Adios 2011! Here's the words we loved the most this year.
Otto’s Top 10:
Crais, Robert, The Sentry. Is there a better, more consistently outstanding mystery writer than Crais? Whether writing about Elvis Cole, a stand-alone or Joe Pike, Crais polishes every book into a flawless gem. This is Pike at his scariest.
Connelly, Michael, The Drop. What more can be said about Connelly and Harry Bosch? The worst book in the series is still a masterpiece. Readers only have to worry, as Bosch does here, that he’ll be forced to retire someday.
Woodrell, Daniel, The Outlaw Album. Country noir (a term Woodrell invented a decade ago) at its finest. The characters live hard lives in ramshackle homes, with little law enforcement, so the locals take care of themselves, and their problems, on their own.
Morrow, Bradford, The Diviner’s Tale. This unique work has all the accoutrements of the literary novel but it also spans two forms of genre fiction: the mystery and the supernatural tale.
Manfredo, Lou, Rizzo’s Fire. I am convinced that Manfredo’s realistic police stories about Joe Rizzo will soon be mentioned in the same breath as the great 87th Precinct novels by Ed McBain.
Cook, Thomas H., The Quest for Anna Klein. Without changing his sublime style, Cook has written a book with a plot that is different from his other books—a masterpiece of espionage fiction.
Horowitz, Anthony, The House of Silk. As an ardent aficionado of Sherlock Holmes who has read hundreds of pastiches, I will aver that this is the best of them all. Great suspense, impeccable use of language, and the characters are right.
Hunter, Stephen, Soft Target. On “Black Friday” a group of terrorists shoot Santa Claus and take more than a thousand hostages in Minnesota’s Mall of America. One hero stands between the killers and a bloodbath.
Block, Lawrence, A Drop of the Hard Stuff. Well, I said I love the Scudder series. This, the first novel about him in many years, is one of the best, taking him back to when he was first forced out of the NYPD and trying to get sober.
Dan, Ian and Sally's favorites After the Jump!
Dan’s Favorite Paperbacks of 2011:
Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks edited by John Curran
Volt: Stories by Alan Heathcock
Charlie Chan by Yunte Huang
The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
The Big Book of Adventure Stories ed. by Otto Penzler
Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop ed by Otto Penzler
The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
The Informationist by Taylor Stevens
Alexi Zentner, Touch
Manuel Munoz, What You See in the Dark
Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All the Time
Sara Gran, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead
John Hart, Iron House
Alan Heathcock, Volt
Alex Shakar, Luminarium
Hannah Pittard, The Fates Will Find Their Way
Keigo Higashino, The Devotion of Suspect X
John Connolly, The Burning Soul
Richard Kadrey, The Sandman Slim Series (Sandman Slim, Kill the Dead, and Aloha from Hell)
Haruki Murakami, 1Q84
Daniel Woodrell, The Bayou Trilogy
S.J. Bolton, Blood Harvest
This is the easy month:
Brockmeier, Kevin, The Illumination. This book was overlooked I think. It is beautifully written and follows the fate of a diary as it moves through the hands of people who live in a world where pain manifests itself as a light that can be seen by others.
Boyle, T.C., When the Killing's Done. Told from the perspective of a National Park Ranger and a group trying to preserve the habitats of the wildlife in that National Park. You'd think their goals were the same, but noooooo. Done so well.
King, Stephen, 11/22/63. I've only just read this and I had to throw another author off to fit him in (don't ask). I was reluctant to read this, much as I like King, but he has done an extraordinary job with the subject and deserves all the kudos he's been receiving for this masterly tale.
Munoz, Manuel, What You See in the Dark. Another overlooked book I believe. It is Bakersfield in the late 1950s and there has been a murder. But that is overshadowed somewhat by the arrival of The Director and The Actress. It doesn't take long before you know who they are.
Palma, Felix J., The Map of Time. I didn't think I would like this - but it was utterly charming. The Time Machine has just been written by H.G. Wells and time travel is on everybody's mind - even Herbert George, who wonders if traveling back in time will capture the imagination as traveling forward has. Steampunk!
Adler-Olsen , Jussi, Keeper of Lost Causes. My pick for the best book to come out of Scandinavia in 2011. A disillusioned cop who has lost his partner in a shoot-out is confined to the basement where he works on cold cases with the help of this Muslim guy who also happens to work in that basement. I hope this is the start of a series with these two unlikely partners.
LaPlante, Alice, Turn of Mind. Possible my favorite book of the year, this debut is about a murder. The victim is the best friend of a prominent female surgeon who is also a suspect. Only trouble is, she has early onset Alzheimers which gets progressively worse as the story continues. A frightening subject made fascinating by this author. It is also a great mystery with a terrific ending.
Mullen, Thomas, The Revisionists. OK, time travel got me this year. This tells the story of a visitor from The Perfect Present (in the future) who must return to our time to make sure that the Great Conflagration takes place and does not interfere with the time he inhabits. His life tangles with a lawyer and an ex-CIA agent. Thought provoking and very well told.
Whitehead, Colson, Zone One. Also set in the future where the population is gradually turning into Zombies. Mark Spitz is one of a group who must round up the stragglers in lower Manhattan. But this is by Whitehead, so the story is about so much more than zombies menacing the world.
There are never enough women on my lists. How about these non-mysteries:
Hoffman, Alice, The Red Garden. I'll read anything by this author, anything. She never disappoints.
Patchett, Ann, State of Wonder. I'll read anything by this author, anything. She never disappoints.
McHugh, Maureen F., After the Apocalypse. The best collection of short stories of the year for me. Can't wait to read her other work.