Monday, December 29, 2014

Favorite Reads of 2014

I read lots of books this year, mainly mystery novels as usual. I wish I could read twice as many books in a year. I neglected Agatha Christie and Ed McBain totally this year, and I had wanted to start reading Elmore Leonard and read much more of Len Deighton's books than I did.

I did read many great books by wonderful authors this year. I enjoyed almost all of them and it is hard to narrow it down to the ones that really resonated with me. But here is my stab at a list. I did go over 10 books but not by much.

The Danger Within by Michael Gilbert. 
Published in 1952, it is an exceptional story of men incarcerated in a prison camp in Italy toward the end of World War II. The book also includes a mystery, featuring an amateur detective, a prisoner in the camp who is asked to look into the circumstances of the death of a fellow prisoner.

The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott 
This is a historical novel set in the years preceding and during World War I (and the only non-mystery fiction on this list). It is the story of three sisters, teenagers as the story begins, who travel with their mother to support the family as a vaudeville act. I am very interested in vaudeville, and I don't know as much as I would like about the history of vaudeville. I found this book very readable, entertaining, with interesting characters.

Touchstone by Laurie R. King
This historical novel is set in the UK in 1926 and the story centers around the weeks leading up to the general strike. Harris Stuyvesant is an agent of the United States Justice Department's Bureau of Investigation, and he has arrived in England to track down the man responsible for terrorist bombings in the US.

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer
A spy thriller, which takes place during the activities of the Arab Spring, in February 2011. Sophie Kohl's husband Emmett is currently working at the American embassy in Hungary, but his previous assignment was in Cairo. Both of them have friends still in Cairo, and when Emmett is killed, Sophie seeks the reasons for his death there. 

Time's Witness by Michael Malone
This is the second book in a police procedural series. Cuddy Mangum is the narrator and the Chief of Police in Hillston, North Carolina. Cuddy is educated, but he is not refined, and to the powerful and rich inner circle of Hillston residents, he is a redneck. The book was published in 1989 and set around the same time period. The story in this book centers on George Hall, a black man arrested seven years earlier for killing a white cop. He is now on death row and supporters are seeking a reprieve or pardon. 

Eleven Days by Donald Harstad
Carl Houseman is a deputy sheriff working the night shift in the small town of Maitland, Iowa. He is sent to the scene of a crime after a 911 call comes in. At the scene, he finds a dead man but the woman who made the call is not found. By the next morning, a second crime scene has been found with three more bodies, and the two crimes seem to be related. The small department, with the help of state investigative agencies, works for the next eleven days to solve the crime.

9tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood 
This novel is fantasy blended with mystery, and the mystery elements were stronger in this novel than in many cross-genre novels. In addition to the noir thriller elements, this is the story of a journey of a man to understanding himself and his isolation from others. I enjoyed the book as much for the personal story of Bobby Zha as for the mystery.

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
I am very fond of espionage fiction, so it is no surprise that I liked this. The central character, the spy who has run an elite espionage unit in the past, has had many identities and many code names. Of those who even know of him, he is a legend. But he has reached a point in his life when he has left spying behind and is in a new untraceable identity.  Then several events come together to force him back into the spy game.

World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters 
Book III in the The Last Policeman trilogy, following the activities of policeman Hank Palace in a pre-apocalyptic world. An asteroid is headed for earth, and from the beginning of the series we know that it will be devastating. I also read Countdown City, Book II in the series, this year, and I rated it as highly as this one. In this final book, Hank goes on an odyssey to try to locate his sister before the asteroid hits.

Enigma by Robert Harris
Set in 1943, this book uses Bletchley Park and the code breaking efforts there as a background for a mystery. Tom Jericho had left Bletchley to recuperate in Cambridge after a nervous breakdown resulting from the stress of his work. Now he is asked to return to help in a new effort to break Enigma codes.

Garnethill by Denise Mina
Set in the city of Glasgow, this novel deals with tough topics: incest, patient abuse, drugs, unemployment, dysfunctional families. It is a very dark story. There is an optimistic resolution, but many of the characters in the book are not very pleasant people. Nor is there the possibility for a truly happy ending.

Kerrie of Mysteries in Paradise is collecting lists of  top crime fiction reads for 2014. Check them out HERE.


Anonymous said...

Great list Tracy! I've only read one on your list by Donald Harstad and I'd love to read some others on your list. Ben Winter's dystopian novels I have after your review of them. Happy New Year to you! My we continue to discover great books in 2015.

