This blog post is part of a series that the RT Editors will be taking part in during the month of December. Please check back all month long for each editor’s installment!
With 2012 winding down, the RT editors thought December would be a good time to reflect on what each of us read this year and which books stuck with us long after we finished them. While this year’s RT Awards winners won’t be announced until our convention in May, we’ve decided to share our personal favorites of 2012, in no particular order. Today RT’s mystery aficionado and managing editor Liz French brings us her year in books:
2012 was a happy/sad year for me. My dear co-worker, Stephanie Klose, left the RT fold, which I mourned almost daily, but: I got to step up to be RT’s mystery editor in her stead. So I took the bitter with the sweet, assumed the mantle of mystery maven and read even more thrillers, suspense titles and mysteries than ever before this year.
A few standouts:
Well, duh. Everybody was raving about this book and you know what, everybody was right. It deserves every accolade and boy did it receive a lot. RT even nominated it for Best Suspense/Thriller of the year. Flynn so compellingly crawls inside the heads of her characters and it’s only after you turn the last page that you realize that she made you care deeply about some seriously screwed up and unsympathetic characters. She is a master and I cannot wait to see what she does next. Also, I’ve made a note to myself to read her previous books to see if they’re as good.
Another RT Best Thriller/Suspense nom, this one has a very sympathetic lead character with one very weird “disorder”: Brenna remembers EVERYTHING that happened EVERY day for the past 20-plus years. This makes for an excellent P.I. however it’s hell on her personal life, but the story is fantastic. Gaylin is wickedly witty, too, and several of her lead character’s observations were so hilarious and dead-on that I quoted her on Facebook, that’s how good they were.
Of course I had to get my Scandinavian on this year, too. I became enthralled by Nina Borg, the Danish Red Cross nurse heroine of Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis’ series. Nina first appeared in The Boy in the Suitcase and that was a fantastic read. The follow-up, Invisible Murder is even better. Nina can’t help herself; she wades into every situation and risks everything to help the oppressed. Nina out-Dragon-tattoos Elspeth Salander, in my humble opinion.
In 2012 I also had to indulge my Lee Child habit. His books are tip-top in the genre, it’s just that simple. I don’t know how I feel about Tom Cruise playing Jack Reacher in the movie (which is coming out this month, I believe), but I do know that once you pick up a Reacher adventure, you won’t be putting it down until the last page — or your eyes give out, which was the case for moi with A Wanted Man.
Live by Night
by Dennis Lehane
I also adore the work of Dennis Lehane. Lately he has moved from suspense/mysteries to historical fiction with a big dose of political, and I’m all for this move. He does it well. His 2008 historical fiction title, The Given Day, blew me away. I looked back at my review of that book just now and I seriously wish I could revise my rating upwards — way upwards. Anyway, that’s in the past. I read and enjoyed the follow-up, Live by Night — actually, I still have a few pages to go. I almost can’t stand to finish it, because who knows how long before Lehane pens another novel this good?
Speaking of shifting between genres, I read a favorite suspense-y writer who occasionally dips into the mainstream: Laura Lippman, whose And When She Was Good concerned a suburban madam who tries to balance motherhood with a questionable — and dangerous — career. Lippman takes big chances in her writing. Sometimes she falls and sometimes she shines, but she’s an author who always makes you think.
Val McDermid, an author that dear Stephanie turned me on to, wrote a fantastic stand-alone this year that is rollicking, amazing, well plotted and fantastic — until the very last pages. I can forgive her, though, because The Vanishing Point is well written and gripping up till that problematic finale.
And on the literary fiction front, I tried! I truly tried to like Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling’s adult fiction debut, The Casual Vacancy, but found it hopeless and bleak. Truly, we needed a little magic! It was the same with Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue, which had a lot of good parts but didn’t move me the way his previous titles have. That book felt like vignettes loosely thrown together to make an unsatisfying whole. And while Gillian Flynn can somehow make you care about unsympathetic characters for the duration of a novel, Chabon didn’t manage to elicit that feeling in me about his motley crew of utopian Oaklandites.
– Liz French
Do you and Liz share some favorite books of the year? Which reads did you love in 2012? Let us know in the comments, and check back all month for more editors’ picks!