As usual, I have taken this task of selecting my Top Reads List very seriously and really struggled to make sure the list commemorates my favorite books of the year. Simply put, sometimes this means splitting hairs and having to leave off books that I truly loved but which just didn’t quite have the lasting impact of others. This does not mean I didn’t enjoy those other books – I did! – but anytime you are making a list, some things make the cut and others do not. Rest assured, if I talked about your book here on BOLO Books, I am proud to have read your work and will continue to suggest it to folks for years to come. These are just the books I feel had the most resonance with me this year. I should also say there are still 2022 reviews coming later this month, but all those books have been read and factored into this end-of-year list.
I will remind readers that this is my Top Reads list – not necessarily a Best Of list. Certainly these books are worthy of any Best Of list, but since I did not read everything published this year, I always hesitate to call it such and I question any venue that proports to highlight the best as I am fairly sure no one has read all the crime fiction books published in 2022. So remember, this is just my completely subjective list of the Top Reads of those that I experienced this year.
I am proud once again that my Top Reads list reflects the vast diversity found in the crime fiction genre. My life has always been improved by allowing many different voices to guide my through life and these books show that anyone who thinks that quality diverse crime fiction is a passing trend will be sadly mistaken. My selections this year also happen to embrace the entire breadth of sub-genres classified as crime fiction.
My final list is presented in alphabetical order based on the novel’s title – except for the first choice, which represents my overall favorite novel of the year. Along with the cover image for each selected book, I have included a short extract from the original review. Please follow the link following each extract to re-visit the full review and to find purchase links.
I can already hear you saying, enough with the babble, let’s see this list!
“Authors paint pictures with words, and like the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, some of their books are instant masterpieces sure to inspire readers and elicit envy from fellow wordsmiths. The Last King of California is simply that good. Jordan Harper wields words like weapons, with each specific word choice carefully chosen to elicit the desired reaction from the reader. It is like poetry on the page – devastating verse leaving the reader helpless to resist…The Last King of California is the type of book crime fiction writers aspire to create and crime fiction fans hope to discover.” (FULL REVIEW)
“Unlike most crime novels, 1989 isn’t interested in following just one case from beginning to end. This is a series where the true strength of the whole is fashioned from the interconnectedness of smaller pieces – a look at how society is altered not only by seismic events, but also by smaller seemingly innocuous choices. Allie Burns serves as the reader’s metaphorical Yellow Brick Road, leading them down a path that is fascinating, flawed, and ultimately redemptive.” (FULL REVIEW)
“The strength of Anywhere You Run rests squarely on the shoulders of these two sisters. Wanda M. Morris has crafted two distinct and fleshed-out characters with whom readers will immediately bond. Despite the historical time period of the novel, readers will know women like Violet and Marigold in their present day lives. Women to be admired and respected for so many reasons, not the least of which is their overall moral fiber and inner strength. Both sisters serve as narrators for their own portions of the story and readers will commiserate in their ache to be reunited.” (FULL REVIEW)
“Louise Penny crafts some beautiful passages of human understanding and empathy, then juxtaposes those deep mediations with some truly tense scenes threatening the lives of some cherished characters. A World of Curiosities proves how the ease of this author’s prose so expertly hides the clever manipulation and forethought Louise Penny has embedded within her progression of novels…At this point, her many fans have proven they are willing to follow her off the beaten path into the dark unknown and by the end, Louise Penny once again rewards this loyalty with a gripping and exciting conclusion worthy of this gem of a novel.” (FULL REVIEW)
“inlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead could easily have become a ridiculous and over-the-top novel, but Elle Cosimano has the skill and talent to blend social satire with the mystery plot in completely believable – albeit hilarious – ways. In a short span of time, readers have become invested in these characters and watching them navigate the challenges of every-day life (along with their not-so-average criminal endeavors) is a welcome escape from 2022’s trials and tribulations. Cosimano packs laugh-out-loud moments in just about every chapter, even while the threats and danger increase to high blood pressure-inducing levels.” (FULL REVIEW)
“Some people are just born storytellers, able to craft narratives that feature fascinating characters in compelling plots with an ease that seems magical. Add Kellye Garrett to that list. After two nearly perfect light-hearted cozy mysteries, Garrett turns her pen to the slightly more menacing domestic suspense arena and knocks it out of the park. Like A Sister will undoubtedly amass Kelley Garrett a legion of fans willing to follow her lead anywhere.” (FULL REVIEW)
