2012 is proving to be one of the best years in crime fiction. There are already five books that would have been at the top of my list any other year. Stunning debuts introducing new voices and the proven pros pushing their talent have made the last seven months exciting and engaging, With books by Dennis Lehane and Reed Farrel Coleman coming in the next few months, it seemed like a good time to give some of the best out now a shout out.
1. The Kings Of Cool by Don Winslow
Winslow takes the idea for a prequel to Savages and creates an epic crime novel that looks at forty years of Southern California culture, the morality shift in the baby-boomers, and the jaded offspring they produced. Signed copies available.
2. Dare Me by Megan Abbott
This book goes into the locker rooms of a high school cheer leading squad, creating a fresh take on noir as it deals with American competition and conformity. It’s my MysteryPeople Pick of the month for August. We had a great time hanging out with Megan when she was here with Sean Doolittle earlier this month. Signed copies are available.
3. Last Call For The Living by Peter Farris
A great rural hard boiled novel about an Aryan Brotherhood bank robber and the teller he takes hostage. Fully of earthy characters, hard core redemption, and bad-ass shoot outs (one in a church of snake handlers).
4. The Prophet by Michael Koryta
A new murder in a Rustbelt town brings together two brothers estranged from their sister’s killing twenty years ago. Emotionally charged with great believable twists, this novel looks at family, justice, and redemption. Michael Koryta will be reading at our Noir At The Bar at Opal Divine’s August 16th.
5. Edge of Dark Water by Joe R Lansdale
This is one of the books Joe was born to write. It follows a group of depression era teens traveling down the Sabine River with their murdered friend’s ashes and money from a bank robbery that puts some bad men on their heels. Funny, gothic, and full of Lansdale’s great dialogue, this book demonstrates Lansdale’s original voice. Signed copies are available.
6. When It All Comes Down To Dust by Barry Graham
Graham follows the trajectory of a criminal released from prison and his victim.An unflinching, unsentimental, yet highly emotional meditation on justice and mercy. Just try to shake this one.
7. Lullaby by Ace Atkins
Atkins takes on Robert B. Parker’s Spenser character with confidence and ease. He captures the white knight detective’s voice without coming off as a mimic and uses the established characters to view heroes and villains in changing times. Signed copies available.
8. Lake Country by Sean Doolittle
A great cast of colorful characters collide, with many getting killed, when a kidnapping for revenge scheme gets way out of hand. While it serves as a satire on media, ideas of heroism, and today’s America, Lake Country never loses it’s intimacy or edge. Signed copies available.
9. Kings of Midnight by Wallace Stroby
The second book featuring heist woman Crissa Stone has her out for the remaining loot stolen from the infamous Lufthansa robbery. The action and plot in this one rival Richard Stark, and the wiseguy dialogue conjures up memories of George V Higgins.
10. As The Crow Flies by Craig Johnson
Our put upon Wyoming sheriff, Walt Longmire, has to contend with his daughter’s wedding and a murder both on the Cheyenne reservation where he has no jurisdiction. Johnson’s western wit, regional flavor, touches of tough guy action, and true emotion have made his series literary comfort food that sticks with you. Signed copies available.
Since R.J. Ellory’s A Quiet Vendetta, a moving mix of thriller and sweeping historical fiction concerning the mafia, was published a few years ago with it’s US release being this year, I felt it technically couldn’t make the cut, but deserves mentioning. Books that I went back and forth on including that almost made it where Jonathan Woods’ A Death In Mexico (with his wonderfully hero Inspector Diaz), Jeff Abbott’s kick ass thriller, The Last Minute, Janice Hamrick’s fun light mystery Death Makes The Cut, and Ace Atkins’ second Quinn Colson novel The Lost Ones. Also in all fairness, I haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Alex Grecian’s The Yard, and Lindsay Faye’s The Gods Of Gotham, books that have earned a lot of raves.