Was 2017 a great year for the crime novel? To shoot you straight, dear reader, the Nerd’s got no fucking idea. I don’t read as much as I used to when I was regularly contributing to this site and when I do now it is often something, you know, not new. This year, for example, I managed to catch up with the work of Donna Tartt, Pascal Garnier, Fuminori Nakamura, Jean-Patrick Manchette, Herman Koch, and the previous novels of some folks on this very list. A good deal of those were great fucking books (The Secret History? A goddamn pleasure!) and I love the absolute shit out of these five crime/crime-adjacent beauts I’ve got for you below, but unless the current crime fiction pulse is deep within my own asshole, yeah, sorry, my finger is nowhere near it. Hell, if there’s glaring omissions let me know- the TBR pile should never be surmountable. So now that I’ve lamely (and arguably disrespectfully, honestly) covered my ass with three layers of Kevlar, here’s what I dug in the year of our lord 2017:
The Force by Don Winslow – My dude brings his gifts for making his research fascinating, his pages turn and his violence bloody to “the cop novel,” tossing up this doorstop with all his might, the motherfucker landing somewhere within pissing distance of the likes of Clockers and Night Dogs.
She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper – A little girl is kidnapped by her estranged father upon his release from prison and the two of them fight to survive against the Aryan Brotherhood. Reads like a Megan Abbott novel if she shifted focus to the California desert. And meth. And gnarly fucking shootouts.
A Separation by Katie Kitamura – A woman travels to a Greek countryside hotel to find out what happened to her missing husband. I need so many more inches to describe how original and sly this novel is, yet even if I were to full-on review it I know I could never fully express how fucking beguiling it all is.
Homesick for Another World: Stories by Ottessa Moshfegh – The Nerd isn’t one for story collections generally but I loved her novels so much I gave this a shot. What a misanthropic, sad bunch of bastards are the folks in World. Can’t say I’d have a beer with them, but I’d watch them drink from across the bar, careful not to meet their eye.
The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan – The Moshfegh book was more just transgressive fiction and this one is even further from crime but goddamn do you gotta hip yourself to McClanahan, dear reader. This beast is highbrow, lowbrow, funny, sad, beautiful, pathetic, mean, stupid, charming- it’s just fucking everything.
Now, with the written word covered, let the Nerd say that what I have been following closely is the cinema, my dear reader (your modern silver-ed screen, if you please), and boy howdy has 2017 for the dusty old flicker show a veritable goddamn giving tree for an ungrateful public (seriously, buy a movie ticket sometime and help save my church). Great shit came out relentlessly this year, didn’t matter if your bag was sci-fi (Blade Runner 2049, The Untamed, Colossal), horror (Raw, Thelma, The Autopsy of Jane Doe), arthouse nuttiness (The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Square, A Ghost Story), arthouse sure shots (The Beguiled, Lady Bird, The Florida Project), multiplex crowdpleasers (Dunkirk, American Made), or multiplex crowdconfounders (mother!, It Comes at Night). Hell, even the dreaded biopic was fucking good this year with The Founder and The Lost City of Z.
But lucky for you and the Nerd both, dear reader, the bag that runneth the fuck over was that of the crime genre. The five films I am listing below are all worthy of my top ten overall list and that is fucking rare. Hell, these are just the crime films I saw in the theater that I loved. Hell, I could easily squeeze the Netflix originals I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore directed by Macon Blair and Small Crimes by E.L Katz in the ranking there somewhere but, I dunno, I don’t wanna for some reason. Just go watch them, Jesus. They’ve been on there for months, hop to it already. So anyways, here are the best crime films of 2017 according to me, some dickhead on the internet:
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri by Martin McDonagh – A truly unpredictable story that takes big risks and makes you laugh at something fucking hilariously awful then makes you tear up like a goddamn child one line of dialogue later. Tough to pick a standout performance but just for character journey alone you gotta go Sam Rockwell.
Good Time by Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – After their excellent (but uncomfortable believable) junkie character study Heaven Can Wait, the Safdie Bros blessed us with this gritty but breathlessly exciting and very funny out-of-the-outhouse-and-into-the-shitwell-beneath-the-outhouse thriller about a criminal trying to break his brother out of jail after the two of them botch a bank job.
Hounds of Love by Ben Young – If you’re a sick fuck like me who got something out of the absolute wallow that was The Snowtown Murders, you’ll similarly like/not-be-able-to-look-away-from this one. Like Snowtown, Love is also based on a disgusting true crime in Australia and it too make you squirm like your seat is made of jagged rocks. So, you know, gather the kids ’round the tube, dear reader.
Lady Macbeth by William Oldroyd – The story of a country girl recently married into an estate in rural 19th century England who starts offing heirs to have the fancy new digs to herself and her stable boy lover, this lean bit of nasty is excellently directed and fucking agonizing. The creepy sterility and genteelness of the chilling scenes of violence brings to mind Kubrick and the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 by S. Craig Zahler – Speaking of violence, this wonderful film wins best violence of 2017, so please try to smile while you hand off the trophy, 2016’s Green Room. Part thoughtful, sober 70’s-style crime drama/character study, part over-the-top 70’s-style prison exploitation film, this shit should be wonky as fuck but it just fucking works on a gut level somehow. Oh and did I mention it is violent? Because it really is, stretching your boundaries of what you find horrifying and what you find thrilling, but never not being anything but an absolute fucking blast at the movies.