I apparently read a sizable amount of crime-fiction this year. Although I love capital ‘L’ literature, various science-fiction, and fantasy, I spent 2013 nestled in the breast of violence and mayhem-fiction. That said, these are the creme of the crop. The best of the best. The essential five.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
The girl who wouldn’t die – hunting a killer who shouldn’t exist.
In Depression-era Chicago, Harper Curtis finds a key to a house that opens on to other times. But it comes at a cost. He has to kill the shining girls: bright young women, burning with potential. He stalks them through their lives across different eras, leaving anachronistic clues on their bodies, until, in 1989, one of his victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives and turns the hunt around.
As I hit the midpoint of the Joyland, Stephen King’s latest novel, I began to fret that I missed the plot. Based on the gorgeous Glen Orbik cover and flavor text, I anticipated a ghastly killer fun-house or a crazed madman ripping through teens like cotton candy. What I didn’t expect was the most profound reminiscence of youth and growing up since King’s The Body (later titled Stand By Me).
Collins’ original fiction is a blast and I cannot speak enough about my love of his work. Quarry and Ms Tree are two of my all time favorite characters. His CSI tie-in novels are better than the shows. Hell, I even read the novelization of Waterworld because his name was on it. But his historical fiction rises above ‘em all. I find them so in-depth, well researched, and well-crafted, that I wish history teachers took such care and love for the eras they talk about. Sure, I know that this is fiction. I’m not pretending much of this is real, but I know that he creates such a gorgeous overview of the time that it drips with realism.
Boo Malone lost everything when he was sent to St. Gabriel’s Home for Boys. There, he picked up a few key survival skills; a wee bit of an anger management problem; and his best friend for life, Junior. Now adults, Boo and Junior have a combined weight of 470 pounds (mostly Boo’s), about ten grand in tattoos (mostly Junior’s), and a talent for wise-cracking banter. Together, they provide security for the Cellar, a Boston nightclub where the bar-tending Audrey doles out hugs and scoldings for her favorite misfits, and the night porter, Luke, expects them to watch their language. At last Boo has found a family.
But when Boo and Junior are hired to find Cassandra, a well-to-do runaway slumming among the authority-shy street kids, Boo sees in the girl his own long-lost younger sister. And as the case deepens with evidence that Cassie is being sexually exploited, Boo’s blind desire for justice begins to push his surrogate family’s loyalty to the breaking point. Cassie’s life depends on Boo’s determination to see the case through, but that same determination just might finally drive him and Junior apart. What’s looking like an easy payday is turning into a hard bounce—for everyone. (from Tyrus Books)
A combination of Le Carré spycraft with Stephenson techno-philosophy from the novelist hailed by the Washington Post as “the voice of twenty-first century crime fiction,” Skinner is Charlie Huston’s masterpiece—a new kind of thriller for a new kind of world. (from Mulholland Books)