As 2010 draws to a close, it's time to again review (as it were) my list of the best mysteries, suspense novels, and thrillers that I read and reviewed during the year. Titles are listed alphabetically by author.
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Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell
Dutton Hardcover (April 2010)
This literary mystery has it all: a terrific link to a real literary figure (William Shakespeare), an atmospheric setting (a remote Scottish castle), an occult-themed plot, and a captivating lead character (Kate Stanley, her second appearance marred only by a mildly annoying on-again, off-again romantic relationship with a somewhat unlikeable security consultant). "[T]hose readers who shunned Shakespeare in school" will delight in this fast-paced, enjoyable mystery.
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell. Purchase options are shown below:
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One Man's Paradise by Douglas Corleone
Minotaur Books Hardcover (April 2010)
Long time readers of my reviews probably know that I infrequently rate first novels very highly. To me, new authors typically try to accomplish too much with their debut: introduce a memorable lead character, develop an interesting supporting cast that aren't caricatures, come up with an unusual crime to solve, and create a credible plot to connect everything together. But this winner of the 2009 St. Martin's Minotaur/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel contest succeeds on all levels. My only quibble with it is that it is written in first person present tense, a style I really don't like.
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: One Man's Paradise by Douglas Corleone. Purchase options are shown below:
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Faithful Place by Tana French
Viking Hardcover (July 2010)
This unusual, literary-style novel offers a unique spin on the standard police procedural. There aren't many elements to the plot, yet I was constantly intrigued by how the various pieces came together, often in ways that surprised me. I concluded by review by saying, "With a cast of memorable characters and an intriguing plotline, Faithful Place will certainly be remembered as among the best suspense novels to be published this year." And indeed it has, appearing on many other "Best of 2010" lists.
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: Faithful Place by Tana French. Purchase options are shown below:
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Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Hardcover (July 2010)
I generally appreciate when an author takes a temporary detour with their series characters, this thriller being an exceptional example of such. I was enthralled with the storyline, how it developed and how it ended: "The last few chapters offer an incredible -- and completely unexpected -- explanation as to what really happened to Maura Isles while she was missing." As there is little in the way of character introduction, this is not the best book for new readers of the series, though it can certainly be read as a stand-alone.
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen. Purchase options are shown below:
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The Silent Places by James Patrick Hunt
Minotaur Books Hardcover (May 2010)
This "exceptionally well-crafted suspense novel" is more character-driven than plot-driven, but both contribute to its success as a hunter and prey story, related from both perspectives. "A mutual respect ultimately develops between [homicide detective] Hastings and [escaped prisoner] Reese, one that adds depth to the story; when they finally meet face to face, the moment is rather bittersweet." I'm not usually a fan of omniscient narratives, but did say that "[t]hough the reader is cognizant to all the proceedings, the cat-and-mouse aspect is nicely played out, the author maintaining a high level of tension throughout."
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: The Silent Places by James Patrick Hunt. Purchase options are shown below:
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Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson
Viking Hardcover (May 2010)
I was rather unprepared for how much I enjoyed this novel. In my review, I said the book "is quite deceptive in its pacing. What at first may appear to be a leisurely whodunit-style mystery with more than its fair share of quirky characters, rapidly (and somewhat unexpectedly) evolves into a first-rate thriller." I also found series character Walt Longmire to be both original and familiar at the same time, quite an accomplishment for my first read in the series. (On a separate note, A&E is developing a cast-contingent pilot based on Sheriff Walt Longmire for a potential crime drama.)
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson. Purchase options are shown below:
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Vermilion Drift by William Kent Krueger
Atria Hardcover (September 2010)
This multi-faceted thriller works on many levels. What probably surprised me most was that much of what I believed to be the "mystery" was revealed early in the book -- too early I thought while reading -- and yet the plot continued to develop in unexpected and surprising ways. I concluded my review by saying, "With its intricate plot and richly drawn characters, this is truly a superior novel of suspense, and not one to be missed."
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: Vermilion Drift by William Kent Krueger. Purchase options are shown below:
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Freeze Frame by Peter May
Poisoned Pen Press Hardcover (March 2010)
Forensic scientist Enzo Macleod is now more than half-way through his seven unsolved, cold case crimes in this outstanding "little island mystery" set off the coast of France. I was thoroughly entertained, saying in my review, "The puzzle is intricate, the investigation and observational deductive reasoning by Enzo flawless." I rated the first book in the series, Extraordinary People among the best I read in 2006, but I think this entry may be better.
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: Freeze Frame by Peter May. Purchase options are shown below:
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Blood Count by Reggie Nadelson
Walker Hardcover (October 2010)
This ninth mystery in the Artie Cohen series "is a superb example of an intricately crafted, multi-layered novel," one that generates suspense from many directions. A whodunit to be sure, but the thrill for me was in following Cohen as he determines the whydunit. The atmospheric setting adds to the mystery: "Much of the action takes place in the once graceful, now somewhat decrepit and often dimly lit Harlem apartment building, adding a claustrophobic feel to the story. That Cohen is acting in a gray area of the law -- he's not officially authorized to be where he is -- also heightens the suspense."
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: Blood Count by Reggie Nadelson. Purchase options are shown below:
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Eye of the Raven by Eliot Pattison
Counterpoint Hardcover (December 2009)
I'm generally not a big fan of historical mysteries, but since Pattison's Shan Tao Yun novels are among my favorites in any given year, I wanted to give this second series of his a chance. And I'm glad I did, calling this book "a tautly plotted, beautifully written mystery set in Colonial America. Those with some knowledge of this historical period will no doubt appreciate the meticulous detail with which the author interweaves fact and fiction." I also enjoyed the puzzle being solved, that the answer to whodunit was in the whydunit: "Why this particular Virginian, why this particular day, ... why this particular tree?" Simply put -- outstanding. (This book was published in December 2009 but I didn't read/review it until January of this year.)
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: Eye of the Raven by Eliot Pattison. Purchase options are shown below:
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The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
Harper Hardcover (March 2010)
I greatly enjoy the Maisie Dobbs mysteries, and this seventh entry is not only typical of the series, but one of its best. I said in my review, "Winspear's narrative has a mesmerizing, almost lyrical, tone to it. Though the plot moves along swiftly, [this] is not a fast-reading novel; the expressive descriptions of people and places and the intricately detailed plot almost demand close attention. But it is Maisie herself that commands center stage, with her intuitive, yet perceptive, approach to her investigation."
Read the complete text of my review at Mysterious Reviews: The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear. Purchase options are shown below: