A Good Year for Mysteries


I read some really terrific mysteries this year. Two are by new-to-me authors and several are by authors who have been on my top ten list in the past. The nationality of authors is fairly varied: two Swedes, two Danes, two South Africans, three Brits, one Irish, one book by a Norwegian set in the US and one Norwegian-set novel by an American. It’s not well balanced in terms of gender – eight male authors, four female (with two men and two women writing together). A new year’s resolution is to get around to reading more of the fine women writers in the genre in the coming year.

Here they are, in no particular order, with links to reviews . . .

Sundstol, Vidar – THE LAND OF DREAMS
A moody story about a Norwegian murdered in Minnesota and a forest ranger who finds connections between the murder and his family’s immigrant past. A touch a woo-woo, an occasional info-dump, but a book I really enjoyed. First in a trilogy.

Faye, Lyndsay – SEVEN FOR A SECRET
Second in a historical series starring Timothy Wilde, who (with his dangerous brother Valentine) try to help a mixed-race woman recover her family when they are abducted by slave traders. Evocative language and gripping history that we shouldn’t forget.

le Carre, John – A DELICATE TRUTH
A rather silly diplomat is called to Gibraltar to oversee a dodgy terrorism task force operation which goes wrong. Later he joins forces with an energetic young officer and a Welsh soldier to find the truth. At times parodic and bitter, but also impassioned and thrilling.

Kaaberbol, Lene, and Agnete Friis – DEATH OF A NIGHTINGALE
A young mother who has sought asylum in Denmark is caught up in violence that has its roots in the famine Stalin caused in Ukraine in the 1930s. Difficult reading at times, but unforgettable.

Stanley, Michael – DEADLY HARVEST
The amiable and principled detective Kubu investigates crimes that may be “muti murders” – in which young people are killed so that wealthy believers can gain power. The Botswana setting is, as always, a main attraction.

An elderly New York Jew whose granddaughter has brought him to Norway finds himself in charge of a small Balkan immigrant, pursued by violent men and his own regrets about war. Reminded me of Kate Atkinson.

An imposing, kind, and socially awkward detective in Hull investigates some brutal drug murders and a suicide of a young man with a peacock tattoo that perhaps isn’t. Brilliant writing.

Dahl, Arne – BAD BLOOD
Don’t let the gruesome opening put you off. This is an interesting take on the tired serial killer story, originally published in 1999 but strangely topical.

Herron, Mick – DEAD LIONS
Charming, oddball, busy, entertaining espionage story featuring an office full of losers. Herron is a terrific writer.

French, Tana – BROKEN HARBOR
A creepy, slow-burning fuse of a novel about a family attacked in their falling-down house in one of Ireland’s “ghost estates” but really about the trauma caused by the sudden death of the Celtic Tiger economy and the values it embodied.




8 Responses to A Good Year for Mysteries

  1. I did really well out of your best of list last year Barbara…discovering Lyndsay Faye and Sean Doolittle…so I shall look forward to checking these out (having not read any, though several are on my TBR shelves). Thanks and wishing you good reading for 2014

  2. Margot Kinberg says:

    Barbara – Great choices here, for which thanks. Must read that Herron…

  3. Keishon says:

    Interesting list, Barbara! Still have Bad Blood to read. Will read it soon. I plan to read more women crime writers as well. Happy New Year to you.

  4. Jose Ignacio says:

    Thanks for the list Barbara! You have remind me of some books I want to read

  5. Barbara says:

    Thanks, all. I get such a lot of great reading ideas from you, I hope I can return the favor now and then.

    It occurs to me that while it was a good year for books, it wasn’t much good at all for covers. Most of these covers are pretty blah.

  6. Claire Duffy says:

    Brilliant – Norwegian by Night has just rocked up from Amazon, and I’m even more excited to get stuck in now – thanks!!

  7. kathy d. says:

    Loved Norwegian by Night. Broken Harbor had its good points; what a view of the ghost estate/financial crisis and its impact on a young family, although I think it needed more editing and tightening. Didn’t like the Kaaberbol/Friis third Nina Borg, although I loved the first two in the series.

    I look forward to the fourth Nina Borg, which is underway.

  8. Barbara says:

    I agree about Broken Harbor being overlong/baggy in places. Interesting that you didn’t care for Death of a Nightingale. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two – didn’t identify with the characters as much – but I thought the sections about the past were powerful. Horrible and powerful. It made me realize how much big numbers disguise real people and their experiences, so for that I was grateful.

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