Thursday, December 31, 2009

Five Best Mysteries I Read This Year

Between my work for The Mystery Bookstore and a couple of other clients, mysteries make up the bulk of my reading for work as well as pleasure. These are the five best I read this year, alphabetical by author. Leave your own recommendations in the comments section!

1. Megan Abbott, BURY ME DEEP. A moody, almost hallucinatory novel about Marion Seeley, a young woman left on her own in 1920s Arizona, where she works for a residential clinic and falls into some dangerous company. Inevitably, she falls in love with the wrong man, and her world spirals into doom; as in all great noir novels, breaking the rules leads to chaos, and everyone suffers the consequences.

2. Alan Bradley, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE. A note-perfect first novel that introduces 11-year-old Flavia de Luce, who encounters a dead body and is prepared to do almost anything to prove that her father wasn't responsible. Set in the early 1950s, the book is rooted in an even earlier time, reminiscent of the drawing-room mysteries of the 1920s and '30s. Old-fashioned in the best sense of the word.

3. Stuart Neville, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST. Not only the best debut novel I read this year, but the best crime novel I read this year. Published in the UK as TWELVE, this is the story of former IRA assassin Gerry Fegan, whose desperate quest for redemption means that more people have to die.

4. Carol O'Connell, BONE BY BONE. I love a good gothic novel, and this one is terrific. This standalone by the author of the Kathy Mallory series is the story of Oren Hobbs, a veteran Army investigator who returns to his small northern California hometown to confront an unsolved mystery: the disappearance of his 15-year-old brother, 20 years earlier.

5. Spencer Quinn, DOG ON IT. Yes, it's a private detective novel narrated by a dog. Chet is a large, mixed-breed dog who flunked out of police dog training for reasons he can't quite remember. Now he works with Bernie Little, a down-on-his-luck private investigator in a southwestern city that's probably Phoenix (dog geography is vague and scent-oriented). Chet and Bernie investigate the disappearance of a teenaged girl who may be a pawn in a custody battle, or something even more sinister. I learned things about Dizzy from this book.

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