Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The year in reading.

2009! What a great year for reading! Here are some highlights of the mysteries I read. Some were new in 2009 and others were ones I got to belatedly.

Creepy stories: John Lutz's Darker Than Night. Even though we meet the killer early on, the plot has the reader guessing to the last page. I'd like to see more of homicide detective Frank Quinn. Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island. This is a psychological thriller that has the reader questioning reality. Martin Scorsese's version will be one of the must-see movies of 2010.

Women of the year: Mercedes Lambert's Whitney Logan (Dogtown and Soultown) tops the list. She's an edgy, vulnerable and tough lawyer in Los Angeles's gritty ethnic communities. It is a tragedy for all of us that Lambert died before the third book, Ghosttown, could be published. Not as edgy, but very compelling is Denise Hamilton's Eve Diamond, the reporter protagonist of The Jasmine Trade. The action-woman of the year is Kristin Van Dijk, aka Baby Shark, in Robert Fate's Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues. Kristin is a young, gun-toting, P.I. and pool shark in Texas in the 1950's. The story has equal measures of action and atmosphere.

Paradise found: Mark Haskell Smith's Delicious is hilarious and sexy. It's about a Hawaiian chef whose catering business is threatened by a mainland company. He fights back in the only way he knows--by cooking. Dark is the operative word in Lono Waiwaiole's Dark Paradise. This is not an escape-from-reality beach read. It is stark reality. I was pleased to be able to interview Lono on this blog earlier in the year.

Murderers Row:. The big hitters, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Lee Child and Robert Parker delivered. I hadn't read Blood Work before, though I thought I knew the story. I was wrong. This is a classic of twists and suspense. Robert Crais's Elvis Cole stories have become as predictable as Parker's Spenser. The surprise read was The Watchman with Joe Pike as the protagonist. Pike is the quintessential side kick, the guy who never says much nor shows much feeling, but in The Watchman he's a solid lead. My favorite Lee Child of the year was The Enemy, a prequel, you might say, to the Reacher series. In this story Reacher is still in the Army and we meet his mother and his brother and find out some of what makes him tick. Whenever I need a good, satisfying read, I turn to Robert Parker. Spenser never disappoints, but Night and Day with Jesse Stone did. The plot is thin but worse is the dialogue. Parker's dialogue is usually crisp and sparkling, but in this book it is pared to the bone.

The Letdowns: Though Night and Day was a disappointment compared to other books in the series, the real letdowns were two books I finished the year with. The biggest disappointment was Gardner McKay's Toyer. McKay was the actor who sailed around the South Pacific on the schooner Tiki in Adventures in Paradise, one of the best shows to appear on the small screen. He was also a playwright and storyteller. Toyer is supposed to be a disturbing creep-out, but I found it boring and confusing. There are a lot of point of view characters in the story and at least one of them is dead. Each scene is identified by the POV character, but that doesn't guarantee the POV won't change in mid-scene. I'd hoped for something better from McKay. The final book of the year was Dan Brown's Deception Point. It's high concept like Brown's other books. In this case the concept is that NASA finds a fossil-bearing meteorite in the Arctic. The concept is so far-fetched, I found it hard to suspend disbelief. The main character is a female government security analyst who's personality is flat and uninteresting. But then I've been spoiled by Whitney Logan. The ending is a Rube Goldberg style Deus Ex Machina. I kept reading to see what outlandish plot twist would come up next. it was like watching a Boise State game for the trick plays.

On balance, 2009 was a great year for books. How was your year? What did you read?


Helen Ginger said...

My DH and I both read the Reacher series, yet didn't realize there was a prequel. We'll be looking for that. Because DH travels a lot, he ends up reading more published books that I do. (I read more manuscripts.) But we both like the Lee Child, CJ Box and Robert Fate.

Straight From Hel

Morgan Mandel said...

I didn't read very many books last year, but plan to rectify that situation in 2010!

Morgan Mandel

Mark Troy said...

The enemy is the 8th Reacher book. It takes place about the time the Soviet Union was collapsing, so it's almost historical fiction.

Morgan, I didn't think I'd read many, either, until I started looking at the titles. A lot of my reading was spurred by the book I was working on. I felt I needed to keep up with the market.


Kevin R. Tipple said...

SHUTTER ISLAND, the book, was garbage. Hated it. SHUTTER ISLAND, the movie, is not going to be seen by these eyes.