Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best Books of 2011: Crime Fiction, Part I

This is the crime fiction (part I) segment of January Magazine’s Best Books of 2011 feature. You can see other sections as follows: Best Fiction, Best Non-Fiction, Best Art & Culture, Best Biography, Best Books for Children and Young Adults, Best Cookbooks, Best Science Fiction/Fantasy and Best Crime Fiction (part II).

The Accident by Linwood Barclay (Bantam)
Canadian author Barclay burst upon the thriller genre in 2007 with No Time for Goodbye, leaving behind his humorous novels in favor of investigations into the dark heart of middle-class suburbia. The theme of The Accident is that you should never take anything at face value -- not the designer-label handbags that lie at this tale’s core, or the friends that pepper our lives; there is always an agenda, and one that’s often hidden from view. Set in the small town of Mitford, Connecticut, The Accident offers up the pain posed by the trickle-down effect of today’s worldwide economic crisis. At the story’s center is Glen Garber, a businessman struggling to keep his modest construction company (set up by his father) afloat when no one has money for building work. Though he’s beset by debt, Garber keeps his workforce occupied with small-scale home extensions and kitchen re-fits. However, the shadow of a fire that destroyed a property Garber’s men were working on, and nearly cost Glen his life, hangs over the firm as insurance investigators look into the cause of that blaze. Glen’s wife, Sheila, tells him that everything will work out OK -- but that’s just before she dies in a peculiar accident. Or was it an accident? Drunk and asleep at the wheel, she’d parked her car in a busy carriageway. Anxious about Sheila not having returned from her evening class, Glen takes their daughter Kelly to investigate, only to discover his wife’s car ablaze, the result of a head-on collision. The ensuing investigation determines that Sheila was responsible for her own death as well as the deaths of others in that accident. Few people can believe Sheila could have been so reckless -- including her mother, Fiona, who blames her daughter’s heavy drinking on Glen. After Sheila’s passing, Glen starts recognizing duplicity even among his friends, neighbors and colleagues. The people he thought he knew best turn out to be desperate folk, all with agendas that only come into focus as Glen fights to uncover the truth about his wife’s fate. Add to The Accident a side-plot about counterfeit handbags being traded amongst middle-class consumers, and we see Barclay shaping a story about false friendships and how financial desperation can lead some people to desperate and deadly measures. The climax of this book makes clear that even the darkest motivations beat to the rhythm of a human heart. -- Ali Karim

A Bad Night’s Sleep by Michael Wiley (Minotaur)
The opening of Wiley’s latest Joe Kozmarski adventure (after 2010’s The Bad Kitty Lounge) is so good it’s unlikely the rest of the book could ever quite measure up. But it comes very, very close, making it definitely one of my favorite reads of 2011. Granted, the public-relations staff at the Chicago Police Department might not be so enamored -- let’s just say they may be having a few bad nights themselves. But readers will find much to like in Wiley’s Windy City private detective. In fact, Joe’s biggest appeal may be that he’s, well, just a regular Joe, prone to mistakes and occasional lapses in judgment. Like dozing off in his parked car on a freeze-your-ass-off November night while supposedly guarding a deserted South Side construction site. The problem is that when he wakes up, there’s a gang of cops (in uniform, no less) loading up vans with rolls of stolen copper wire. I mean, gee, who ya gonna call? It’s a great opening scene; one that drags you right into this pulpy, hard-boiled yarn. If Wiley doesn’t quite keep up the feverish pace throughout, it’s not for lack of trying. Shoot-outs, betrayals, violence, double crosses, narrow escapes and more betrayals keep things moving and deliciously off-kilter, leaving Joe (and us) never quite sure where the next hit is coming from. Joe muddles through the ever-rising tide of corruption with a plodding, dogged determination to do the right thing, and the author, a Shamus Award winner, manages to keep the occasionally high-flying plot grounded with clean, taut prose and an appealing street-level grit that melds perfectly with his beleaguered, Everyman hero. Just don’t expect Wiley -- or Joe Kozmarski -- to have any Chicago streets named after them any time soon. -- Kevin Burton Smith

