Scott’s Top 10 (Okay, Eleven)
This was quite a full year for crime fiction. Raymond Chandler came back and Moe Prager left. Emerging voices like Benjamin Whitmer and Matthew McBride made a stand and veterans like James Ellroy came back. Matt Scudder was in a great movie and the poster couple for toxic marriage in Gone Girl got beautifully adapted. Needless to say it was difficult to make a top 10 list, so I found a way to shoehorn in eleven.
1. Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer
This book, following the dark criminal adventures of a tree cutter in disaster sites in mourning for his son, is a perfect piece of brutal poetry. Raw in its emotion, it speaks to and for the people society pushes to the margins. I plan to read this book at least every ten years for the rest of my life.
2. The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman
The final Moe Prager novel deeply involves Coleman’s recurring theme of identity in a way that forces one of the most human private detectives ever put on the page to deal with his own concept of self. A pitch perfect swan song.
3. The Fever by Megan Abbott
Mysterious seizures hit a group of high school girls, causing hysteria in an upstate new York town. Abbott blends mystery, horror, and coming of age, digging emotionally deep into community, family, and female friendship with an aching and dark mood.
4. A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBride
A masterpiece of rural crime fiction. When a Missouri sheriff’s deputy steals $72,000 out of a meth dealer’s trailer in a moment of weakness, it sets the spark that sends a corrupt county up into flames. A relentless novel that moves like a muscle car on an open road.
5. The Drop by Dennis Lehane & The Poor Boy’s Game by Dennis Tafoya
Both of these books tapped into the emotional core of their stories with poignancy while still delivering a bad-ass hard-boiled tale. Lehane’s lonely bartender being batted about by the mob and Tafoya’s damaged U.S. marshal who has to fight the mob off are characters who will stay with you for some time.
6. The Last Death Of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames
The second Samuel Craddock novel has the retired police chief looking into the murder of a disabled war veteran. As he investigates, Samuel becomes a witness to the sins of his town and society in this moving mystery.
7. The Forty-Two by Ed Kurtz
A tension filled thriller that effectively uses early Eighties Time Square as a backdrop in all its seedy glory. Kurtz uses grind house theaters, peepshows, and greasy spoons like Hitchcock used Mount Rushmore and The Statue Of Liberty.
8. The Forsaken by Ace Atkins
The fourth Quinn Colson novel has the Mississippi sheriff dealing with race issues, biker gangs, county Kingpin Johnny Stagg, and an old crime connected to his father who disappeared years ago. Entertaining dialogue and action with strong thematic undercurrents.
9. The Blood Promise by Mark Pryor
A great thriller with vivid characters and a plot that ties a modern treaty signing to an event during The French Revolution. Further proof of why Pryor’s Hugo Marston is one of the best new heroes.
10. After I’m Gone by Laura Lipman
Lippman looks at the disappearance of a shady businessman through the wife, daughter, and murdered mistress he left behind. Lippmann uses the lives of these ladies as a clever window into family, class, religion, and feminism in the last half of the twentieth century.
Copies of each book are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.