I don’t know what “best” means, so I can’t compose such lists. I typically obsess about books and movies that are critical failures or, gasp, in bad taste.
My list contains the authors and series that I read in an obsessive manner: retreat to bed or sofa, and read until I reach the last page—and then start over or download the next one by that author.
Jo Nesbo: Police and The Bat
Only last year my friend Chip turned me on to Jo Nesbo. So this year I had only the new release (Police) and, at last, the translation of his first novel, The Bat. As a writer, I’d love to achieve everything that Nesbo does. Police, however, didn’t have everything that I wanted from this series, mostly because I didn’t like the sociological choice of bad guys. I don’t want to apply my PC choices to my favorite authors. This is a great series, the most recent of which I read obsessively but without total satisfaction.
Andrea Camilleri: Inspector Montalbano Mysteries (Stephen Sartarelli, trans.)
This is my favorite all-time detective series and one of my top “comfort reads.”
When genetic modification becomes possible under my health care plan, I want Andrea Camilleri author genes grafted into my DNA. This is the only mystery writer (that I read) who uses the same damn formula every time and yet amazes and astonishes me anew in each story. The great advance this year for me was to have “Montalbano’s First Case” in hand—to see how Inspector Montalbano begins as a character.
Treasure Hunt Montalbano’s First Case
Ginn Hale – The Rifter Series
This is the most satisfying series I found this year—and the first one that I found via another writer’s Twitter feed (hi Leta Blake! Congrats on your new top-seller!)
The Rifter series has everything I want out of fantasy-adventure: sterling character-driven excitement, pacing, inventive alternate universe, love drives and conquers all. The only thing I wish Ginn Hale would do is revise the covers or title tags, so it’s easy for a compulsive reader to identify which one to download next in the middle of the night.
Attica Locke: Black Water Rising
I found Attica Locke because a friend made me listen to her Chautauqua.
Great character-driven mystery, although for the mystery genre, the lead character spends too much time studying his own misery.
G. Willow Wilson: Alif the Unseen.
Had to call in sick the day I started this book, because once I started, I couldn’t stop. And I’m self-employed. The alternative universe, the characters, the inventive conflict, the tension in the pacing: this is what I want from fantasy-adventure!
Denise Mina: Gods and Beasts
Whenever there’s a new Denise Mina novel available, I download immediately. Then I have to wait days, weeks, months until I feel brave enough to enter her dark, Glaswegian universe. Mina creates complex, intriguing characters and then forces them to deal with shit deeper than anything you’d ever want in your own life. Once again, in Mina’s Gods and Beasts, she leads you into a significant understanding of how people think and function—then hits you upside the head with surprising plotting.
If you are asthmatic, keep your rescue inhaler nearby.
Kate Atkinson: Life After Life
I was a Kate Atkinson fan before her Jackson Brodie series, so I’m familiar with her themes that have cross-generational stories braiding over time. So Life After Life wasn’t a surprise—except that her writing (always exquisite) jumped up a coupe of levels beyond what she’d done earlier. Human Croquet was the other title I read this year (having obsessed over all the others). If your 15% preview of Life After Life feels too literary for you, then try the Jackson Brodie series, which starts with Case Histories.
Don McQuinn: The Moondark Saga
Don’s a pal of mine, and I read this series when it first came out in paper. It’s a delight to find this again, since my first read was long enough ago that re-reading allowed me to discover elements I’d forgotten. This is an obsessive read—and the second time through, it’s easier to slow down and focus on the magnificent character development and the intricacies of the alternate dystopian universe.
Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Retrieval Artist series
I spent the year studying the indie publishing world, and anyone involved in that will quickly find Kris Rusch on www.kriswrites.com. After reading the first great business title from Kris, I started in on her Retrieval Artist series, saying aloud to myself (I swear it!), “Science fiction left me behind long ago.”
Then, I got wrapped into the series and found everything again that science-fiction did for me in junior high and high school. Super-inventive universe, intriguing characters, each story with a satisfactory conclusion, and yet begging you to download and read the next as soon as possible. Kris says she’s got a set of titles she’s working on in this series, so there’s no immediate gratification in 2014 for Retrieval Artist fans. However, if you haven’t read her yet—you have the exciting opportunity to start at the beginning and immerse yourself in all of them.
Jason Vail: Stephen Attebrook mysteries
In February I published Bone-mend and Salt, Book 1 in the Accidental Heretics series. Immediately, the Amazon alsobot recommended Jason Vail’s medieval mystery series. I read all three books, and read compulsively. Vail’s series ranks as the best of medieval fiction I found this year: great detective character, faithful historic details, compelling conflict and resolution in each story. And I just found #4: The Girl in the Ice – in time for staying up all night to read it.
I shall start 2014 by reading his Lone Star Rising alternative history series.
Charlie Newton: dark mystery
I found Charlie through Don McQuinn’s recommendations. He’s doing exciting, gritty work—perhaps too gritty for people who settle on mysteries from big-name writers. These are extraordinarily well-paced, character-driven thrillers…but I’m warning you, the point-of-view characters are not warm and cuddly.
Ian Rankin: Detective Inspector Rebus
My Ian Rankin obsession date sway back. So of course I pre-order, and wait for it to magically appear on my reader months later. Therefore, I’m going to use this opportunity to rant about NOT being able to order UK editions as soon as they are available, and having to wait some absurd amount of time to read a new UK / European title in the U.S. Especially since I’m no longer in the UK or EU on a regular basis, I’m personally annoyed. This applied for the release of Police. Then I have to listen to people rave on Twitter and Facebook about a book that I can’t easily obtain.
The foundation question: When will the publishing industry enter the 21st century?
Kage Baker: the Company Series.
It’s so sad that we don’t have Kage Baker with us any longer.
Clearly, this was an impulse buy on my part—a futile attempt to bring her back. Of you haven’t obsessed about Kage Baker’s Company series, start with In the Garden of Iden. I hope I get amnesia so I can read this series again for the first time, with the same wonder.
Donna Tartt: The Goldfinch
Finishing off in December with this book that’s on the front table of most bookstores right now—which doesn’t usually cause me to pick up a book and read it. I read an inspiring review, however, and liked the preview. I’m only 10% in—so far, this book is allowing me to identify what a lazy slut I am as a writer.