Bad Signs by R.J. Ellory (Orion UK)
Although it’s again set in America, this latest work by R.J. Ellory is more disturbing than some of its predecessors. Bad Signs carries a palpable sense of urgency, partly because its events unfold over only a week during the 1960s, and partly because there is an atmosphere of dread and impending doom that looms over this story’s events. Ellory’s principal theme is the sometimes high cost of friendship. The orphaned and isolated half brothers, Elliott “Digger” Danziger and Clarence “Clay” Luckman, soon discover this to be true, as their paths cross that of psycho-nutjob and former murderer Earl Sheridan. The madman drags these boys into his own private hell, as he escapes with them from California, through Arizona and into Texas, leading them through a succession of violent misadventures. It seems that Sheridan’s presence alters the brothers’ relationship, and makes them face the darkness of their origins. Perhaps Digger and Clay were simply born under a bad sign. But as Digger embraces the madness, Clay fights against the shadows Sheridan tries to gather about them. There is philosophical debate as to whether genetics, fate or nurture -- or a combination of those -- have made these siblings select their divergent paths, but one thing is certain: Sheridan had a part to play in their choices. This is British author Ellory’s ninth published novel, and he’s become a skilled self-editor, propelling his tale toward its cathartic conclusion with sharp dialogue between Digger and Clay. Reminiscent of the amoral nihilism of Jim Thompson’s early works, Bad Signs is a shotgun wound to the face, with many of the images hard to erase once viewed through Ellory’s imagination. However, there is real pathos and a dark brand of humor suffusing this story. You won’t soon forget Digger and Clay and the journey that is their undoing, or Earl Sheridan’s evilly grinning face. Bad Signs will haunt the reader even more than his breakout novel, A Quiet Belief in Angels (2007), but it’s definitely not for the faint of heart -- and I’m not kidding about that. -- Ali Karim

Bloodland by Alan Glynn (Faber and Faber UK)
The winner of this year’s crime gong in the Irish Book Awards, Bloodland opens with Dublin-based journalist Jimmy Gilroy being warned off a story, by a political “fixer,” about the death of a tabloid ingénue in a helicopter crash. It quickly opens up into a classic paranoid thriller, however, moving from Dublin to New York, the Congo and Italy, and as with Glynn’s previous novel, Winterland (2009), concerns itself with the power and filthy lucre generated when politics and big business tumble into bed together. While Bloodland isn’t a direct sequel to Winterland, it does feature a number of the previous novel’s characters, and paints that story’s theme on a much bigger canvas to achieve a more profound impact. Written in terse but eloquent prose, this novel displays an admirable ambition as it explores not only the timeless and endlessly fertile subject of the abuse of power, but also the West’s fear of an increasingly powerful China, the extent to which backroom fixers manipulate the levers of democracy, and -- ultimately, and perhaps most importantly -- the question of who decides what the public is entitled to know. In a year of global economic disasters, scandalous political mismanagement and the attempted occupation of various strategic interests by “the 90%,” Bloodland is a very timely novel indeed. Pitched as the second in a loose trilogy, it will be very interesting indeed to see where Glynn’s next novel takes him, and us. -- Declan Burke

Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder (St. Martin’s Press)
A Portuguese character in this book uses the irritating phrase “It’s all good” rather too often, but that phrase matches my opinion of Finder’s second Nick Heller thriller, Buried Secrets. Following up on 2009’s Vanished, this new entry in the series starts in high gear as Heller, an elite corporate intelligence specialist, is lured into helping his friend, the financial tycoon Marshall Marcus, locate his kidnapped teenage daughter, Alexandra. The sentence structure and chapters in this novel are short, and they propel the story along very much like the projectile bullets (fired by South American and Russian gangsters) that Heller must dodge as he pursues his investigation. The real charm of this harrowing tale is its alternation between the hip, first-person, and often cynically humorous viewpoint provided by Heller and the third-person perspective taken from the darker extremes of this yarn. Series thrillers usually provide a hero as well as a sidekick, but what makes Finder’s Buried Secrets distinctive is that Heller has many sidekicks, partners, friends and contacts to pull from. Those include his nephew, the comic-book-loving Gabe; the disfigured veteran and electronics wizard, George Devlin; as well as Heller’s own investigative staff. Spiced with tradecraft, glimpses into geopolitics and financial trickery, this insightful novel is one of the year’s most easily recommended thrillers. -- Ali Karim

