Sam Wiebe, a Vancouver mystery writer whose Invisible Dead was one of my favorites in 2017, asked on FB what good thrillers people had read recently. That sent me through my 2017 list. Here are some thrillers, mysteries, historicals, and other books I particularly enjoyed in 2017. The books mentioned here:
I read fiction in ebooks, and won’t apologize for that. I also won’t spend more than $10 for an ebook unless I really, really have to have that author’s new work. I won’t pay it because I make ebooks, so I know the publisher’s investment, and I know what portion is going to the writer…and so I see ebooks priced at $15 or $16 as a scam—hurts the writer, hurts the reader. Therefore, you won’t see many bestseller titles from major publishers on my list.
I read a great deal of SFF and historicals where it seems the writers is working toward the same goals as I do in my work. I’ve been thrilled by some, disappointed by others. The titles here are best of what I found this year. But again, I don’t read off Bestseller lists or typically read award winners. So this list is my very narrow-vision eclectic likes.
The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage—Philip Pullman
Reminded me why I love adventure stories. Helped me see how better to do worldbuilding in my own work.
An Unnecessary Woman—Rabih Alameddine
Picked this up because it’s by someone I respect on Twitter. It’s in a style and literary genre that I usually avoid. However, I love this book and will push it on you within first 10 minutes of our coffee date. A woman’s personal reflection on her 70+ solitary and book-filled years in 20th century Beirut.
Firedrake’s Eye—Patricia Finney
I am a huge fan of Finney (and her historical mystery alias, PF Chisolm)—even though I otherwise don’t read Elizabethan-era fiction. Her work is too eclectic to bear comparison with other writers of historical fiction. These are espionage thrillers where the much of 15th century London muck sticks to your shoes.
Spectred Isle (Green Men) (and pretty much everything else she’s written)—KJ Charles
Charles’s series are m/m historical fiction with plots driven by suspense, magical and detection elements, and romance between unlikely people. Again, I’ve learned a lot about worldbuilding and character development by dosing myself with her stories.
A Line in the Dark—Malinda Lo
A darkish psychological thriller with a 15-year-old point-of-view character who is a developing artist making her way through social and emotional traps. This looks like it’s YA, but don’t let that scare you off. This is a dark story that deftly bases the thrills on the difficulties of the exceptional child. I read this because Lo worked on Tremontaine Series 1 and because of my work as an editor on Just Like Honey.
Every Day Is for the Thief: Fiction—Teju Cole
A “scathing but loving look at his native land in…polished prose.” Yeah, I’m four years late reading this; still, I found a beautiful book that I probably wouldn’t have considered except for my work this year as an editor on We Were Walimu Once and Young: Snapshots of Teaching in East Africa.
Tremontaine Series, Season 2—Ellen Kushner, Tessa Gratton, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Joel Derfner, Racheline Maltese, Paul Witcover, Alaya Dawn Johnson
I’m so jealous of what these writers are doing: writing a long novel as if it were episodes in a TV series. I came to this because I loved Ellen Kushner’s original Riverside series. Swords and scandal in a world that resembles 17th century Edinburgh.