Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Best reads of 2007

Top mystery reads:

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny. This is the second in a series that captured me from the first moment. Penny does everything right: character, plotting and setting. I love Three Pines, the small fictional Canadian town that is oh-so-idyllic (except for an abundance of murders). Det. Armand Gamache has been described as a cross between Colombo and Poirot, a quirky character in his own right. This novel is set between Christmas and New Year's -- and that's when I read it. A perfect book with which to end the year.

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves. On the list of my favorite authors, Cleeves writes wonderfully about another closed community -- the Shetland islands (where Scotland meets Scandinavia). This is the first in a quartet that features Insp. Jimmy Perez, an unlikely detective hero.

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill. When Hill was compared to P.D. James, I knew I had to read her books. Again, this is the first in a series -- the fourth book will be released next year. Hill slowly unravels a novel, giving us rich portraits of each characters, including the victims. And with one of the most shocking endings I've ever read.

Naked to the Hangman by Andrew Taylor. Eighth in another series that is a favorite. In this one, Det. Richard Thornhill becomes the suspect, and it is up to his wife, Edith, and his former lover, journalist Jill Francis, to find the truth. Taylor never takes you where you are expecting to go. In my eyes, one of the finest British writers around.

The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Beynon Rees. First in a series, Rees has an unlikely detective: Omar Yussef, an elderly history teacher. This is set in the Mideast, the villians are a martyrs brigade, and the police chief is hesitant to take action. It is a mystery like none other that I've read, and it has stayed with me long after I put it down.

The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters. Set in another war-torn area, Sierra Leone, the story moves to an English countryside -- where the real tension begins. Walters is known for delving into psychological terror, and she doesn't disappoint here.

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason. A sort of cold case book that jumps back and forth between 1940s and present-day in Reykjavik. Wonderfully done, I enjoyed this much more than his first book, Jar City.

Recalled to Life by Reginald Hill. Part of the Dalziel and Pascoe series, and another sort of "cold case" (the detectives go back to a 1963 case as they try to clear a colleague's name). Great for the working relationship between the two detectives, the humor and a Golden Age mystery as well.

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman. Again, a cold case mystery, based on a true story of two sisters who disappeared in Baltimore. Here, Lippman takes the premise and asks: what if a woman suddenly appeared 30 years later, claiming to be one of the missing girls?

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. More gothic than mystery. I recommend this in audio, as the narrators' voices are wonderful. If you like your secrets unraveled slowly, and you're a fan of Bronte, this is a must-read.

All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Fifth in the series about Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne and the Rev. Clare Fergusson, and the most powerful so far in the series. I was so hooked on this series, I read all five in a matter of months.

Tops in other fiction:
Saturday by Ian McEwan
In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Looking forward to in 2008 (novels and release dates):

January: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. First in a trilogy. Have heard many, many good things, including at this blog.
February: A Grave in Gaza by Matt Beynon Rees (second in his series)
March: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (third in her series, and she's already set up one cliffhanger in the second book)
April: White Nights by Ann Cleeves (second in the Shetland series)
May: Bleeding Heart Square (presumably a standalone) by Andrew Taylor
June: The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill (fourth in her series)

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