The Burning Soul by John Connolly (Atria)
John Connolly’s series protagonist, Charlie Parker, returns in The Burning Soul, initially to discover who might be blackmailing a mild-mannered accountant who lives peaceably in a small Maine town. We quickly discover, however, that our friend the accountant hasn’t always been so peaceable; in fact, as a minor, he was sent to prison for his part in the murder of a young girl. Simultaneously, another young girl goes missing in the small town, with Parker’s suspicions falling upon the client he believes is lying about something other than his assumed identity. This pleasingly complex plot is enriched by Connolly’s superb prose, which here, and particularly in his descriptive passages, verges on blank verse. More satisfying, though -- especially for this author’s legions of fans -- is the way Connolly deftly undercuts his own reputation as a writer of “supernatural” crime fiction. The allusions to ghosts and tortured spirits are here, certainly, but Connolly’s use of language suggests that he is in pursuit of a more subtle quality of otherworldliness, a far more delicate process of investigation that lies somewhere between a rationalizing philosophy of our instincts toward the spiritual and a grasping after a quality that is, quite simply, ineffable. That’s not to say that Connolly has lost sight of his primary goal, which is to create a taut thriller: this he does, with a novel that first and foremost succeeds as one of the most mature and thoughtful thrillers of the year. The Burning Soul is more than that, however; even Connolly’s most dedicated followers will be pleasantly surprised by how much more he has to offer. -- Declan Burke

The Cut by George Pelecanos (Reagan Arthur)
The Cut may not be this author’s most original novel -- loyal fans will immediately recognize his familiar tricks and tropes -- but oh, that voice! Nobody sings the troubled young man blues quite like Pelecanos. And he’s never created a more unique and compelling voice than that of recently returned 29-year-old Iraq war vet Speros Lucas, arguably the first major new P.I. of this decade. A battle-scarred soul still trying to figure out how to make his way in the civilian world without being crushed by it, Speros is working as an investigator for a hotshot Washington, D.C., lawyer, and occasionally moonlighting as a retriever of lost or stolen property on behalf of some not-quite-kosher clients. In The Cut he’s working for a temporarily imprisoned drug dealer who is tired of being systematically ripped off. But the plot, as engaging as it is, is almost secondary -- the 50-ish author outdoes himself this time, nailing the young man’s world of cars, girls, music, food, drink, sports and hard choices with a ferocious intensity. In a world of cookie-cutter middle-aged loner detectives whose cynicism is as predictable as the tired old jazz records and booze they cling to, Speros is a shotgun blast of fresh air. This ain’t your father’s P.I. or possibly even yours. Speros belongs to a new breed, one who attends church and dines with his mother regularly; one whose tools of the trade aren’t a trench coat and a flask, but an iPhone. Nor does Speros have time for the glib but too often callow wisecracks that the genre has been soaking in for far too long. As he puts it, “There are certain bars I don’t hang in ... I’m not gonna sit around and have drinks with people who are, you know, ironic.” -- Kevin Burton Smith

A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block (Mulholland)
Once again, Block has made me cry. I’ve gone misty over some of his other books, but only Eight Million Ways to Die (1982) made the waterworks come. My father is an alcoholic. He was an alcoholic when I read Eight Million, and like New York City cop-turned-private eye Matt Scudder in A Drop of the Hard Stuff, he’s now got a few years of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous to his credit. This latest, 17th Scudder novel is set back in 1982. It starts with criminal Mick Ballou and Scudder having one of their famous late nights in the quickly gentrifying Grogan’s Bar. However, this is really the story of a man named Jack Ellery, who Scudder knew briefly as a boy, and then again when Ellery was a thief, and finally, years later, when they were both scaling the steps of sobriety. Their relationship is fascinating; they never quite become friends, but share an understanding that only those in “the program” can share. After Ellery is seemingly murdered at random, Jack’s sponsor asks Scudder to investigate. A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a tale told between men, about men, and about their demons and angels, their fears and triumphs. It’s also a novel about a city, and as usual Block writes about the Big Apple better than anyone, carefully re-creating the boroughs of New York as they were during the early Reagan years. His New York City has a soul and a personality, and it speaks to both the reader and Scudder (who once again eschews driving, giving us a wonderful walking tour of a burg both majestic and feral) as we move toward this novel’s wonderful, inevitably downbeat and quiet ending. A Drop of the Hard Stuff is a masterpiece. Let’s hope it is not the last Scudder book, if Block still has it in him to turn out such fantastic stories as this one. -- Cameron Hughes

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott (Reagan Arthur/
Little, Brown)

After a series of powerful short stories and novels set in the classic age of crime fiction, author Abbott jumps ahead several decades to write her best novel yet. Set in the late 1970s, early ’80s, before we knew terms such as “stranger danger” and names like Adam Walsh and Etan Patz, The End of Everything is a timeless, haunting mystery. It’s a mystery of a disappearing girl, but it’s also a mystery of that time between childhood and adulthood, when one’s emotions are not completely one’s own. Reminiscent of and equal in merit to Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, this book heralds a new phase in Abbott’s career, while setting a mighty high bar for her to clear. It gets under your skin. It stays with you. I read many great books this year -- this was the best. -- Brendan M. Leonard

