100 books like Vanishing Act

By Thomas Perry,

Here are 100 books that Vanishing Act fans have personally recommended if you like Vanishing Act. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

Harini Nagendra Author Of The Bangalore Detectives Club

From my list on historical crime books with spunky women protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an ecologist who loves history. I love incorporating elements from the past in my non-fiction and fiction writing. I’ve learnt so much about parts of the world I have never visited from historical mysteries, especially those with strong female characters. My grandmother, born in 1907 during the British Raj, fought just to go to school. I love books that offer an insight into the lives and thoughts of fierce, feisty women like her, everyday women who did extraordinary things. Each of the books I’ve selected is the first in a series, and I hope they give you endless hours of reading pleasure, just as they did for me.

Harini's book list on historical crime books with spunky women protagonists

Harini Nagendra Why did Harini love this book?

While this wasn’t written as a historical, it was published in the 1960s, so it qualifies as one.

Mrs. Pollifax is another unlikely spunky heroine who’s one of my favorites. A suburban housewife and widow with grown children and an empty nest, Pollifax is so bored with gardening and yoga that she volunteers to help the CIA! What was supposed to be a short and safe trip to Mexico City turns into something far more sinister, and she ends up in an Albanian prison.

It could be a wild and unbelievable read, but in this author’s skillful hands, the plot comes together perfectly. Gillman’s sense of society and cultural context is nuanced, and I love how her books bring out her belief in the strength of innate human kindness.

By Dorothy Gilman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mrs Emily Pollifax is a 60-ish widow wanting more from life than teas and garden club meetings. In search of adventure, she decides to offer her services to the CIA - who, after all, would spot a suburban grandmother as a cold war secret agent? - and adventure she finds. Her first assignment, in Mexico City, doesn't sound dangerous until something goes wrong. She suddenly finds herself abducted across the world, embroiled in quite a hot Cold War... and her abductors find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady. Armed with only an open mind and a little karate, Mrs…


Book cover of Dirty White Boys

Jay Bonansinga Author Of Return to Woodbury

From my list on thrillers that begin with a bang.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a veteran novelist who believes this over all else: The opening is everything. This has been my modus operandi as a storyteller for over thirty books, as well as a half dozen screenplays. I love a great opening. It is how a reader or viewer will subconsciously decide whether they will devote themselves to a story. It is the first kiss. The first shot over the bow. The ignition, the countdown, and the launch. It is the alpha and omega… because the beginning dictates the ending. Oh my, how I love the beginning! 

Jay's book list on thrillers that begin with a bang

Jay Bonansinga Why did Jay love this book?

Stephen Hunter’s crime fiction masterpiece, Dirty White Boys, begins with a sentence lovingly detailing the villain’s genitals. 

I assure you this opening is in no way gratuitous or prurient; it signals that we’re in for a wild ride, informing us that only “…three men at McAlester State Penitentiary had larger penises than Lamar Pye….” 

Pye is one of the great literary villains of all time – racist, crude, violent, and cruel… and smart as a whip. And the tone here is pitch-dark hillbilly noir. If you’re brave enough to read this book it will live in your imagination for the rest of your life. 

By Stephen Hunter,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dirty White Boys as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three convicts on the run with an arsenal of weaponry and only one rogue cop can stop them. Lamar Pye has escaped from Oklahoma State Penitentiary, accompanied by his idiot cousin and a vicious, but cowardly artist. To have stayed in prison was certain death, but his chances on the outside are not much greater: his excesses know no bounds - one killing follows another. But one murder brings his nemesis upon him: Bud Pewtie of the Highway of the Highway Patrol loses his partner in a blood-soaked shoot-out with Lamar, and from that moment on, nothing will stop him…


Book cover of The Last Coyote

Aime Austin Author Of Judged

From my list on crime fiction that made me love the human race.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m agnostic to book genre. If I see it, I will try it. I read all over the place. I just finished a book on online dating and race, the buzzy fiction of the moment, and a self-help book. There are two genre’s that are my absolute favorites, though, women’s fiction, and police procedurals. I’ve read Elizabeth George, Julia Spencer Fleming, Michael Connelly, and Tana French since they started publishing. While I enjoy the whodunit nature of the books, my favorite parts are those quiet moments of pure, unfettered relations between people who care for each other in an otherwise chaotic world. It’s what I write and what I read.