“Fans of Dervla McTiernan already know that her novels rarely proceed along an expected trajectory, but with The Murder Rule, she streamlines the story to pinpoint precision without sacrificing either the depth of characterization she has become known for or those surprising developments which shock and delight her audience…The Murder Rule is Dervla McTiernan’s first standalone novel, but readers will hope that it is not her last. The freedom to put her characters through the hell without any guarantees of who will make it out alive certainly inspired this author to work at the top of her game.” (FULL REVIEW)
“Never one to rest on his laurels, Alex Segura now turns to what he knows best – the comic book industry – and skillfully weaves that into an unforgettable crime plot with #ownvoice elements; an iconic lead character; a gritty, authentic depiction of historical New York; and more than a dash of innovative creativity…There is no better compliment than saying that only Alex Segura could have written Secret Identity. His historic knowledge of the comic industry combined with a formidable Latinx heroine makes Secret Identity one of the highlights of 2022.” (FULL REVIEW)
“Edwin Hill has crafted a tightly-knit narrative with themes of family loyalty, revenge, and misplaced trust. The Secrets We Share is domestic suspense of the highest caliber, taking reader expectations and turning them upside down and inside out…he use of revelations morphs from gripping to manipulative to organic across the breadth of the narrative with the end result being that readers will be in awe of the vast quantity of shocks Edwin Hill is able to pack into this one novel…The narrative drive of The Secrets We Share ebbs and flows with precision. This is an author who knows when to pull back on plot to allow his characters to shine, but also when action set-pieces will better serve the work over drawn-out conversations.” (FULL REVIEW)
“The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill by C. S. Robertson is the type of book that once read is not easily forgotten. The impact lingers for a multitude of reasons, but they all boil down to the fact that Robertson is a gifted talent who uses all the tricks in the authorial toolbox to elicit real emotion from the reader at every stage of this journey…The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster, never avoiding the difficult aspects of death, so readers should prepare themselves. The journey is as much about Grace McGill’s self-assessment as it is about the larger mystery that propels the plot.” (FULL REVIEW)
TOP READS: DEBUT NOVELS OF 2022
“Rob Osler’s debut mystery novel, Devil’s Chew Toy, is a rollicking romp through the tropes of the cozy sub-genre fronted by a gay main character – Hayden McCall – and his clique of diverse sidekicks. Readers will be having so much fun following this gang’s escapades they will forget how radical the pairing of the gay male experience and the typically conservative cozy style truly is…Rob Osler places Hayden and Hollister into situations that no-doubt further the actual investigation while also maximizing the comedic potential of this dynamic duo. Readers will switch on a dime between fearing for their safety and guffawing over the slapstick nature of their actions. This juxtaposition is where Osler shines.” (FULL REVIEW)
“a work that both acknowledges and circumvents existing tropes, utilizes its unusual setting in fresh and authentic ways, and populates the narrative with an unforgettable cast of characters bursting with diversity, insight, and fallibility. That Hayley Scrivenor then executes all of that while employing a lush and beautiful use of language is a testament to her talent and hints that this may just be the start of a long and successful career…None of the topics Hayley Scrivenor is documenting are unexpected or groundbreaking – infidelity, disability, drugs, sexuality, addiction, and abuse – but the way that she incorporates them and defies stereotypes lends a freshness to the final product that cannot be overstated.” (FULL REVIEW)
“Sinkhole is a southern gothic bildungsroman told in two timelines, each of which recount the coming-of-age of lead character, Michelle Miller. In the past – set in Lorida, Florida during the 1980s – readers follow as Michelle struggles to fit in at school until she finds a kindred spirit in fellow outcast, Sissy. In the present sections, Michelle hears news that her mother is in the hospital and must travel back to Lorida – site of so much past trauma – learning, in the end, the true meaning of maturity, friendship, and familial bonds…Sinkhole is not just a book you read, it is a book you experience deep in your soul; it alters you in ways that will only become apparent with time and reflection.” (FULL REVIEW)
TOP READS: UNCATEGORIZABLE “CRIME FICTION”
“Nothing beats a creepy-as-hell read as the chill of Winter settles in. “The Devil is in Scotland” is poised to become one of those iconic opening lines of literature—one that is uttered in reverence; often imitated, but rarely replicated. With that simple statement, Luke Dumas’ A History of Fear is off and running and it will not let loose its grip on the reader until the final page is turned. Only then can the truth be revealed to those—both characters and readers—who have survived long enough to reach the conclusion.” (FULL REVIEW COMING SOON)
“The Other Side of Night is a mystery in the sense that life is a mystery. Sure, there is a crime to be solved, but what really matters is the metaphysical quandaries that surround the core. It will be a rare reader who can get to the end without some type of deep emotional reaction – perhaps wonder, sadness, confusion, love, delight, awe, empathy, envy, or fear. More than likely, it will be a combination of some or all these core emotions and countless ephemeral asides as well. It’s a mystery; it’s a love story; it’s a tragedy; it’s a thriller, an adventure, and a quest. It is all of that and none of that.” (FULL REVIEW)