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10 Indie Mysteries and Thrillers to Soothe Your Holiday Shopping Panic

A book for everyone on your list!

Odds are you aren’t finished Christmas shopping. (If you are, you can f**k right off, Captain On Top of Things.) And you most likely have friends and family who are readers. (If not, stop reading this and go make better friends. Like, for real.) So let’s begin with a case for indie books as the perfect holiday gift.

There is an unspoken problem with books. Go to any big box bookstore or scan any best of list, and what you find is not dissimilar to top 40 radio: the same books keep popping up.

Therefore, any reader could very easily have that book you’re eyeing as a perfect present already sitting on the nightstand or downloaded on the Kindle. What you need is some good ‘ol college radio. Remember college radio? They would play all this sh*t you never heard, and you sort of loved it.

Indie books are the college radio of books. You can find the perfect gift for the readers in your life, and be all but certain they haven’t already read it. And Pure Fandom is here to help guide you.

For the Gillian Flynn and A.J. Finn Fans

When You Find Me, by PJ Vernon


So your aunt participated in the nation-wide read-along of Gone Girl and then loved Sharp Objects. And now you’ve got no clue whether she’s read Dark Places or not. Calm down. PJ Vernon’s got you.

Your aunt has probably never heard of When You Find Me, but the psychological suspense and exploration of the dark side of marriage will take her to all the same twisty-turny places she enjoyed in those Flynn mega-novels. Besides, PJ is cooler than Gillian Flynn. I’m sure of it.

🎵Shameless Self-promotion Time🎶


Graffiti Creek, by Matt Coleman


And for your other aunt, who ate up our latest smash book sensation, The Woman in the Window, and is now pawing around for another Hitchcockian thriller, might I be so shameless as to suggest my own Graffiti Creek. Think of it as North By Northwest with a female protagonist. And I guarantee she hasn’t read it (sigh).

For the Janet Evanovich Fans

Hollywood Homicide, by Kellye Garrett


Your mom has an entire bookshelf dedicated to the roughly eight million Evanovich books, and you cannot stomach the thought of comparing the spines to the Janet Evanovich Wikipedia page on your phone, hoping you don’t miss one in finding that elusive title she hasn’t read. Well, just stop.

Kellye Garrett’s Detective by Day series features an amateur sleuth with wit and wits. Both books in the series pack all the laughs your mom is looking for along with a mystery to keep her turning pages. Not to mention, they are both in paperback, so you can score two books for the price of one Evanovich hardback.

For the Walter Mosley Fans

A Negro and an Ofay, by Danny Gardner


Ever since Bill Clinton name checked him in the 90s, your dad has been a devoted reader of Easy Rawlins novels, and you know he has devoured each and every one. Mosley has a number of other great books, but who’s to know if Pop branched out over the years. So expand your dad’s library a little.

Danny Gardner’s debut, A Negro and an Ofay, is set in 1952 Chicago and revolves around a hard-boiled plot peppered with rich dialogue and underlying notes of the exploration of humanity. You know … basically all the things your dad liked about those Easy Rawlins novels (I know … LA, not Chicago, but come on).

For the George Pelecanos Fans

August Snow, by Stephen Mack Jones


Hey, you know that cousin who went to Baltimore one time, and then watched The Wire incessantly until she felt like she knew the city by heart? And then after her trip to D.C., she dove headlong into Pelecanos novels? Well … has she ever been to Detroit?

Stephen Mack Jones’ first entry in the August Snow series paints Detroit in vibrant colors, while packing one hell of a wise-ass noir punch. Jones picked up a Hammett Prize and a stellar review from pretty much every big name out there, so he is likely to blow up soon. Get this one in the hands of your hipster cousin so she can say she knew about him before all her hipster friends.

For the Bret Easton Ellis Fans

#FashionVictim, by Amina Akhtar


This is a fairly specific niche of person, but stick with me. Your sister … she’s … special. She has a bit of a sick sense of humor, and loved American Psycho way more than you’re comfortable admitting to yourself, having shared a room with her for years as a child. But she also eats up all the pop culture wonder of shows like Gossip Girl and never misses a celebrity fashion trend.

You didn’t know it, but there is THE PERFECT gift for her waiting to drop into your Amazon cart. Amina Akhtar’s debut novel, #FashionVictim, introduces us to Anya St. Clair, who is literally killing it in the fashion industry. Described as Dexter meets The Devil Wears Prada, this book was written for your sister. She needs it in her life.

For the Daniel Woodrell Fans

Cottonmouths, by Kelly J. Ford


Years ago, your brother read and watched (not necessarily in that order) Winter’s Bone, and he hasn’t shut up about it ever since. You already gifted him the complete series of Rectify, and you have no clue how many various Southern Gothic and Grit Lit books he has combed through. So go indie and get some digs in while you’re at it.

Kelly J. Ford’s debut, Cottonmouths, is chock full of meth and backwoods and poverty. Oh … and mystery. Tucked within the small-town family drama is some top notch mystery. And for your occasionally toxically masculine brother, it’s also full of rich female characters. So … double points.

On the Bricks, by Penni Jones


On the Bricks, Penni Jones’ first book, carries much of the same: strong, complex female character returning to small hometown and finding mystery. But your far-too-serious brother will pick up a much needed dose of humor, as Jones slips some wit into her gritty book.

🎵Shameless Self-promotion Time, Pt. 2🎶



Juggling Kittens, by Matt Coleman


And as a second (gag) shameless self promotion, my own Juggling Kittens will give your brother all the trailer homes and dark, depressing tales of missing kids he can stand, while continuing to lighten his gloom ass up with some sardonic humor.

For the Michael Connelly Fans

Land of Shadows, by Rachel Howzell Hall


You can’t prove your uncle has read anything without Connelly’s name on the cover. Don’t worry. That just means he is long overdue for an update to his bookshelves. And he has probably never heard of Rachel Howzell Hall or Elouise “Lou” Norton.

Hall’s LAPD heroine Lou Norton will blow your uncle’s mind, as he realizes that a female protagonist can be every bit as badass as Harry Bosch. You’ve actually got four books to pick from in this series, so if this happens to be your favorite uncle, you could package up quite the gift.



Matt Coleman

Matt Coleman writes mysteries, comedies, and irreverent analyses of pop culture. He is the author of JUGGLING KITTENS and GRAFFITI CREEK, both of which have too many bad words for his mom's liking. You can find him at

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