Shotgun Honey Presents Favorite Reads of 2019 (Part Three)

With just two weeks left in the year, we bring together a third group of writers and friends to recommend their favorite reads of 2019. It’s been a great bunch of titles that have added to my already towering TBR collection. So many potential gift selections for the book lover who celebrate the holiday seasons. And if they don’t, we might as well just make a book holiday and gift them anyway.

I want to thank those who have contributor so far, and welcome new contributors Nikki Dolson, Dharma Kelleher, S. W. Lauden, and Alex Segura.

Lets get to the books.

Nikki Dolson

Author of All Violent Things

THE STORIES YOU TELL by Kristen Lepionka

I fell out of love with the private detective in fiction until I met Roxane Weary. Three books in to this excellent series and I am hooked again. Lepionka can write a goddamn story and I am here for every tale of Roxane Weary. The Stories You Tell is a great damn ride.

A BROKEN WOMAN by Dharma Kelleher

Give me all the Jinx Ballou stories. Kelleher draws you in and punches you in the feels. This was my first Jinx book. I’m glad there two more waiting for me to read.


Space nuns! Humankind out on the edges of known space. I could tell you so much more but if nuns in space doesn’t get you interested then this isn’t the book for you. (THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU. TRUST ME.)

Dharma Kelleher

Author of Chaser, Extreme Prejudice, and A Broken Woman

REMEMBER by Patricia Shanae Smith

This was my favorite book this year. Not only is it a fantastic suspense novel, but its exploration of PTSD was brilliant. 


This was everything an entertaining crime drama should be—exciting, fun, and gritty. 

CARVED IN BONE by Michael Nava

While framed in the context of an investigation into a man’s death, this novel at its heart is a deep dive into the Castro District’s gay male culture on the verge of the AIDS epidemic.

S. W. Lauden

Author of Go All the Way, Bad Citizen Corporation, and Crossed Bones

RECURSION by Blake Crouch

This choice won’t surprise anybody who’s heard me raving about Blake Crouch on the Writer Types podcast. Crouch’s last two thrillers (“Recursion” and “Dark Matter”) are right in line with my current tastes in crime fiction—the characters are complex, the mind-bending plots are dense, and the writing is excellent.

ALL THE WAY DOWN by Eric Beetner

Speaking of the Writer Types podcast…I may have retired from the show in October, but I left an even bigger fan of Eric Beetner’s writing than I was going in. Beetner is a prolific purveyor of top notch pulp who consistently gets more bang per sentence than most crime writers publishing today. This tightly-plotted thriller is no exception with it’s engaging characters and breakneck pace. 

FACE IT: A MEMOIR by Debbie Harry

I’m a sucker for rock & roll reads (this is one of about 20 I devoured this year), but Debbie Harry’s story is truly fascinating. There was so much I didn’t know about her early days in Manhattan, including run-ins with Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd and the New York Dolls—way before she got famous with Blondie. The casual tone makes it feel like she’s confiding a few great stories over drinks. Definitely a book to check out if you love punk rock, power pop or new wave.

Alex Segura

Author of Blackout and Miami Midnight


A new Lisa Lutz book is always an event – and her latest standalone, The Swallows, is a provocative and timely look at the gender dynamics at a New England Prep school – dark, alluring, haunting and frightening in the way only teenage drama can, Lutz shows that she’s one of the sharpest and most versatile crime writers working today.

THE BETTER SISTER by Alafair Burke

Burke is the modern master of domestic suspense, and she’s at the top of her game with The Sister – a twist-laden and tightly-plotted tale that demands to be read in one sitting. A compelling beach read that’s loaded with timely, sharp social commentary, The Better Sister was impossible to ignore and even harder to put down.


Rarely do we see a debut this polished, confident, and layered. Kim’s Miracle Creek is a jaw-dropping first novel that touches on family, hope, and desperation that’s also part murder mystery. Suspenseful, relevant, and complex, I was blown away by this book and had to read it twice.

Hope you found a book or two to add to your reading list or for holiday gifts. Be sure to check back next week to see more recommendations from our favorite authors.

Down the Hole by Dharma Kelleher

The woman took a long drag on the clove cigarette. The pack it came from wasn’t hers. She’d never buy something so pretentious. Sure, she liked the way the tobacco or whatever it was sizzled as she inhaled. And they had a smell that reminded her of Christmas. But Lord knows what a pack of them cost. Her Winstons were expensive enough.

The engine of her SUV tink-tinked as it cooled, the front grill painted crimson from the dying light of dusk. Silhouettes of saguaros poked up against the skyline of distant mountains.

The job was only half done, but the woman felt wrapped in a blanket of satisfaction. She’d done good.

The injured critter at the bottom of the mine shaft a few feet away began to howl and whimper. The walls of the forty-foot hole gave the sound a muffled, echoey quality.

“What the fuck kinda name’s Auden?” she mused. “Spoiled rich kid name, that’s what. Auden, Brock, Grayden, Becker . . . who the fuck comes up with these names?”

The critter in the hole howled all the more. She ignored it.

“You shore were the golden child, huh? College track star. Olympic hopeful. Phi Kappa Beta, whatever the hell that is. Thought you was God’s gift.”

A shadow flitted above her. A bat or maybe an owl, looking for dinner.

“But then you hurt my Emily. Sweet as sugar and smart as a whip, that one. But she didn’t want you. She was the one person who saw you for the shit you are. Musta really stuck in your craw. Someone not treating you like you walked on water. You saw something you couldn’t have. So you decided to take it.”

She took a final drag on the aromatic cigarette, then crushed the butt in the desert sand. “You roophied my little girl and raped her behind a dumpster.” Her hands balled into a fist. “If that biker chick hand’t grabbed you and called the cops, you woulda gotten away with it, huh?”

A chill breeze blew through her, sweeping away the day’s heat in a flash. “But the worst part . . .” Her heartbeat slowed. “The worst was when that judge felt sorry for you. Poor little rich boy track star. Gotta big future ahead of ya. Can’t send you to prison. No, you’re too good for that. Meanwhile acting like my daughter ain’t shit. She’s just a piece of ass to you and to that son-of-a-bitch judge. What about her future, Auden?”

The injured critter keened and wailed, pleading to be rescued.

She stood from the rock she’d been sitting on and brushed the dust off her ass. “Break time’s over,” she mumbled as she strolled to the edge of the black abyss.

“Comfy down there, Auden?”

“I’m so sorry! Please get me out.”

“How’s that future looking for you, track star? Reckon you must’ve broken your legs, and an ankle or two. No more track meets. No Olympics.”

“I’ll pay you whatever you want.”

“Don’t want your money, you piece of filth. But I promise, you will pay.” She picked up the can of gasoline, unscrewed the top, and poured half the can down the mine shaft. It splashed into the hole, gurgling like a brook, and every bit as satisfying. The moaning predator gasped and sputtered. “Wha—what the hell is that?”

“Gasoline. Premium grade. Nothing but the best for good ol’ Auden.” She recapped the gas can and lit another clove cigarette from the pack she stole from him.

Her lip curled. “You know, these fancy cancer sticks of yours really do stink. I much prefer my Winstons.” She flicked the lit cigarette down into the hole. The fireball forced her back a step.

The critter’s howls became urgent shrieks and gut-wrenching screams. She savored them, though they only lasted a moment or so.

“Don’t go nowhere, Auden. I’ll be back. I got myself a judge to catch.”