Aime's book list on crime fiction that made me love the human race

Aime Austin Why did Aime love this book?

The Harry Bosch series has been long and often predictable.

Bosch has a strong belief that if everybody doesn’t count, nobody counts. He has to hold up his image of justice against an LAPD that plays politics, and a city populace easily swayed by the latest headlines.

What I love about The Last Coyote is that it’s a very personal novel where Bosch examines his relationship with his deceased mother Marjorie Phillips Lowe, a prostitute who was brutally murdered. While on psychiatric leave, Bosch takes on the case of his mother’s unsolved murder.

It’s a wonderfully nuanced exploration of the relationship between a mother and son, a cop and his own psyche, and a city and its most reviled citizens.

By Michael Connelly,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Last Coyote as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LAPD detective Harry Bosch is down on his luck - his house is condemned in the aftermath of the earthquake, his girlfriend has left him and he has been suspended for attacking his superior officer.

To occupy time, he examines the old case files covering a murder which took place on October 28, 1961. The victim was Marjorie Phillips Lowe - his mother . . .

The case forces Bosch to confront the demons of the past, and as he digs deeper into the case, he discovers a trail of cover-ups that lead to the high-ups in the Hollywood Hills…


Book cover of A Maiden's Grave

Michael Prescott Author Of Tears for the Dead

From my list on crime thrillers that offer more than just thrills.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since taking a college course in film noir, I've been in love with the cigarette-smoking, fedora-wearing, wisecracking tough guys (and gals) who inhabit the darkest corners of the modern world’s back alleys. The protagonist of Tears for the Dead, Bonnie Parker – named for the distaff half of Bonnie and Clyde – is my modest way of paying homage to this tradition, and incidentally having a lot of fun in the process.

Michael's book list on crime thrillers that offer more than just thrills

Michael Prescott Why did Michael love this book?

I might have picked A Maiden’s Grave for the title alone, though you’ll have to read it to learn the subtle double meaning packed into those three words. But of course there’s a lot more to this fast-paced story of a school for the deaf caught in the crossfire of a police standoff. Jeffery Deaver deftly intertwines full-bodied characters, crackling tension, and emotionally affecting backstories. Reading it, I realized that it could have been a pretty ordinary police procedural and that only the author’s determination to add layers of depth and detail lifted it to a new level. 

By Jeffery Deaver,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Maiden's Grave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

DEAVER. DANGEROUSLY GOOD.

When a trio of desperate convicts hijack a bus carrying a group of deaf and mute schoolgirls, everyone is braced for a terrible tragedy.

FBI agent Arthur Potter is flown in to negotiate. But he has competition: local police, state troopers, politicians and the media are swarming. Not everyone has the same agenda.

And the killers will murder one innocent child an hour, on the hour, until their demands are met...

'A real chiller, seething with violence and heart-stopping tension' Sunday Telegraph


Book cover of Earth Angels

Michael Prescott Author Of Tears for the Dead

From my list on crime thrillers that offer more than just thrills.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since taking a college course in film noir, I've been in love with the cigarette-smoking, fedora-wearing, wisecracking tough guys (and gals) who inhabit the darkest corners of the modern world’s back alleys. The protagonist of Tears for the Dead, Bonnie Parker – named for the distaff half of Bonnie and Clyde – is my modest way of paying homage to this tradition, and incidentally having a lot of fun in the process.

Michael's book list on crime thrillers that offer more than just thrills

Michael Prescott Why did Michael love this book?

Gerald Petievich must have used a crystal ball when writing Earth Angels in 1989, because only nine years later, all the basic elements of the story would hit the headlines, as rogue elements within the LAPD were exposed in a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy known as the Rampart scandal. The book’s eerie prescience is only one reason it’s a modern classic. Its depiction of police procedure is almost unmatched in accuracy and detail, and it perfectly captures the dark, gritty side of Los Angeles, far away from the bright lights of movie premieres. If I ever need to remind myself why I left L.A. after twelve years, I only need to revisit Petievich’s open-eyed exposé of official corruption, casual lawlessness, and random violence. 

