Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Comparing the Best Books lists
By Sandra Parshall
Best Books of 2013 lists are popping up everywhere this month, in print and on the internet, and as usual they’re intriguing in both their similarities and differences. In the crime fiction genre, few books show up on every list, and a lot of choices may leave avid mystery and thriller readers bemused.
A chorus of groans from Facebook members greeted the news that Inferno by Dan Brown topped the Goodreads Choice Awards, with 29,132 votes from avid readers. Number 2 was The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), a novel many people enjoyed but believe would have sunk out of sight, barely noticed, if the author’s true identity hadn’t been revealed.
Others on the Goodreads list are mostly bestsellers from familiar authors, although a couple of lesser known writers made the cut. In order, from number 3, they are: Joyland by Stephen King, How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny, Calculated in Death by J.D. Robb, Night Film by Marisha Pessl, Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley, Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight, Police by Jo Nesbo, Six Years by Harlan Coben, Unseen by Karin Slaughter, Touch and Go by Karin Slaughter, Convicted by Aleatha Romig, Suspect by Robert Crais, Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger, Threat Vector by Tom Clancy, W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton, Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, Never Go Back by Lee Child, and The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison. (The Child book received only 717 votes and the Harrison book 690.)
Instead of publishing a Best of the Year list, National Public Radio, which carries weight with serious readers, asked staff and reviewers to name the 2013 books they loved most. The results – more than 200 titles in all genres -- appear on a new site called the NPR Book Concierge. Their top 10 books among mysteries/thrillers include some I haven’t seen widely discussed among fans online and some that might be placed in other genres: The Circle by Dave Eggers, Submergence by J.M. Ledgard, Countdown City by Ben H. Winters, Nexus by Ramez Naam, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny, Brilliance by Marcus Sakey, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Dream Eyes by Jayne Ann Krentz. Some novels from the Goodreads list appear farther down on the NPR list: Dr. Sleep, Night Film, Speaking From Among the Bones. Little Elvises by Timothy Hallinan, a favorite among DorothyL readers, also appears on the extended NPR list.
Kirkus, the industry review periodical whose judgments are coveted and feared by authors, produced a list of 20 top crime novels that mixes in a few lesser known titles but is made up mostly of bestsellers. Their top 10 are: Lexicon by Max Barry, Breaking Point by C.J. Box, Light of the World by James Lee Burke, Never Go Back by Lee Child, The October List by Jeffery Deaver, Ghosts of Bungo Suido, Midnight by Kevin Egan, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, The Shadow Tracer by Meg Gardiner, and The Crocodile by Maurizio de Giovanni. Bestsellers by Stephen King, Craig John, John Sandford, and Martin Cruz Smith appear lower on the list. One outstanding small press novel, Hidden Heritage by Charlotte Hinger, is at number 11.
Few American writers found favor with Publishers Weekly. Its list of the top 11 is made up mostly of mysteries and thrillers set in foreign countries and written by non-American authors: Hour of the Red God by Richard Compton, The Crimson Fog by Paul Halter (first published in France in 1988), The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison, Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis, The Other Child by Charlotte Link, Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews, Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina, Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell, Red Moon by Benjamin Percy, Enigma of China: An Inspector Chen Novel by Qiu Xiaolong, and Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson.
Britain’s The Guardian cites these outstanding debut novels: Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller, The Honey Guide by Richard Crompton, City of Blood by M.D. Villier, The Missing File by D.A. Mishani, The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.
BookPage’s 10 Best list includes some novels that aren’t showing up else. The complete list: Ghost Man by Roger Hobbs, Perfect Hatred by Leighton Gage, The Golden Egg by Donna Leon, Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell, A Delicate Truth by John leCarre, The Abomination by Jonathan Holt, Mystery Girl by David Gordon, How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny, Tatiana by Martin Cruz Smith, Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis.
Lesa Holstine of Lesa’s Book Critiques asked Laura Lippman to name a few novels in the genre that found outstanding, and the resulting list includes traditional mysteries as well as suspense: Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson, Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd, The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie, Riptide Ultra Glide by Tim Dorsey, The Carrion Birds by Urban Waite, There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron, The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon, The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne.
What’s on your best of the year list? Which books do you believe are worthy of crime fiction awards?