Detective/Mystery Novels in Current Day New York?
July 8, 2014 1:28 PM   Subscribe

A little while back I stumbled upon a detective novel (Losers Live Longer) that takes place in 2009 NYC and utilizes actual city streets, restaurants, bars, etc. The writing was pretty average, but the book kept me constantly aware of the protagonist's location (oftentimes cross-streets). The real-world geography of areas I knew well really sucked me into the world and engaged me on another level than the narrative alone. Are there any other good detective or mystery novels that use post-2000s (or, better yet, post-2010) New York accurately?

I've also gotten a kick out of watching Bored to Death, which is similarly great about using real-world locations of places around Manhattan and Brooklyn that I'm familiar with, in the version of the city that I've known as a fairly recent transplant. I see a very different city in the fiction of earlier depictions of New York.

Last time I asked for a fairly narrow book suggestion from everyone I got a ton of great ones, so I'm hoping lightning can strike twice again. Thanks!
posted by gregoryg to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Two very different books, but: Franzen's Motherless Brooklyn and Pynchon's Bleeding Edge.
posted by Bromius at 1:37 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Lawrence Block has been writing a couple of series (Matthew Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr) for years in NYC, including fairly recently, and a few standalone post-9/11 novels.
posted by Etrigan at 1:38 PM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I like Gabriel Cohen's Jack Leightner series for this reason. Julia Dahl's Invisible City is also good. I don't love Linda Fairstein's books quite as much but they also have a high level of verisimilitude.
posted by ferret branca at 1:49 PM on July 8, 2014

Dick Wolf of TV's Law & Order fame has been writing a contemporary detective series which takes place in NYC. The series specifically uses post-9/11 espionage and counter-terrorism themes.
posted by fuse theorem at 1:49 PM on July 8, 2014

Not mystery, but comic caper: almost all the John Dortmunder books by Donald Westlake take place in NYC, and are very specific about their NYC details. There's even a long-running gag about a driver who always insists on telling people exactly what route he took to arrive, and what route he had planned to take, and what route he should have taken instead... The series starts in 1970, but the last five were written post-2000. You might want to read the older ones anyway, because they are hilarious — the gold standard for comic crime novels.
posted by ubiquity at 2:20 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Motherless Brooklyn is by Jonathan Lethem, but I'll second it as being a good novel. I don't actually know NYC, so I can't speak for that part.

Cornelia Read seems to do a great job with location/atmosphere in her books that are set in areas I know, so I'll assume she does just as well in the one she set in NYC, Invisible Boy. However, it is set in the 1980s (even though it was written only a few years ago).

Carol O'Connell's Mallory detective novels also feel very atmospheric.
posted by Kriesa at 2:22 PM on July 8, 2014

Also, going out on a bit of a limb here, but the first book in Andrew Vachss's excellent, hard-boiled-with-a-heart Burke series was set in NYC, and was very specific about geographical details. That was written in 1985, and I haven't read the rest of the series, but the last seven books in the series are post-2000, and I am guessing that Burke stayed in NYC, and that Vachss (who still lives there) kept up with the geographical detail.
posted by ubiquity at 2:29 PM on July 8, 2014

Oracle Night, by Paul Auster, from 2003. It's a mystery that subverts its own concept while still following the genre's conventions, and it's amazingly gripping.
posted by lesli212 at 2:31 PM on July 8, 2014

My friend Alafair Burke writes a series about a 13th Precinct detective named Ellie Hatcher that details neighborhoods and their bars and restaurants. The new one, All Day And A Night, is just out.

Also, don't hate me, but the Nikki Heat books by "Richard Castle" (ghostwritten as a tie-in to the TV series Castle) are set in NYC as well and actually pretty good!
posted by nicwolff at 3:56 PM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lee Child's "Jack Reacher" novels are sometimes in New York, and Child has some specific knowledge of geography. In particular, books 10 "The Hard Way" and 13 "Gone Tomorrow" are set mostly in New York.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:38 PM on July 8, 2014

Oh wow, you totally need to read Visitation Street by Ivy Pochoda. Takes place in gentrifying Red Hook.
posted by scratch at 5:57 PM on July 8, 2014

Not strictly a mystery novel - though a mysterious event drives much of the plot - but The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster, which I just finished, scratched that geographic itch for me. It's mostly set in the year 2000, so far enough back that the city feels somewhat different, but still recognizable.

Motherless Brooklyn is definitely a detective novel, and it's definitely geographically accurate, but it's set in the 1990s, with numerous flashbacks to the main character's childhood in the 70s/80s. It didn't quite feel like a novel about contemporary New York to me.
posted by breakin' the law at 12:33 AM on July 9, 2014

The Ruby Murphy mysteries by Maggie Estep feature/describe the Coney Island part of Brooklyn and the area around Belmont Racetrack, if you are looking for something non-Manhattan.
posted by 8dot3 at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2014

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