By Gerald Petievich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Earth Angels as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Detective Sergeant Jose Stepanovich and his elite tactical team were the toughest cops in the Los Angeles police force, handed the toughest jobs, like going up against the city's most vicious criminal element - the street gangs of East L.A. But somewhere along the lines the cops broke a few rules, turning a job into a personal vendetta, and suddenly it wasn't only the gangs they were fighting. It was the community, the media, and their own brass, who decided they were expendable. Hard-boiled Detective Stepanovich - returning to the barrio where he grew up to battle the criminals he…


Book cover of Through the Barricades

Mahrie G. Reid Author Of The Left-Behind Bride

From my list on women who are unconventional, gutsy survivors.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the 50s I was a shy minister’s daughter in small-town Canada. Friends, life skills, coping skills, and career skills were in short supply. My refuge came in books where I found sisterhood, ordinary courage, and life skills. I learned my skills from the heroines who faced trials, solved mysteries, and never gave up. I gravitate to women who persevere, risk, and make their way in life against all odds. Several careers, a family, and decades later these story elements still inform and inspire me. They are what I read and what I write.

Mahrie's book list on women who are unconventional, gutsy survivors

Mahrie G. Reid Why did Mahrie love this book?

I have a soft spot for women during times of war or adversity. This story spans the early years of the 1900s as Maggie lives her father’s legacy to “make a difference in the world.” She never gives in, or gives up, and contributes to the safety of those around her during the end of the Great War and troubles in Ireland. Setting is a big thing for me, and in this book the location, the surroundings, and the times evoked an understanding of Ireland and the Irish. As with the fictional characters I like most, Maggie is a person I’d love to have as a friend.

By Denise Deegan, Aimee Alexander,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Through the Barricades as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BOOKLIFE ‘BOOKS TO WATCH’

Her country overtaken by a foreign power, Maggie Gilligan signs up to fight for her people's freedom. Daniel Healy, in love with Maggie, joins the enemy - to try to save her.

Falling in love is never easy. At times of war, it's lethal.

Through the Barricades is a story of friends to lovers at a time of war, of two people who are prepared to die: Maggie for her country, Daniel for Maggie. Their conflicting duties put them on opposite sides. Will they and their love survive?

This friends-to-lovers story is inspired by…


Book cover of Phoebe Fisher

Mahrie G. Reid Author Of The Left-Behind Bride

From my list on women who are unconventional, gutsy survivors.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the 50s I was a shy minister’s daughter in small-town Canada. Friends, life skills, coping skills, and career skills were in short supply. My refuge came in books where I found sisterhood, ordinary courage, and life skills. I learned my skills from the heroines who faced trials, solved mysteries, and never gave up. I gravitate to women who persevere, risk, and make their way in life against all odds. Several careers, a family, and decades later these story elements still inform and inspire me. They are what I read and what I write.

Mahrie's book list on women who are unconventional, gutsy survivors

Mahrie G. Reid Why did Mahrie love this book?

I love the heroine in this book. She’s an unconventional young woman with a seemingly insurmountable flaw, or two. Her considerable knowledge about farming and her forthright nature discourages suitors in spite of her hefty dowry. If that were not enough, her eyes are two different colors and more than one person suspects her of being fey. Phoebe acts as if she doesn’t give a toss and lives her life on her own terms. When presented with an unusual solution, she acts and does not look back. I loved Phoebe, her feisty nature, and was reminded by her that there are solutions to the dilemmas in life if one holds a forward-looking attitude. This is a shorter read that left me wanting more. 

By Victoria Chatham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Phoebe Fisher as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Her fortune attracts many suitors, but when they discover Phoebe Fisher’s one notable and outstanding flaw, they depart as quickly as they arrive. Phoebe despairs ever finding someone who will love her just as she is.

Returning to his family home after an absence of ten years, Andrew Fitzgibbon is devastated to find his only relative deceased, the house derelict and the estate almost bankrupt. Without the funds to support it, the title he inherits is worthless. He needs a fortune. Phoebe has one. Reluctant to offer marriage to a young lady simply for her wealth, Andrew finds her intriguing…


Book cover of The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter

Mahrie G. Reid Author Of The Left-Behind Bride

From my list on women who are unconventional, gutsy survivors.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the 50s I was a shy minister’s daughter in small-town Canada. Friends, life skills, coping skills, and career skills were in short supply. My refuge came in books where I found sisterhood, ordinary courage, and life skills. I learned my skills from the heroines who faced trials, solved mysteries, and never gave up. I gravitate to women who persevere, risk, and make their way in life against all odds. Several careers, a family, and decades later these story elements still inform and inspire me. They are what I read and what I write.

