This has been one of the best years ever in crime fiction. Doing a top ten list at the end of the year was impossible. To get around this, I decided to do a couple categories before getting around to the top ten to include as much as I could. We start with novels in my adopted home state of Texas. This year proved that we still hold a great tradition of contributing a unique touch to the genre, covering the state’s past, present, and future.
1. The Edge Of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
This is one of the books Lansdale was born to write. A Depression era teen, her two friends, and laudanum-addicted mother take a raft trip down the Sabine with a dead friend’s ashes and some stolen money that put some shady men on their trail. This book has everything we love about Lansdale, his dark, offbeat humor, wonderful dialogue, a meeting of the realistic and the surreal, and that unique style that is all his own.
2. The Devil’s Odds by Milton T. Burton
Published posthumously, this tale of cowboys and gangsters set during World War II pits an affable Texas Ranger against the New Orleans Mafia and the infamous Maceo Brothers of Galveston when he helps a not-so-innocent damsel in distress. A fun, rollicking, two-fisted look at an interesting time in and place in our history
3. Burrows by Reavis Wortham
This follow up to Wortham’s The Rock Hole brings back his cast of North Texas characters for one of the most cringe-worthy books of the year. The three generations of lawmen are on the the trail of some thrill killers. When they reach the suspects’ home and learn they’re hoarders, constable Cody Parker has to use his skills and face the trauma from being a tunnel rat in Vietnam to crawl through the booby trapped residence. It’s a mix of thriller and regional novel with a western showdown for a climax. It also serves as a look at the Sixties in small town America.
4. Death Makes The Cut by Janice Hamrick
Austin high school teacher Jocelyn Shore starts the semester with murder when the tennis coach is found dead. Hamrick uses school politics and teacher cliques that rival the students’ to create a very human and suspenseful traditional mystery.
5. Resurrection Express by Stephen Romano
Romano takes the nihilistic tone of noir and heads light speed toward the apocalyptic in this near future story of a high tech heistman and his strong arm father who go up against his nemesis to get his presumed dead wife back. Picture a Richard Stark Parker novel with a sci-fi touch and epic tone.