Anonymous said...

Tracy - Those are some terrific novels! You've got a real variety here! I know what you mean though about not reading nearly as much as one wants...

col2910 said...

I think I'll be a while comprising a best of 2014 list, but I've enjoyed seeing yours. I've read two - Steinhauer and Harstad - though I've forgotten resolution of the Harstad so will re-read. I think I have 4 or 5 of the others somewhere waiting.
Hope 2015 is as good a year for you (and Glen)!

J F Norris said...

Must've missed your original review of 9tail Fox. Very intriguing. I may have to find a copy of that one. Happy New Year! Hope you had a lovely Christmas.

col2910 said...

I've just re-visited some online reviews for 9Tail Fox and thought....hey why not....2 quid secondhand on Abe, what's that 3 dollars? hope I enjoy it now!

TracyK said...

The only thing missing, Keishon, is lots of classic mysteries. I did have two Rex Stout books which were favorite reads, but if I did that Rex Stout would always take over my lists.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Margot, it was a great year for me and mystery reads.

TracyK said...

Col, I hope you enjoy 9Tail Fox. I did not even try to order my list, but it would have been high on the list if I had.

I look forward to 2015 for much more good reading. Hope your 2015 is a good year too, in every way.

TracyK said...

John, I highly recommend 9tail Fox. I plan to try more books by Jon Courtenay Grimwood.

Happy New Year to you too. Our Christmas was nice, relaxed, quiet ... just like we like it. I hope your Christmas was a good one.

RebeccaK said...

Great list, Tracy. I've only read I Am Pilgrim, but I have a copy of Garnethill I've been meaning to read. Have a very happy new year, and I hope you find lots of great reads.

Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: Decided to start over.

I like your mix of newer and older books, possibly because I approach my favourites of the year in the same way.

We have read a few of the same books. I see I Am Pilgrim in bookstores all over Canada. Neither of us are surprised by its success.

I want to read the Cairo Affair. In the last few years I read the Milo Weaver trilogy.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year to you and your family.

TracyK said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Rebecca, and the same to you. I am very much looking forward to the New Year and new reads.

I hope you enjoy reading Garnethill. I found it an amazing book.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I know you're a big Rex Stout fan ;-) That's one series I hope to tackle next year.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Bill. I still haven't gotten to the third book in the Milo Weaver trilogy, but I will remedy that in 2015. Olen Steinhauer is one of my favorite authors.

Happy New Year to you too, and your wife and sons.

Anonymous said...

I only read Garnethill, which I liked very much and the two books following it in the trilogy. And I read Touchstone which I didn't finish; it didn't resonate with me.

I wish you and your family a happy, healthy new year and a lot of good books.

TracyK said...

Thank you for you new year wishes, Kathy, and the same to you. I know you will find lots of good books to read this year.

Before the end of 2014, I bought one each book from Mina's three series, so I can continue the Garnethill series and start the others. Looking forward to all of them.

Clothes In Books said...

I've read 6 or 7of these, and the others all intrigue me - what a great varied list. Happy reading for 2015 Tracy.

Bernadette said...

What an interesting-looking list...I've only read two but enjoyed both of them so I should look closely at the others. Must get my hands on the Ben H Winters novel - have read the first two books of that trilogy and really want to see how it ends. Hope 2015 is as good a year for you as '14 seems to have been

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Tracy, a very Happy New Year to you and your family!

This is an eclectic list of authors and their books. I hope to read a few of those, like Michael Gilbert, Olen Steinhauer (having acquired "The Vienna Assignment" recently), Ben H. Winters, and Robert Harris, in 2015.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Moira. I have plenty of good reads planned for 2015... not really planned per se, but I can see them sitting on the shelves. Many of them that I saw first at your blog.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Bernadette. Reading-wise, I anticipate another great year. Otherwise, I certainly hope for a better year... yet I have so much to be grateful for.

TracyK said...

I think you would enjoy all of those authors, Prashant. I have only read this one book by Gilbert, and I hope to read more of his books this year.

neer said...

Tracy, I haven't read even one from this list but I really want to read the Gilbert one.

Here's wishing you and your family a Happy Reading 2015.

TracyK said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Neer. I have started my reading for the year with one book from 1915 (39 Steps, Buchan) and one from 2015. I think it will be a good year.

The Gilbert book is very good. I hope you get to read it.