Scott Butki’s Top 5 Mysteries Of 2013

1. The Last Word by Lisa Lutz
I have been bragging about and promoting Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Family series for each of her books  and have interviewed her for each one, as well. The last interview, done when she came to BookPeople in 2013, is available over on blogcritics.org. Her books are as funny as Carl Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey, which almost made this list, and the late Donald Westlake’s. If you need a laugh – and who doesn’t – this will help get you one.

2. A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson
Craig Johnson’s Longmire series continues to impress and amaze; so it should be no surprise that the television series, Longmire, is also quite good. Johnson is also a hit with BookPeople readers (although the beer that accompanies his annual visits to BookPeople may help). I was at BookPeople the last time he came to town, and I wrote about it over on blogcritics.org.

3. The Broken Places by Ace Atkins
Ace Atkins continues his Quinn Colson series with The Broken Places. He’s also been charged with continuing the Spenser series inherited from the Robert Parker estate following his passing. He manages to impress by continuing to write two deep characters in very interesting stories. The Broken Places finds Quinn Colson, who served as an Army Ranger for 10 years before returning to his home in Mississippi, now in the position of county sheriff. I had the chance to interview Ace Atkins about both.

4. Shadow of the Alchemist by Jeri Westerson
Jeri Westerson’s Crispin Guest series may seem completely different than most mystery series these days. It is, after all, set during the Middle Ages. But, on many levels, they are not so unusual to the average mystery reader. While existing during 14th-century London, Guest still functions as a private eye for hire back before the industry existed. Instead of computers and phone calls Guest has to visit people and use others to help him see what is going on. But he has the same challenges – people lying, law enforcement not being cooperative – that Spenser and Spellman have. Westerson and I recently compared notes.

5. The Yard by Alex Grecian
This book is fascinating due both to an intriguing plot – someone is killing cops – and because of the setting – London in the late 1880s. Scotland Yard had recently been set up to stop Jack The Ripper, but they failed to stop and capture him, resulting in many residents scornful and skeptical of law enforcement. While there are many reasons to enjoy this book, the most notable one I tell to others is its portrayal of the evolution of crime solving and the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley.

One of my favorite parts of the book – I promise there are no spoilers here – is when Kingsley describes to skeptical police officers his belief that everyone has unique fingerprints. While mocked for the concept, it does pay off. It’s fun to compare where they were at that point compared to where we are now. It can be compared to the, so-called, “CSI effect” when juries are skeptical of someone’s guilt if there is not DNA or other intrinsic evidence of a person’s guilt.

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