The books Southern indie booksellers are recommending to readers everywhere!

Private Investigators

Spotlight On: West Heart Kill by Dann McDorman


Dann McDorman, photo credit Beowulf Sheehan

Q: Why set the novel in the 70s?
A: The superficial reason is that it was fun! The hairstyles alone defy belief…The zeitgeist of the 1970s felt intensely familiar to me. We’d lost trust in institutions and in each other; the old solutions didn’t work; the new ones seemed inadequate; a creeping disillusionment had overtaken the best of us, while the worst seemed full of passionate intensity. As an era, the 1970s seems extraordinarily relevant to writers and readers today.
― Dann McDorman, Interview, Bloomsbury UK

West Heart Kill by Dann McDorman

What booksellers are saying about West Heart Kill

  • This one is an absolute must read for devotees of the classic mystery genre. Unique in concept while at the same time holding true to the classic formulae that make the mystery novel so intriguing to us. In this tale we join Adam McAnnis, a somewhat sketchy private eye who joins a list of colorful characters on a long weekend getaway to a private hunting lodge. As the weekend progresses and the bodies start piling up we partner with Adam as he investigates the twisted relationships and subtle clues that will help him find the killer (or killers?). Interspersed in the story are vignettes by the author who leads us on an academic study of the mystery novel that at times almost seems to mock both the reader and the genre itself while at the same time crafting an entertaining and thoroughly complex and mesmerizing mystery thriller. If for nothing more than for it’s unique approach to story telling, for true fans of the mystery novel, you owe it to yourself to enjoy this one.
      ― Brent Bunnell, Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC | Buy from Fiction Addiction

  • Wow! This book is entirely captivating and such an interesting take on the mystery genre. Adam McAnnis, detective and friend of one of West Heart Hunting Club’s founding family members, is allowed to join the Bicentennial weekend at the exclusive club. All seems relatively normal, but with a mystery it never really is normal, is it? Murder, lies, old money, infidelity, and an unreliable narrator voice guide this story, and McDorman bends the book’s structure in a way that I have never seen before, making comments about the genre, plot, characters, and reader as it moves along to make for a fully immersive experience. Loved it!
      ― Kalynn Simpkins, Underground Books in Carrollton, GA | Buy from Underground Books

  • Everything about this novel was new and invigorating. I’ve never come across storytelling in this way especially with mysteries. The author subverts the status quo of mystery point of view. Always have the focus on one person or never give in depth insights into the detectives thoughts. With West Heart Kill, we are integrated into every single part of the story. The use of first, second, and third omniscient POVs was a little jarring at first, but once you get used to it, you can understand the utilization of them. Mysteries lay out the clues so that the reader can solve the crime along with the detective, but with this novel, you’re the detective. You are in the book. You’re being guided by the author as if he was writing YOUR story. You are given quizzes, clues, and questions from the character themselves. Though we do follow the main character, we are also the main character, and that experience made this one of my favorite novels I’ve read this year.
      ― Ae Fuller from Novel in Memphis, TN | Buy from Novel

  • This book is a ball to read. For obvious reasons: because it scratches that edge-of-your-chair itch, because it’s a 1976 period drama, because it’s full of rich people behaving badly, etc. And for not so obvious reasons: because the narrator acknowledges our presence as readers (!), because Mc Dorman offers us a history of the mystery genre (!!), because well it’s so darn funny and surprising (!!!)
      ― Laura Cotten from Thank You Books in Birmingham, AL | Buy from Thank You Books

About Dann McDorman

Dann McDorman is an Emmy-nominated TV news producer, who has also worked as a newspaper reporter, book reviewer, and cabinet maker. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two children.


Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen

From the sales pitch of “Queer Knives Out” I expected this to be a fun mystery sprinkled with social commentary- I wasn’t expecting to be hit so hard with emotions. The mystery itself is fairly straightforward, but Andy’s journey to self-acceptance, helped along by being able to see the Lamontaine family as exactly that- a family- is what makes this book shine. Through well crafted prose Rosen depicts the both the homophobia of the 50’s and San Francisco’s thriving queer communities and their hopes for a better future in ways that are still relatable to modern readers.

Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen, (List Price: $26.99, Forge Books, 9781250834225, January 2023)

Reviewed by Lauren Kohnle, M. Judson Booksellers in Greenville, South Carolina

Bark to the Future by Spencer Quinn

Bernie and Chet stories can seem deceptively simple. Chet’s narration from a dog’s point of view provides humor but insights on how narrow human perspectives can be. Bernie’s ethical code and generosity are lessons in how to be a better human. All this comes into play as the duo seek to help a high school classmate fallen on hard times. Running underneath the mystery is a happy love interest for Bernie and the complications of Trixie for Chet.

Bark to the Future by Spencer Quinn, (List Price: $26.99, Forge Books, 9781250843272, August 2022)

Reviewed by Jan Blodgett, Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina

Fox Creek by William Kent Krueger

This fast-paced story is told through alternating perspectives of the hunters and the hunted as mercenaries seek a woman for reasons unknown to her, Cork and his wife. At the center of the story a wise and elderly healer helps the hunted survive in the Boundary Waters wilderness. Another great addition to the Cork O’Conner mystery series.

Fox Creek by William Kent Krueger, (List Price: $28, Atria Books, 9781982128715, August 2022)

Reviewed by Lia Lent, Wordsworth Books in Little Rock, Arkansas

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Krueger effortlessly weaves lilting language, thought-provoking issues, and an extremely compelling mystery into a historical, small-town setting. A young boy follows in his father’s footsteps as he searches for “crumbs” to help solve a crime and discovers some much larger truths along the way. The characters are unforgettable, the story is suspenseful, and the writing is beautiful. Especially for readers who enjoy murder mysteries, coming of age stories, Native American stories, and well-written fiction. It is almost Southern Gothic, but maybe not quite dark or southern enough. Some of the theological threads remind me a bit of Marilynne Robinson as well.

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger, (List Price: 27, Atria Books, 9781982128685, August 2021)

Reviewed by Angela Rawls, The Snail on the Wall in Huntsville, Alabama

Smoke by Joe Ide

Dodson’s back. Back again. Dodson’s back. Tell a friend. Or two. Or ten. My apologies to Eminem and to you, dear reader, for the possible ear worm I may have just planted but, THANK YOU Joe Ide! I’ve not laughed that loud, while reading, in some time. Truth be told, my wife tired quickly of me barging into her reading time to say, “Honey, wait until you have hear this bit”. Yeah, too much coffee and great writing so that to me. I’ve enjoyed all of the IQ series and, if I’m being honest, I was fairly sure this would be another solid run of the series but, probably not exceptional. Wrong. Just. Plain. Wrong. I love where Joe is taking us. The depth of the characters continues to develop at a wicked pace. The plot lines are becoming even more ferocious. And IQ keeps getting… smarter? Yep. And the ending? YIKES. Book six Mr. Ide? Bring. It. ON!

Smoke by Joe Ide (List Price: $28, Mulholland Books, 9780316531061, 2/23/2021)

Reviewed by Berkley McDaniel, Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Virginia

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