Bill’s Best

Bill Ott, who writes brilliantly about crime fiction for Booklist, has chosen his picks for the top ten mysteries of 2008, just beating out tonight’s announcement of the Edgars, which will be debated hotly until the next nominations are named. (Curiously, many of the books were published in 2007, so it’s really a sort of “best of the academic year” list.) Along with best all around, he includes best entries in long-running series and best debuts. As he notes, it’s getting darker around here, and for a good reason:

As crime fiction continues to attract more and more writers of a distinctly literary bent who want to use the genre to build multifaceted characters and to explore sensitive social issues and address questions of profound moral ambiguity, it is almost inevitable that darker worldviews and less formulaic plots will come to dominate “best” lists. Our annual top 10 list is not a roundup of subgenres; it’s one magazine’s opinion as to the richest crime fiction of the year, and given who’s writing crime novels today and what they’re writing about, it’s a simple fact that the dice are loaded, for the moment at least, in the direction of darker, more complex fare.

I’ll drink to that, and so will reviewer Kier Graff who adds something new to Booklist – fiction. His short story, “Reading is My Business,” is a an affectionate spoof of the genre. “There are 10,000 galleys in the naked city, and all our hung-over reviewer has to do is find one of them . . .”

Interestingly, 8 of the 10 in Ott’s lists have settings outside the US, and authors are from South Africa and Norway as well as the UK and US. We’re not only going darker, we’re going further from home, and it’s a good thing, too.

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