Monday, December 31, 2012

My Favorite Reads in 2012

This is the first time I have attempted to assess my favorite reads for an entire year. It was harder than I expected. To keep the list to just ten favorites, I decided to omit re-reads and pick only one book by an author. You will note that all of these books are crime fiction. Most years, that is my primary reading.

I had given 5 stars (on Goodreads) to three of the Len Deighton books I read, all from the Bernard Sampson series. I just picked my favorite of those three. The four authors on this list that I had read before were Elizabeth George, John Lawton, Laura Wilson, and Philip Kerr. The other six authors were new to me in 2012.

Here is my list, with links to my reviews. These are listed in the order I read them, not in order by preference.
  1. Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George
  2. Berlin Game by Len Deighton
  3. The Company of Strangers by Robert Wilson
  4. In the Woods by Tana French
  5. The Guards by Ken Bruen 
  6. An Empty Death by Laura Wilson
  7. The Suspect by L. R. Wright
  8. A Lily of the Field by John Lawton
  9. The One from the Other by Philip Kerr
  10. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Most Surprising Book:   
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The book did not interest me when it first came out. With a very intelligent 11-year-old as the detective, I thought it would be too cutesy. Plus, mysteries featuring amateur detectives are not my favorite type. But there are always exceptions. This book was so charming, I was drawn into it immediately. I just finished reading the second book in the series, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, and liked it just as well.

I like the setting: post World War II Britain, in an English village, with quirky characters. But most of all I just like the way the story is told through the eyes of a very imaginative nearly 11-year-old girl. She is precocious in some ways, naive in others.

New (to me) Author I fell in love with: Len Deighton

The Ipcress File, was the first book I read in 2012 and I was disappointed. I got lost in the story, did not know what was going on in the first half of the book. (Now that I have experienced more of Deighton's books, I think I should return to this book.)  But I had several of the Bernard Samson novels so I tried Berlin Game, and I am very glad I did.

At this post, I reviewed Spy Hook, the fourth book in the series and provided links to information about Deighton. The series tells the story of an intelligence officer in the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), with a wife who is also in intelligence. Family relationships are a big theme, probably one of the reasons I like the series. 

There are 9 books in the series. Three trilogies. I have read the first six books in the series. There is also a historical novel, Winter, which is not strictly in the series, but is a prequel (of sorts) to the series.

A wonderful series I finished this year: The Inspector Troy series by John Lawton

This is one of my favorite crime fiction series. The books are variable, and I enjoyed some much more than others. Overall, however, they provide a compelling picture of England before, during and after World War II. The series covers events in the life of Inspector Frederick Troy (of Russian descent) from roughly the early 1940's up through the early 1960's.

A Lily of the Field is the last book in the series. This is a longish book, and seems almost like two books, although there are definite links between the two stories. The crime in this book is the murder of a Polish painter, shot on an Underground platform with a very unusual gun. As in many of Lawton's books, the resolution of the crime is less important than the overall story and the picture of Britain during these years.

Two other books in the series that I especially enjoyed are Bluffing Mr. Churchill (review here) and Second Violin, which I reviewed here.

I really don't have a favorite for the year, but if I was forced to pick one it would be The Company of Strangers by Robert Wilson.

This novel is a spy thriller, one of my favorite genres. The story is set in Lisbon initially, then moves to East Berlin and England. It covers the years from 1944 through the early 1990s.

It is also a love story, but I would not call it romantic. It is more about the harsh realities of life; about families, and relationships, and maturing. A lot of books I have read this year have had a theme of family relationships and how they affect us.

I find it interesting to note that this is the only one in my list that is not part of a series. I do want to try other books by this author.


Carl V. Anderson said...

My wife primarily reads mysteries and some crime fiction. I dabble in it a bit throughout the year, although my Louise Penny obsession pushed those numbers up higher than usual. So glad you gave Flavia a try and ended up enjoying her. They are such sweet books but manage to not be too syrupy. Love 'em and can't wait for the new one coming out soon.

Glad you decided to do a year end list. They can indeed be hard when trying to narrow it down but I always find them fun. I like to see what makes an impression on other readers each year.

Anonymous said...

Tracy - It is hard isn't it to narrow down the best books from an entire year of reading. I know I couldn't possibly do it. I give a lot of credit to folks like you who can do that. I know I can't. You've chosen some good 'uns!

Vicky @ A Backpack Full of Adventures said...

In The Woods was one of my favourites too - I LOVE French's writing. I can't wait to read the other 3 books this year :)

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

The Len Deighton and Robert Wilson novels are prompting me to read more spy and cold war thrillers this year. THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS sounds very intriguing.

Sarah said...

Some great books here Tracy and I love Len Deighton too.

Bev Hankins said...

The Suspect is sitting somewhere on Mount TBR in the back room...may have to dig that one out sooner since it made your Best of list. Happy Reading in 2013!

Bernadette said...

I didn't even try to narrow my list down to 10 - I ended up with 16 and so be it :)

Yours is an interesting list, the only one on it I've read is In The Woods a few years ago and I did like it very much. I've seen THE SUSPECT on two of these lists now which has prompted me to order it from my library

Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: Thanks for an interesting list. I am glad The Suspect was one of your best reads. I have not read any of John Lawton's books. I am going to have to find some of them.

Elizabeth said...

What a great mystery blog....I love mysteries, but my blog is about historical fiction as well.


Going to have to check out these other ones.


My Favorites of 2012 are below.

Silver's Reviews
My Favorite Books of 2012