From the Booking Desk:
This year’s list of Top Reads was almost painful to create. Narrowing the list down was far from easy and as a result, some really great books did not make the cut.
The competition was so heated that I had to increase the Top Ten to a Top Twelve – simply because those books which were on the bubble were too close to make a final decision. There are also three books which for various reasons could not be on the main list, but which I wanted to highlight – giving us a final count of FIFTEEN books.
Any of these would be great additions to your holiday gift-giving or simply as a treat for yourself. And again, don’t forget the other books I reviewed here (and elsewhere) this year – since I only talk about books that I really enjoyed, you can’t go wrong with any of them.
My choices – and let us never forget that any Best Of list (or review for that matter) is ultimately only one person’s opinion – are presented here in alphabetical order by title. In case you missed it, please click on the (full review) link to see the entire original review. There you will also find links to purchase the books.
Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich
“Panowich skillfully manages to avoid the temptation to overwrite which is so common in first novels. By doing so, he keeps Bull Mountain streamlined and focused, thereby elevating its power and hold over the reader. Elegant phrasing may not be what one would expect from a noir tale set in hillbilly territory, but Panowich’s novel is all about defying expectations..” (full review)
Burnt River by Karin Salvalaggio
“It is rare for a new character to so quickly acquire the devotion of a finicky reading public, but Salvalaggio has done it – Macy Greeley is going to be with us for a very long time.” (full review)
Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman
“Storyline twists allow for thrilling action sequences juxtaposed with realistic scenes of domestic conflict. In the end, no easy answers are offered and Brigid is certainly not one for meaningless platitudes. What readers will find is that Fear the Darkness is a novel with a lot of heart and it is not afraid of exposing it.” (full review)
Hush Hush by Laura Lippman
“Hush Hush is a Tess Monaghan novel, but the depth and social relevance feel very much in line with Laura Lippman’s stand-alone output. Laura Lippman consistently writes excellent crime fiction that engages readers and pushes the boundaries – not of the genre, but the boundaries of writing in general. She experiments with format, style, tone and voice – making each novel a treasure in need of excavation, examination and appreciation. Hush Hush may be just another in a long line of quality novels, but no doubt more than one fan will consider it her best yet.” (full review)
The Killing Kind by Chris Holm
“The Killing Kind is a fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled novel marking a turning point in the career of Chris Holm. Where he was once a cult author with a loyal fan base, this new novel will no doubt make him a recognizable and leading name in the thriller genre moving forward. It is ironic that The Killing Kind features two rival hitmen since the novel itself is a guaranteed ‘hit.'” (full review)
A Line of Blood by Ben McPherson
“[McPherson] demonstrates a deft hand at crafting complex characters though the use of both dialogue and internal monologue. McPherson manages to make true declarations about the nature of family without the sugar-coated illusions so often depicted in genre fiction. A Line of Blood very much belongs in the sub-genre known as domestic suspense, but unlike the canonical works in that field, Ben McPherson allows the point-of-view voice to be that of the husband. Even with that alteration – or maybe because of it – this book belongs on the shelf next to all your favorite domestic suspense novels – it is more than worthy.” (full review)
Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader-Day
“Little Pretty Things is like a literary mash-up of Judy Blume and Megan Abbott, told in what is becoming the distinctive voice of its creator, Lori Rader-Day. On the surface, Little Pretty Things is about the death of Madeleine Bell and how her closest childhood friend, Juliet, attempts to ensure that her killer is brought to justice. Just under the surface, however, is a tale of adolescence reached in small town America, the resilient yet tenuous bonds of female friendship, and the shadow cast when children are treated as commodities.” (full review)
My Sunshine Away by M. O. Walsh
“Every few years there is a book that is released which immediately feels like a classic – something readers will re-visit over and over again, always discovering new things within the magical words on the page. This year, that book is My Sunshine Away by M. O. Walsh. Readers need only to reach the final sentence of the first chapter to become fully invested and completely mesmerized by this debut novel.” (full review)
The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny
“Louise Penny has a knack for uncovering tidbits of historical knowledge that may have been missed by the general public and weaving these facts into a convincing story. That occurs in the new novel as well, but The Nature of the Beast is the first time a Louise Penny book reads more like a slow-boil thriller than a traditional mystery. This was likely a planned decision by the author to help keep things fresh for the eleventh book in the series.” (full review)
No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary
“Sarah Hilary excels at writing characters in crisis. Every person in the novel – from Marnie Rome to the most minor secondary characters – feels fully developed and worthy of reader’s attention. Hilary is one of those novelists who craft short chapters which end either in a cliffhanger moment or a strong transition. This technique keeps readers turning the pages and makes consuming the entire book seem effortless.” (full review)
Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson
“This is a book that will appeal to the staunchest supporter of Dame Agatha Christie as well as fans of the darker Scandinavian crime fiction reaching our shores over the last few years. This may seem like a dichotomous pairing, but it is a testament to Jónasson talent that his appeal is so widespread…For lack of a better term, let’s call this Cozy Noir.” (full review)
What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan
“What You See, the fourth book in the Jane Ryland series, was recently released and like all of Ryan’s books, it provides readers with more of what they love while also moving the over-all story of Jane Ryland forward. In her now trademark style, Hank Philllippi Ryan manipulates multiple story threads, weaving them together in unexpected ways, until the end result is a beautiful whole-cloth quilt of a story.” (full review)
From the Booking Desk:
And now for those other three titles that didn’t fit the main list:
Top Edited Work of the Year
Women Crime Writers (1940’s and 1950’s) edited by Sarah Weinman
Sarah Weinman has collected together eight stellar novels of domestic suspense from the 40’s and 50’s. No crime fiction collection is complete without having this two-volume anthology on the shelves. Sarah is doing great things by ensuring that the neglected voices of the past are finally heard and respected.
Top Read of a book released before 2015 but read in 2015
Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall
“In Land of Shadows, Rachel Howzell Hall does for Los Angeles what Laura Lippman has done for Baltimore. Yes, that means that she is revealing the underbelly of the city – the less polished façade – devoid of the allure most tourists are attracted to. But more importantly, she lets readers see the city through the eyes of a kick-ass female protagonist who is completely part of the community and yet, slightly outside it…” (full review)
Top Read of a book coming out in 2016 but read in 2015
The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
This book will be released in the UK on January 1st and later in the year here in the States. I feel it is the best of Alex Marwood’s excellent books and expect big things from this novel in 2016. Look for a full review in early January.
From the Booking Desk:
And there you have it folks! Fifteen books that rocked my world in 2015. It’s been a hell of year for crime fiction and 2016 is shaping up to be equally fierce. I hope that you will visit BOLO Books again throughout the year. I am always here, talking about the books I love and the books I think you will love as well. Thanks for taking the ride with me!