Mahrie's book list on women who are unconventional, gutsy survivors

Mahrie G. Reid Why did Mahrie love this book?

I enjoyed this book. As a writer, I can’t often say that flat out. I get distracted by “writerly” issues. The “what if” premise in this story hooked me and the journey into a fictional word as an extension of other fictional worlds delighted me. Mary Jekyll’s story, her quest to find out who she is and to make her way in a difficult situation, matches my reading tastes. Whatever the flaws in construction, craft, or typos, I read this one immersed in concept and characters. I read to be distracted from a world gone crazy, and I found this a refreshing and entertaining read. Ideal for those who like a gander at the possible extended worlds of fictional characters like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde among others.

By Theodora Goss,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on some of literature's horror and science fiction classics, this "tour de force of reclaiming the narrative, executed with impressive wit and insight" (Publishers Weekly, starred review) debut is the story of a remarkable group of women who come together to solve the mystery of a series of gruesome murders-and the bigger mystery of their own origins.

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents' death, is curious about the secrets of her father's mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father's former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward…


Book cover of Thinking in Indian: A John Mohawk Reader

Eric Cheyfitz Author Of The Colonial Construction of Indian Country: Native American Literatures & Federal Indian Law

From my list on Native American resistance to U.S colonialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Eric Cheyfitz, the Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University, where I am on the faculty of The American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program and its former director. Because of my expertise in federal Indian law, I have been a consultant in certain legal matters involving Native issues. Some of the many books I teach and have written about are on my Shepherd list. My work is sustaining: writing and teaching about Native life and literature is a way of joining a crucial conversation about the survival of the planet through living a socially, politically, and economically balanced life.

Eric's book list on Native American resistance to U.S colonialism

Eric Cheyfitz Why did Eric love this book?

This book of essays by the Seneca scholar and activist, John Mohawk, is vital because its title pinpoints what the center of my life and work is: focusing on Indigenous ways of thinking about the world as a vital and necessary alternative way of understanding the world to Western thought, which has brought us to the brink of climate collapse and has failed to solve, indeed has only increased, social and economic inequality.

I value the book, then, because it reminds me of the way to achieve real democracy.

By Jose Barreiro (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thinking in Indian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

These essays, produced and published over thirty years, are prescient in the prophetic tradition yet current. They reflect consistent engagement in Native issues and deliver a profoundly indigenous analysis of modern existence. Sovereignty, cultural roots and world view, land and treaty rights, globalization, spiritual formulations and fundamental human wisdom coalesce to provide a genuinely indigenous perspective on current events.


Book cover of Shadow Woman

Steve Liskow Author Of Oh Lord, Won't You Steal Me a Mercedes Benz

From my list on mysteries featuring feisty females.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a family of strong women, and have always been drawn to women with brains and a sense of humor. When I worked in theater as an actor, director, and designer, my favorite stage manager and designers were women because they looked at the production challenges from a different angle than mine, so we both learned something while coming up with the best possible ideas and solutions. I can’t stand fluffy “victim” females. The women in my stories are always looking for a better way and a better world. Both my detective series feature several strong, resourceful women that complement the male detective, adding humor and insight, and—I hope—more humanity.

Steve's book list on mysteries featuring feisty females

Steve Liskow Why did Steve love this book?

American Indian Jane Whitefield rescues people the police can’t protect and helps them find new identities and new homes. But now her job is complicated because Pete Hatcher, a Vegas gambling executive, is the target of Earl and Linda, a lethal tag team who will become very rich if Hatcher dies. The job is even more complicated because Jane has recently married Corey, a successful local surgeon, so it’s harder to maintain a low profile in the town. When Earl and Linda hone in on Corey, Jane realizes she has to protect her own family as well as her client, and her foes know every trick that she knows, too.

By Thomas Perry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shadow Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In her latest adventure, Jane Whitefield, who helps people in trouble disappear from one life and establish a new identity, is hired by a Las Vegas gambling casino executive running from contract killers. But the killers are on the trail of the shadow woman and soon Jane becomes the principle target of their rage and revenge.


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