The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina (Reagan Arthur)
A guiding theme underlying Denise Mina’s fine crime novels is why people, especially damaged people, are who they are and do what they do. Her latest work, The End of the Wasp Season, certainly has its share of damaged people. In a story that could have been ripped from the headlines, investment banker Lars Anderson hangs himself at the family home as his shaky investment empire comes crumbling down. He leaves behind a neurotic, drug-dependent wife, a daughter curiously detached from reality and a neglected, bitter son who’s fallen in with very bad company at a private school in Scotland. An attempted burglary results in a woman being savagely beaten to death in her home, and it falls on Detective Sergeant Alex Morrow, pregnant with twins, to solve the case. Complicating things, the sons of an old friend of Morrow’s may be involved. When she comes to realize that these investigations might be related, a yarn unfolds worthy of a Greek drama, speaking of abandoned dreams and bitterness, and neglect, avarice and deceit. There are no heroes in this story, and few villains; but there are many victims. It’s a cautionary tale, not so far removed from everyday reality as one might hope. With Mina’s trademark focus on dysfunctional people brought into conflict, The End of the Wasp Season is another fine addition to her already impressive portraits of life on the margins of society. At times gritty and intense, Mina’s insights are penetrating and evocative, and few readers will come away unmoved. -- Jim Napier

Falling Glass by Adrian McKinty (Serpent’s Tail)
The 11th offering from Adrian McKinty is ostensibly a straightforward chase-’n’-shoot thriller, in which an underworld enforcer, Killian, is hired to find the runaway ex-wife of an Irish millionaire, said ex-wife having absconded with her two daughters. Killian believes the investigation will be relatively smooth, all things considering; but his employers are fond of the belt-and-braces approach, so also hire a former Russian soldier, a veteran of the Chechnya conflict, to find the missing woman. Both men are determined to earn the reward put up by the millionaire, and thus begins a potentially lethal game of cat-and-mouse through the rural backwaters of Northern Ireland. McKinty’s reputation for writing grimly realistic hard-boiled thrillers is well-earned, but as one expects from this author, Falling Glass offers significantly more than the conventional crime novel. Here the joker in McKinty’s pack is the character of Killian, a man of Pavee stock (or a member of the itinerant gypsy community in Ireland) who has unsuccessfully tried to shake off his origins and settle down, literally and metaphorically. His odyssey through Northern Ireland reawakens his dormant instincts, with Killian proving himself something of a philosopher as he waxes lyrical about the nature of home, culture and society. Meanwhile, the hurtling pace of McKinty’s story draws us to a brutally violent finale, in which the author lays bare the hypocrisies of Northern Ireland’s peace process, and the Machiavellian compromises that form the core of that fragile peace. -- Declan Burke

The Fatal Touch by Conor Fitzgerald (Bloomsbury)
Set in Rome, but featuring the American-born Italian police detective Alec Blume, The Fatal Touch is Fitzgerald’s sequel to 2010’s debut, The Dogs of Rome, which garnered him comparisons with the late Michael Dibdin. Here Commissario Alec Blume investigates the murky world of art forgery, aided and abetted by his colleague Caterina Mattiola, former policeman Beppe Paolini, the mysterious Colonel Farinelli, and the memoirs left behind by a dead forger, the Irish artist-in-exile Henry Treacy. Beautifully written, this story proceeds at a stately pace which disguises an exquisitely complex plot, as Blume delicately negotiates the labyrinth that is Roman policing. Fitzgerald has an elegant, spare style that straddles the literary and crime genres, and is perfectly pitched to reflect Blume’s own world-weariness. Despite his cynicism, however, one of Blume’s chief virtues is his laconic sense of humor, which gives rise to deliciously dry and deadpan observations on virtually every page, most of them at Blume’s own expense. Blume is a loner, an outsider and a potential alcoholic, but Fitzgerald cleverly reworks the police procedural’s conventions, much as the forger Treacy pays homage to the Old Masters, and makes a distinctive hero of Blume, particularly in terms of his ability to not only adjust to the corruption that is integral to Italian policing, but to employ it on his own terms. Meanwhile, Treacy’s memoirs provide a secondary narrative strand that is equally compelling, and which neatly feeds into the main story despite Treacy’s penchant for baroque and self-serving prose. All of these elements come together in a scintillating novel that offers a compelling snapshot of contemporary Rome, courtesy of a guide, in Alec Blume, who seems set fair to become this generation’s Aurelio Zen. -- Declan Burke

Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster)
In a sleepy border town in southwest Texas, aging sheriff Hack Holland is confronted by an account of a man tortured to death in the desert. The evidence is shaky: the sole alleged eyewitness is an alcoholic ex-boxer known for having visions. But Holland is old school, and reluctantly drives out to look into things for himself. The barren landscape harbors a rogues’ gallery of misfits and miscreants, including a mysterious Chinese woman known for sheltering illegal immigrants and a born-again lay preacher wrestling with demons of his own. Holland soon learns that there are other, even less-welcome species inhabiting that remote region: a disaffected government military engineer is on the run, pursued by mercenaries eager to sell his knowledge to terrorists. FBI agents are trying to find the engineer as well. Meanwhile, a serial killer Holland had thought was dead resurfaces. To worsen matters, Holland’s female deputy is making unmistakable moves on the aging law officer. All in all, it’s shaping up as a really bad week. We have come to expect finely crafted suspense tales from this award-winning author, and in his latest work we are not disappointed. Gritty, graphic and intense, Feast Day of Fools is also a powerful, unforgettable tale of a man who, haunted by his late wife’s death, is unable to forge close relationships with the living. Burke expertly mines his own considerable knowledge of the American Southwest to create a stark backdrop for a chilling tale that will remain with readers long after they’ve finished this book. -- Jim Napier

Field Gray by Philip Kerr (Marian Wood/Putnam)
Building on his fine Berlin Noir series, Philip Kerr’s latest work features German ex-cop Bernie Gunther. Not surprisingly, as the book opens Bernie is already in trouble: arrested by Americans looking for gun smugglers off the shores of pre-Castro Cuba. Bernie is returned to Germany to face investigation for war crimes. His actions will be scrutinized by a pair of U.S. prosecutors who have little sympathy for, and apparently even less understanding of, the exigencies of war. The balance of this tale spans a 20-year period from the mid-1930s to the mid-’50s, covering the buildup to World War II, the war itself and finally its aftermath. Layer by layer, Bernie’s actions during that international conflict are laid bare to the reader, who cannot help but ask himself, What would I have done in that situation? Peppered with dark humor, Field Gray explores at length the moral landscape of all sides during the Second World War, where it seems no one can lay claim to the high ground. Bernie’s character may be ambiguous, but his questions are probing and he is not easily put off from examining -- in painful detail -- the complex intersection where conscience and compromise collide. Author Kerr explores this moral no-man’s land, offering penetrating insights without ever lapsing into an apologia. An impeccably researched, rich soup of a novel by one of the finest writers of our day, Field Gray is the sort of exquisitely nuanced tale reminiscent of the work of John le Carré. It is a fine example of how, in the hands of an accomplished writer, a work of fiction can simultaneously shed light on the world of fact and also provide a gripping read. -- Jim Napier

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown)
Given the strength of this fourth Mickey Haller novel, it’s likely that Matthew McConaughey will be given more opportunities to play the role of Connelly’s L.A. defense attorney who works from the back seat of his Lincoln Town Car. As terrific as Haller is at his job, economic times are tough. There isn’t enough defense work to pay the bills, so Haller turns to home foreclosures, which he figures should keep him in the black or several years. He has so much business, in fact, that he hires a young associate to help, Jennifer Aronson. Haller’s defense skills intersect with his foreclosure work when an unlikable client, Lisa Trammel, is accused of murdering Mitchell Bondurant, the banker who’s trying to take away her home. The case seems like a slam-dunk -- the physical evidence just doesn’t add up against Haller’s client. But after Trammel works out a film deal with a sleazy producer-type, much against Haller’s wishes ... and after Haller is beaten to a pulp (and almost loses a testicle in the fray -- ouch!) ... and after ace prosecutor Andrea Freeman finds DNA evidence linking Trammel to the killing ... well, Haller has to fire up all his considerable talents to survive the courtroom skirmish. In the background of all this is Haller’s ever-smoldering love for his ex-wife, prosecutor Margaret “Maggie McFierce” McPherson. Wrought with tension, well-timed humor and a dose of irony at the end, The Fifth Witness is a transition novel for Haller. I don’t want to spoil the book’s ending, but let me just say that Haller’s life is going to vastly change come the next novel. I’ll be there to see it happen, but I hope it all takes place from the back seat of a Lincoln. -- Anthony Rainone

