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Dazzling Debuts: Home

Authors' first books that I enjoyed and would recommend to other readers

Recommended Debut Titles

Sometimes you'll find a book that you absolutely love, and then realize it's the first book the author has written.  These books leave you marveling at the author's talent and excited about additional, upcoming titles from the author in the future, or books that the author may have written in the meantime that you just haven't gotten the chance to read yet.  Here are some debut titles I thoroughly enjoyed and want to pass along to you.  Some of the debut titles on this LibGuide are repeats of books I've recommended in other guides (which just reinforces that they're awesome), but there are some new ones thrown in.  

My name is Darla Rance, and I'm the Assistant City Librarian of Public Services. I also am currently doing the purchasing of audiobooks for the Helen Hall Library, so please contact me at 281-554-1102 if you have an audiobook to recommend for purchase, or you can create a purchase request through our online catalog. I would also be glad to help you find books of any genre, or to give you a place to start in your book search, depending on your interests.  I hope you love the following titles as much as I do!

Debut Title Standouts

The Divorce Papers, by Susan Rieger

"A brutally comic chronicle of high-end divorce told through letters, emails and a huge pile of legal memorandums. This is the first novel from Columbia Law School graduate Rieger.

Extremely clever, especially the legal infighting; this book should prove hugely popular with the legal set as well as anyone who has ever witnessed a divorce in process.

This book received a starred recommendation on Kirkus Reviews.

*Author Susan Reiger followed up this debut novel with The Heirs, another starred title, in 2017.



The Dry, by Jane Harper

"A mystery that starts with a sad homecoming quickly turns into a nail-biting thriller about family, friends, and forensic accounting.

Federal agent Aaron Falk is called back to his rural Australian hometown for the funeral of his best friend, Luke, who apparently committed suicide after killing his wife and 6-year-old son; he’s also called to reckon with his own past. 

A chilling story set under a blistering sun, this fine debut will keep readers on edge and awake long past bedtime."

*This title, the first of a series which has 2 titles now, received a starred recommendation on Kirkus Reviews. I also highly recommend a third standalone book by Jane Harper, The Lost Man, which is also a starred title.  In other words, read Jane Harper's books (all in our library)!


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman

"At 29, Eleanor Oliphant has built an utterly solitary life that almost works. During the week, she toils in an office—don’t inquire further; in almost eight years no one has—and from Friday to Monday she makes the time go by with pizza and booze. Enlivening this spare existence is a constant inner monologue that is cranky, hilarious, deadpan, and irresistible. Eleanor Oliphant has something to say about everything. 

Honeyman’s endearing debut is part comic novel, part emotional thriller, and part love story."

*Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon.



My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent

"A 14-year-old girl struggles to escape her father’s emotional and physical abuse in this harrowing debut.

A powerful, well-turned story about abuse, its consequences, and what it takes to survive it."




*This debut title received a starred recommendation on Kirkus Reviews and was named one of the best books of 2017.


Nine Days, by Minerva Koenig

 "She's short, round, and pushing forty, but Julia Kalas is a damned good criminal. For 17 years she renovated historic California buildings as a laundry front for her husband's illegal arms business. Then the Aryan Brotherhood made her a widow, and witness protection shipped her off to the tiny town of Azula, Texas. Also known as the Middle of Nowhere.

Nine Days, Koenig's debut, is atmospheric, gutsy and fun, and Julia Kalas is an intriguing new heroine in crime fiction."

*This debut title is number 1 in a series of 2 books so far.  Both can be found at Helen Hall Library.


Recipes for Love and Murder, by Sally Andrew

"A South African woman cooks out of love while hoping for the real thing.

A delightful debut, tender and funny. The mystery takes on the worldwide problem of abused women while revealing both the beauties and problems of South Africa. And the recipes will make you want to drop everything and start cooking."

*This debut title received a starred recommendation on Kirkus Reviews and was named one of the Best Books of 2015. It is part of a series, all books of which are available at Helen Hall Library.


Resurrection Bay, by Emma Viskic

"Caleb Zelic, profoundly deaf since early childhood, has always lived on the outside - watching, picking up telltale signs people hide in a smile, a cough, a kiss. When a childhood friend is murdered, a sense of guilt and a determination to prove his own innocence sends Caleb on a hunt for the killer."




*This thriller, the first of a series featuring Caleb Zelic, won the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction and the Davitt Award for Best Adult Novel in 2016.


The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley

"In O'Malley's fantasy debut, Myfanwy Thomas awakens in a London park, chilled, wet, suffering amnesia and surrounded by dead people wearing latex gloves. In her pocket are letters from her past self, a self who understood she was in peril of memory loss and possible assassination. The letters are plans for her body's future. With that, Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) discovers she is a Rook in employ of the Checquy, an organization in service of Britain since ancient times."


*This fantasy debut title is part of a series.  Helen Hall Library has both titles for checkout.


Something in the Water, by Catherine Steadman

"While scuba diving in Bora Bora, honeymooners Erin and Mark find something in the water that will test their marriage and imperil their very lives.

Simply begging to be filmed, British actress Steadman’s debut novel has already been optioned by Fox 2000 Pictures. With unreliable characters, wry voices, exquisite pacing, and a twisting plot, Steadman potently draws upon her acting chops.

A darkly glittering gem of a thriller from a new writer to watch."

*This debut title received a starred recommendation on Kirkus Reviews.


Time's Up, by Janey Mack

“Mack’s outstanding debut conjures up equal parts Janet Evanovich (zany characters) and Michael Harvey (the Chicago political machine)… Riotous characters, including the members of the large McGrane clan, enhance a fast and furious plot that expertly balances menace and laugh-out-loud hijinks.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review




*This debut title is part of an excellent series, available at Helen Hall Library.



To the Lions, by Holly Watt

Casey Benedict, star reporter at the Post, has infiltrated the lives and exposed the lies of countless politicians and power players. Using her network of contacts, and her ability to slip into whatever identity suits the situation, Casey is always on the search for the next big story, no matter how much danger this might place her in, or what the cost might be, emotionally.

Casey overhears a conversation and becomes involved in a dangerous scandal involving the world's most powerful leaders and magnates--men who are gathering in northern Africa for an extreme and secret hunt."

*This title is on order and will be available in print form and on Overdrive.


The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, by Anton DiSclafani

"DiSclafani’s debut chronicles a teenager’s life-changing year at an elite boarding school in the North Carolina mountains.

DiSclafani writes with equal intelligence and precision about female desire and a rider’s kinship with her horse; her perfectly judged denouement allows Thea to simultaneously sacrifice herself for a friend and defiantly affirm that she will only be “a right girl” on her own terms.

An unusually accomplished and nuanced coming-of-age drama."

*This debut title received a starred recommendation on Kirkus Reviews.

Additional Debut Recommendations


The Chalk Man

by C.J. Tudor




by Ingrid Thoft

(first in a series)


Under the Harrow

by Flynn Berry


Burial Rites


by Hannah Kent


The Wolf Road

by Beth Lewis



by Mishell Baker

(first in a series)


The Dangerous Edge of Things

by Tina Whittle

(first in a series)


A Window Opens

by Elisabeth Egan



Assistant City Librarian for Public Services