Monday, December 30, 2013

Top Ten Reads in 2013

I cheated somewhat here because one of my ten is a trilogy, and I could not pick just one from the three novels. Another pick is a reread, but I included it because I was just so impressed when I read it again. All of these books are by authors that I want to continue reading and catch up on their series.
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
The first book in Mosley's Easy Rawlins series, set in 1948, post WWII, a black neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is a black man who moves to Los Angeles, California from Houston, Texas to look for a better life after serving in the military during World War II. I liked this for the characterization and the look at racism and prejudice in that time period.
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler:
I loved this one because the writing is beautiful. It was his first novel and many readers say it is not his best book, but I was mesmerized by the writing. I don't know how much my opinion was influenced by my love of the movie (the Humphrey Bogart version).

The Silence of the Rain by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza.
This is the first of a police procedural series that stars Inspector Espinosa of the First Precinct in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This detective is a book lover and a philosopher. His apartment is stacked with books. But mainly what I liked was the unusual format. The first section, which makes up about half of the book, is told in third person and sets up the basic story. The middle section is written in first person from the point of view of the detective, so at that point we are just getting what he knows about the event. The smallest section, at the end, returns to third person to tie up all the events, in a sense. I found this to be a compelling read and am eager to continue the series.

A Night of Long Knives by Rebecca Cantrell
The story is told in first person, by Hannah Vogel, formerly a journalist, now on the run from the authorities in Germany. This book takes place in 1934, in the cities of Munich and Berlin. I like the strong, independent female protagonist. In addition, Hannah's story shows us Germany at a time when many are forced to join the Nazi party in order to keep their jobs, where parents are afraid to speak their mind because their children may inform on them. 

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch:
A cross-genre novel, blending fantasy and crime fiction. Most often I have seen it categorized as Urban Fantasy. The main character is a policeman and is actively investigating crimes so it also fits the definition of a police procedural. It is humorous and fun.

Crooked House by Agatha Christie
I have read eight Agatha Christie books this year. This one is not in a series, but stands alone. I liked everything about this book. I particularly appreciated:
  • The story is told in first person, by Charles Hayward, who wants to marry Sophia Leonides. I generally enjoy books told in the first person, because you get closer to the character.
  • It is a love story, but the love story does not dominate. As the reader, I wanted the love story to end well, but as with all the mysteries by Christie that I have read, I was never sure what was coming.
  • The story features a strong woman as a central character, and I always appreciate that. Especially in a vintage mystery.

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters:
The story of a policeman, Detective Hank Palace, pursuing a homicide case in a pre-apocalyptic world. In a world where many people are abandoning their jobs or changing their entire lives, Hank is stubbornly investigating an incident that every one else thinks is suicide. This book was compelling and thought-provoking.
The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer
Milo Weaver works for the CIA, in the Department of Tourism. "Tourists" are described as undercover agents with no identity and no home. Milo is not the James Bond type, although there are plenty of thrilling escapades and violence. But we see the other side of this spy's life, the family he wishes he could spend more time with.

A White Arrest / Taming the Alien / The McDead by Ken Bruen
These three books make up The White Trilogy, a book that includes the first three Sergeant Brant mysteries. A White Arrest introduces Chief Inspector Roberts and Detective Sergeant Brant. They are working on two cases, one involving murders of dope dealers, the other a killer aiming at members of the England cricket team. In Taming the Alien, Brant visits Ireland and New York. The McDead is a story of revenge, with Roberts seeking to get back at the man who killed his brother, who seems to be protected by the higher ranks in the police department.

Ken Bruen's writing is poetic. He draws me into the story and I don't care that the protagonists are hard and violent and willing to bend the law. 
Plots and Errors by Jill McGown.

This book is the tenth in a series of thirteen books set primarily in a fictional town in the UK called Stansfield. These police procedurals star Chief Inspector Lloyd and Sergeant Judy Hill. The books do not follow a formula. Lloyd and Hill, and their ongoing relationship, are the mainstays of the series, but each book takes a different approach to telling the story. The unique aspect to Plots and Errors is that the structure is like a play and it is interspersed with quotes from Hamlet. There is a prologue, five acts, and an epilogue. There is even a list of the Dramatis Personae.

The character development is superb, from the main policemen to the subsidiary members of the team to the various family members whose lives have been affected by the crime.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, hopefully, some of these writers will make it to my list of top reads in 2014. A very happy and wonderful new year to you and your family!

Lynn said...

Interesting - I've not read or heard of most of these authors - must go and check them out.
Lynn :D

Anonymous said...

Tracy - You've made some excellent choices here! What I'm especially impressed iwth is the variety. And you've reminded me of a few authors (e.g. Ben Winters and Ken Bruen) whose work I want to put in the spotlight. Thanks.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Rivers of London is a book I know that I *have* to read at some point. I read nothing but good things about it.

I have a friend who is dying for me to read Chandler and I've purchased or been gifted several Chandler books and need to get to them.

col2910 said...

Tracy, a great list, we have a few in common - Mosley and Bruen and another few I have bought on the back of your reviews. Hope 2014 brings you some great reads!

Sarah said...

I'm so glad you liked 'Crooked House', Tracy as it's my favourite Christie. I also enjoyed Last Policeman. Here's to a fruitful 2014.

TracyK said...

Prashant, a happy new year to you and your family. I am sure we are both going to have great reading ahead of us in 2014.

TracyK said...

Lynn, I hope you find some that interest you.

TracyK said...

Margot, the variety was one reason I did not try to come up with a top pick. There is too much difference between the books and I enjoyed each for what it was. Yes, Ben Winters and Ken Bruen would be good for a spotlight.

TracyK said...

Carl, I am saving the next two in the Rivers of London series to read for the Once Upon a Time event.

I hope that I like other books by Chandler as much as I liked The Big Sleep. It was a pleasure to read from beginning to end.

TracyK said...

Col, I have lots more Mosley and Bruen to read and hope I can get to most of them in 2014. I am very excited about my reading in 2014, including some that Glen bought based on your reviews or mention. And the Terry Shames book, of course.

TracyK said...

I did love Crooked House, Sarah. I thought I would not like the non-series Christie's but some of those are turning out to be my favorites of her books. I am sure we will both have a great reading year in 2014.

Unknown said...

I really love this blog for highlighting crime writers that are completely new to me. I haven't heard of many of these authors, which is so refreshing at this time of year when you often see the same titles cropping up over and over again in everyone's 'best of' lists (not that there's anything wrong with that - some books are just so good that everyone wants to sing their praises!). Delighted to hear you liked the Ben Aaronovitch book, and you have reminded me that I MUST get my hands on a copy of The Last Policeman soon.

TracyK said...

Thanks for the kind words, Marie. I hope you do find some new authors to try. I am looking forward to continuing both the Rivers of London series and the next books in the Last Policeman trilogy.

Marce said...

The Last Policeman is on my list this year. Agatha is always good, I read a Christmas one in Dec.

TracyK said...

Marce, you will like Last Policeman. I am looking forward to the next book in that trilogy. I will continue more Agatha Christie this year. So many good books to read.

Yvette said...

A terrific list, Tracy. I've read a couple of the titles and the rest I'm going to check up on. Like you, I'm not a big fan of dark grisly doings, but if fast paced enough, I amble on by.
I have been meaning to read RIVERS OF LONDON for the longest time now - in fact it is lingering on my wish list. 2014 is the year. Thanks for the reminder!

TracyK said...

These were all great reads, Yvette. I confess that I never would have read Rivers of London if I had not fallen in love with the cover (the UK cover, unfortunately). I am so glad I read it, and I hope you like it.