Another year of In Search Of The Classic Mystery Novel – not quite 100 books this year, unless you count the three Sherlock Holmes audiobooks. Actually, what the hell, given that last year’s book of the year was an audiobook – The Axeman Cometh by Nev Fountain – let’s count them this year as well. So 100 reviews. Hurrah!
So, without further ado, let’s have a look at the highlights (and the occasional lowlight of the year).
Most Reviewed Author
A dead heat here. Strong showings from Kate Ellis (4 books), and Dame Agatha (6 books) but with 8 books each, the most reviewed authors are John Dickson Carr (or Carter Dickson), Paul Doherty (or C L Grace) and Michael Jecks (no pseudonyms that I’m aware of). Of course there are many other authors that I could have read more of if they had such extensive back catalogues.
Best Genre-busting Mystery
I read a couple of oddities this year, such as Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch and London Falling by Paul Cornell, but I the best is easily World Of Trouble by Ben H Winters, the conclusion of The Last Policeman trilogy, which I can’t recommend strongly enough.
Bello books, an e-book only publisher, have produced a strong line of re-released mystery fiction. They were nice enough to ask me to review the first of Joan Hess’s Claire Molloy series. Cozy but fun, and I loved the second book, The Murder At The Murder At The Mimosa Inn to bits.
Best TV Show
Some disappointments – Death In Paradise was as entertaining as ever, with Kris Marshall fitting seamlessly into the case, but some of the cases were crushingly obvious from the beginning. Jonathan Creek was the worst offender, seemingly a different show altogether than what had gone before and not a change for the better. I’ll probably say Elementary as a mystery show was the most entertaining and pleasantly surprising (although I preferred season one to season two). If you spread the definition of “crime” show a little wider though, then both Arrow and Agents of SHIELD were better, with the the second just edging out the first.
Best New Release
Sorrow Bound by David Mark runs this one a close second, but White Crocodile by K T Medina, her debut novel, takes the crown here. Definitely one to seek out, an atmospheric thriller, and thanks to Sophie from Faber & Faber for asking me to review this one.
Biggest Disappointment of the Year
Not the actual content of The Monogram Murders (although that comes close) but the number of positive reviews praising the return of Poirot while simultaneously demonstrating that they had never read an actual Agatha Christie book before.
The “Still As Rubbish As I Remember” Award
Nastiest Discovery of the Year
How the plot of The Mirror Crack’d From Side To Side was lifted from the tragic life of Gene Tierney, an actress still publicly struggling with those events when the book was published.
Best Joke About Excrement
An odd category, but there are chapters in Mr Monk On Patrol by Lee Goldberg that are basically one long poo joke. And it’s a damn funny poo joke.
Books Of The Year
No Grand Puzzly this year as there were so many near-dead heats that were decided on various criteria and some of those runners-up have stuck with me more than others. So in no particular order, my favourite reads this year were:
One of the finest detective stories ever written. Nothing else needs to be said.
The triumphant finale to the apocalyptic Last Policeman trilogy – a must read.
The missing body bit is rubbish but the whodunit element here is absolutely first rate. Maybe not the best Carr/Dickson book that I read this year, but the most satisfying and surprising.
That’s the way to do it! A serial killer with a penchant for Mr Punch matches wits with the Peculiar Crimes Unit.
Dark and grim, but well worth your time. Even if you don’t do dark and grim, it’s well worth a look.
The third book in the Kate Shackleton series and the best so far. A complex character-filled between-the-wars mystery. Well worth a look.
Truth and fiction blur as murder strikes at a murder mystery party. Luckily sarcastic sleuth Claire Molloy is in attendance. A real cozy treat.
Tess Hardy ventures into the minefields of Cambodia, responding to a cry for help from beyond the grave from her murdered husband, only to find a conspiracy that goes far beyond what anyone expected.
Past and present collide again as a respectable doctor is shot dead on his doorstep and someone seems to have been doing some do-it-yourself autopsies. Another strong entry into the Wesley Peterson series, a series that everyone should try.
Tom Thorne is back, but so is his nemesis Stuart Nicklin. Nicklin is clearly playing a game, but withou knowing the rules, can Thorne hope to match him? Much more thriller than mystery but well worth your time.
A startling opening sequence leads into a clever mystery involving a murder/suicide of the chairman of a trust. One of the strongest entries in the Harry Devlin series.
Or indeed any of the eight Baldwin and Puttock books that I read this year. Outstandingly well-crafted mystery novels – you can taste the history being brought to life by the vibrant characters.
A dark supernatural thriller that grips you from page one and never lets go. Not really a mystery, but a damn fine read.
Brother Athelstan investigates another complex mystery in a London on the verge of an uprising. Clever, vivid and absorbing. You could easily replace this one with The Book Of Fires or A Feast Of Poisons in this list.
A rare excursion into noir territory for me, thanks to a recommendation from Sergio, and a great read with a devastating final twist.
But the title of Book Of The Year goes to… Like This, For Ever by Sharon Bolton
After the stunning Now You See Me, the first Lacey Flint novel, the second, Dead Scared, was less satisfying for me (partly due to the iffy depiction of Oxbridge life). This was a stunning return to form, with misdirections-a-plenty, an outstanding piece of fiction. And it seems that my readers agree as this is by far the most popular individual review in recent months, still averaging roughly ten visits per day. Read the series in order, but this is the best so far and I’m really looking forward to the next one.
So, that’s four years down – what’s coming next year? More of the same, really, with more from my favourite authors and hopefully a little more new crime fiction. But we’ll see how my mood takes me – never been very good at advance planning…
So thanks for all the comments and likes throughout the year. Hope that I’ve managed to steer you to at least one great read and hope that you keep coming back here. Happy New Year, one and all!