Filed under: Killer Year Members
All this week, we’ll be recommending books that we’ve enjoyed this year.
Holy crap. I’d heard of Huston for years, but never read his stuff. However, this January I’ll be at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, doing a signing with him, so now seemed like a good time to pick something up.
Holy crap. Really.
It’s a balls-out mistaken identity novel written in a textured noir tone. Huston never overdoes the rhythm, but his structure is entrancing and his storytelling skills are spectacular. This one never lets up — it’s almost exhausting to read. In a good way.
Relentless, brutal, funny, dark, and entrancing.
If this one doesn’t leave you gasping, you’re dead already. Vivid, vicious, hyper-masculine and uber-stylish, the novel begins on the day Kennedy is killed and follows three men tied up in his assassination through the next five years, culminating with the killings of RFK and MLK. Cameos by J. Edgar Hoover, Jimmy Hoffa, Sonny Liston, Howard Hughes and others speak to the depth of research Ellroy has put into play. The word “ambitious” isn’t near strong enough for this one — it’s a classic, a novel that deserves study.
Ellroy’s characters are always strong symbols, and between them, the three protagonists span the gamut of American hope and horror. I particularly found Ward Littell fascinating; a brilliant lawyer who works tirelessly for the both mob and Howard Hughes, yet mollifies his conscience by skimming from both to funnel anonymous donations to Martin Luther King.
I’m reaching back in time a bit, and also cheating, because this is a book I enjoyed many years ago. But I also enjoyed it again this year. John Straley writes a series of mysteries set in Alaska, featuring substance-abusing private investigator Cecil Younger. The novels are beautiful and lyrical, at times darkly comic, and an amazing view into the Alaskan landscape, as well as the landscape of Cecil’s life. THE WOMAN WHO MARRIED A BEAR starts the series, and once you start you’ll find yourself drawn back again and again. I re-read Straley regularly, for the power of his imagination and the wonder of his gift for language. Plus, as mysteries, these are damn fine novels. Start with The WOMAN WHO MARRIED A BEAR. You won’t stop till you’ve read them all.
This wonderful debut by Julia Buckley actually came out this year! It starts with a bang — the death and revival of police officer Lily Caldwell during a traffic stop. After she recovers, she attempts to track down the man who tried to kill her, a man she believes is the state governor because of a vision she had during her near death experience. No one believes her, and she has to act on her own to find her would-be killer. This novel is taut and exciting, a real page turner, with unexpected twists and a great finish.
This standalone is absolutely astounding. Connolly has reached an entirely new level with this novel — think of the fairy tales of CS Lewis and Roald Dahl. 13 pages in, I was already telling myself I needed to re-read the book, and soon. The story is highly original — a young boy who has lost his mother slips into a fairy tale world. But the book is so much more than this. I was entranced from start to finish, and ended in tears. It was perfect.
I’ve been waxing poetic about this book since June, when I posted this to DorothyL:
“I took BABY SHARK, by Robert Fate, into the bath. Big mistake. When I came up for air, the water was frigid, my skin resembled a chicken, and I’m stuck reading this until I finish it tonight. AMAZING book.”
I stand by that today. BABY SHARK is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I highly recommend you get a copy pronto.
I’ve argued with a couple of people about this book, because they’ve claimed that Eisler has drifted into romantic suspense. I couldn’t disagree more. This was a fantastic installment in the John Rain series. Rain has grown as a character over the course of this series, and the personal relationships are, as always, an outlet for Rain to explore his humanity. He’s tough as ever, and well worth the time.
God, I love Reacher. And Child has such a deft touch with language and pace — he leaves you absolutely breathless. I really enjoyed the book, read it in one sitting, and was sad to close the covers. Reacher is just one of those characters you can read about all day and never quite have enough. I enjoyed the settings in this one too.
Happy New Year, everyone. We’ll see you in 2007!
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