe author Olivia Kiernan’s latest is a detective novel set in a coastal suburb. Séan Hennessey was convicted of a brutal crime as a teenager. Newly released from jail, Séan still insists he’s innocent, yet the discovery of two more bodies cause the neighborhood’s residents, the media, and Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheenan to look at him with fresh suspicion. Now Sheean must discover the truth about both the modern murders and the ones that happened years ago.
Little Fires Everywhere
Single mother and artist Mia Warren and her daughter Pearl shake up the town of Shaker Heights, Ohio (sorry) when they rent a house from the upstanding Richardson family in this #1 New York Times bestseller by Celeste Ng. But shortly after their arrival in town, a custody battle throws the neighborhood for a loop, driving a wedge between the Warrens and the Richardsons—and casting doubt on Mia’s past and motivations.
Where the Crawdads Sing
This Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick (and our book club pick of March) is part murder mystery, part coming-of-age story. Delia Owens’ debut novel hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller List and became a seemingly overnight sensation. When local heartthrob Chase Andrews is found murdered, the town of Barkley Cove, North Carolina immediately begins to suspect Kya Clark, a.k.a. the “Marsh Girl,” who has lived on her own in the marshes since childhood. But all is not what it seems.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece paints a vivid picture of the working class town Empire Falls. Most of the story focuses on Miles Roby, owner of the Empire Grill and father to a precocious teenage daughter named Tick. A quintessentially American novel, Empire Falls is small-town literary fiction at its finest.
The Den takes a unique approach to the small town novel by looking at the same one in two different time periods. The story follows four sisters in the same New England town, 150 years apart. Set in dual timelines, we follow two sets of siblings Henrietta and Jane and Elspeth and Claire. When Henrietta and Elspeth both go missing under mysterious circumstances, Jane and Claire are left to search for answers in different centuries.
The Broken Places
Crime writer extraordinaire Ace Atkins returns with The Broken Places. Tibbehah County, Mississippi sheriff Quinn Colson has his hands full when pardoned murderer Jamey Dixon returns to town — and starts a relationship with the detective’s sister. Is Dixon reformed as he claims or just biding his time until he kills again? It’s up to Colson to figure out his motivations before it’s too late, all while a tornado and two escaped convicts are complicating matters.
The Wolf Wants In
Laura McHugh’s new mystery novel explores the opioid crisis through the lens of murder and suspense. We follow two girls from the troubled town of Blackwater, Kansas. There’s Sadie Keller, who is determined to prove her brother’s death wasn’t an accident, and Henley Pettit, who is determined to escape Blackwater before she gets inescapably sucked into her family’s dark dealings. As the body count rises, both girls find they’re short on time.
High school is ending for Nadia Turner. Reeling with grief from her mother’s suicide, she embarks on a wild and rebellious summer and a relationship with an older boy, who happens to be the pastor’s son. An accidental pregnancy changes the course of their lives, perhaps not for the reasons you’d expect. And the whole story is expertly narrated by a Greek chorus of concerned church mothers.
Sharp Objects (Movie Tie-In)
Even if you’ve watched the HBO series starring Amy Adams, the source material is worth a read. Gillian Flynn’s debut novel is about journalist Camille Preaker who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri. She’s there to investigate the recent disappearance of two young girls. At the same time, she must grapple with her own strained relationships, particularly with her mother Adora and half-sister Amma. It’s a dark, gritty mystery that beautifully explores the theme of family.
Place can be a character in literature the same way that people are. No subgenre nails this concept quite like books set in small towns. A rich and realistic setting can do a lot for the reading experience. When a town jumps off the page, you feel like you’re really there, living the events of the story alongside the protagonists. Whether you gravitate toward mysteries or slice-of-life literary fiction, these nine books will fully immerse you in the neighborhoods they portray. Find your next idyllic small town-centered read below!
Featured image: @hanschristian via Twenty20