Fogtown by Andersen Gabrych and Brad Rader (Vertigo Crime)
Few current noir novels, let alone graphic novels, wander into the murky areas of sexual desire -- never mind homosexual desire -- as well or as audaciously as Gabrych’s Fogtown (released originally in 2010, but with a paperback version issued earlier this year). In fact, short of maybe John Morgan Wilson and Josh Lanyon, few contemporary crime-fiction writers even come close to the dark whirlpool of guilt, shame and bleak despair that Gabrych’s characters are drawn into here. The year is 1953, and aging P.I. Frank Grissell is hitting the bottle. Hard. The bruiser’s got his reasons, I suppose. He’s on the run from his Wisconsin past, having reinvented himself as the owner and sole operative of a small San Francisco agency. But he’s never quite escaped the guilt of abandoning his past. He is living with his secretary/lover, the long-suffering Loretta Valentine, who’s loyal to a fault, despite his often loutish, abusive behavior. But even Loretta’s great big heart isn’t enough when Frank agrees to search for a runaway girl. The P.I. plows his way through San Francisco’s sordid underbelly, encountering an equally sordid cast of characters, with the deliberately crude black-and-white artwork more than keeping pace. It’s full of thick, bold lines, evoking not just Kirby/Simon comics of the era but even German Expressionist woodcuts; Rader’s decidedly non-pretty characters suggesting an oppressively bleak, claustrophobic world of violence and ugliness driven by lust and greed -- a perfect match for Gabrych’s narrative. Fogtown is definitely a wallow, full of racist, misanthropic and homophobic slurs, nasty wisecracks, some pretty graphic sex and violence, and more than a few plot twists -- some which you will have seen coming forever and others that’ll have you frantically flipping pages backwards. But Gabrych plays fair throughout. His real courage as a writer, though, comes at the end when he offers up the kind of conclusion that, at least in the narrowly proscribed world of today’s NoirLand, still dare not speak its name. -- Kevin Burton Smith

Fun & Games by Duane Swierczynski (Mulholland)
Attention noiristas and crime-fiction trendoids: your bluff has been called. Philly’s favorite cheesesteak, Duane Swierczynski, sees your tired gloom and doom and raises you great writing, vivid characters and a serious sense of fun. And fun is the operative word here. The appropriately titled Fun & Games, the first in a planned trilogy of back-to-back thrillers (Hell & Gone is also just out, with Point & Shoot coming in March 2012) featuring ex-cop-turned-housesitter Charlie Hardie, is possibly the most raucously entertaining book I’ve read in years -- a no-holds-barred rip-snorter of a tale. Not for Swierczynski the endless navel-gazing and endless pontification over what is (or isn’t) noir. Sure, this author knows his noir, but that’s not the game he’s playing here. What he’s up to is pure, unadulterated (and unapologetic) pulp. Slacker Charlie’s plan is simple enough -- move into his new client’s swank Hollywood Hills pad, order up some grub, then drink and watch movies until he passes out. But it turns out that the mansion is already occupied by a troubled action-movie star who’s hiding out from a team of hired assassins she’s convinced are out to kill her. And she is absolutely right. Exotic poisons, bombs, gas, death vans, even rigged traffic “accidents” -- there’s almost nothing The Accident People won’t do to complete their “narrative.” But the apparently indestructible Charlie’s got a few tricks of his own. And so does Swierczynski. The pop-culture references, nods and winks fly through the air almost as heavily as the bullets, like a crazed blend of Black Mask and Mad magazines. There may be more important books out this year, but I doubt any will be more fun. This is pure pulp for “now” people. Dig it. -- Kevin Burton Smith

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Anonymous Anne said...

I love these best reads lists. I'll put in a plug for another from France, for those interested. It's very different, with some older books just translated into French and some French books not yet translated into English (sigh). It's here at Le French Book http://www.lefrenchbook.com/2011/12/20/what-are-the-french-reading-best-crime-fiction/

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 9:28:00 AM PST  
Blogger Brian Lindenmuth said...

Fogtown came out in 2010.

Falling Glass is McKinty's 11th novel not his sixth. Even if you only wanted to count his novels for adults then FG would be his seventh.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 12:21:00 PM PST  
Blogger J. Kingston Pierce said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Brian. Both of those reviewlets have now been amended.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 1:44:00 PM PST  

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