I know I said it last year about 2011, but 2012 proved to be one of the best years in crime fiction. I thought doing lists of my top ten debuts and Texas authors would help pare down my list, but I still had about sixteen books to whittle down, looking for a way to cheat. I was only able to that once, making this my top eleven books instead of ten. Here are the titles I don’t think you should pass up.
1. The Kings Of Cool by Don Winslow
In this prequel to his acclaimed Savages, Winslow not only goes back to the early days of his protagonist, but also goes further back with the storyline of his characters’ parents. A powerful crime novel that is both epic and tight, looking at fifty years of Southern California culture, two generations, and friendship versus blood, The Kings of Cool is a must-read.
2. Gun Church by Reed Farrel Coleman
Coleman explores several themes in this noir thriller centered around a has-been writer’s involvement with a group that worships handguns. Reed’s ability to get under the skin of his protagonist adds to the harrowing suspense as the character takes his downward spiral.
3. Dare Me by Megan Abbott
The more I think about this book, the more I love it. Abbot takes the noir genre, usually associated with loners and losers, and drops it in the middle of a high school cheer leading squad. A great dark take on American ambition and the need for acceptance.
4. The Prophet by Michael Koryta
A moving thriller about two brothers in a rust belt town, estranged after their sister was murdered, who are brought together twenty years later when a new killing occurs. A brilliant story involving meditation and family, redemption, and the ripples caused by a violent act.
5. When It All Comes Down To Dust by Barry Graham
A dark and moving tale, with one hell of an interesting and chilling reveal, about the violent trajectory of a pedophile and his now adult victim that occurs after he’s been released from prison. Graham lets his characters breath and live, giving them and their emotions a vital complexity. Just try to shake this one after you’ve read it.
6. As The Crow Flies by Craig Johnson
Sheriff Walt Longmire has to juggle a murder investigation and his daughter’s wedding that both take place on the Cheyenne reservation. This book has the humor and humanity we’ve come to expect from Johnson as well as a portrayal of reservation life, with echoes of Tony Hillerman.
7. Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham
Bristish psychologist Joe O’ Loughlin looks into a two year disappearance in a small town with a lot of secrets. O’Loughlin is one of the most engaging heroes out there. After reading this, I picked up all of Robotham’s work I could find and recommend all of it.
8. Lake Country by Sean Doolittle
A wild romp that starts with two ex-marines and a kidnapping for revenge scheme that runs into a crooked bounty hunter, two glory hungry journalists, and several Midwestern ne’er do wells.
9. Lullaby by Ace Atkins
Atkins gets the voice of Robert B. Parker’s Spencer down without being a mimic. By using the well established characters of Spenser, Hawk, Susan, and many of Spenser’s past adversaries, Ace takes a subtle look at heroes and villains in changing times.
Two male crime writers who each pulled off unique, strong heroines with depth. Stroby continues his series with heist woman Crissa Stone after the unrecovered money from the notorious Luftansa heist, delivering hard action and great wiseguy dialogue. White introduces Hanna Smith, a fishing guide and part time PI, who delivers my favorite line of the year- “Forgiveness is for women who don’t have the balls for revenge.”