Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Year's Best Mystery Fiction

The Crime Scene

New York Sun
December 27, 2006

We have all read that awards are useless and lists are despicable because, after all, books (and movies, plays, etc.) are not supposed to compete with one another like so many Olympic javelin throwers.

Okay. Now that that's out of the way, admit you're like me and can't resist checking out the lists of the 100 best restaurants in New York, the 10 worstdressed women in America, the 50 most beautiful people in the world, and the 12 sure-fire ways to make your lover scream in ecstasy.

After a year's worth of voracious reading, it's a pleasure to list the 10 best mysteries of the year — it being understood that "best" merely means these are the books that most moved, shocked or impressed me, made me laugh or struggle to hold back tears, forced me to turn another page or two, and continue to resonate with me now.

1. "HOLLYWOOD STATION" (Little Brown, 352 pages, $24.99) by Joseph Wambaugh reminds readers that, after more than a decade with no new fiction by the creator of the modern police novel, no one has surpassed Mr. Wambaugh as a stylish storyteller. It's hard to know whether the cops or the crooks are more flamboyant and interesting. A series of seemingly unconnected anecdotes and events involving a huge cast harmoniously coalesce into a stunning, unexpected but impeccably realistic climax.

2. "ECHO PARK" (Little, Brown, 416 pages, $26.99) by Michael Connelly continues his uninterrupted streak of winning efforts in what may be the best Harry Bosch story yet. It appears to be his fate as a sensitive soul encased in a tough cop's body, Harry suffers through this case when he realizes that he and his partner might have missed a clue more than 10 years earlier that could have caught a serial killer who went on to commit nine more heinous murders.

3. "WILD FIRE" (Warner, 519 pages, $26.99) by Nelson DeMille is another jewel in his crown of successes. This new novel, like several previous ones, is a rare treat in the world of thriller writing in that it adds humor to the suspense and excitement. Fair warning: If you are truly offended by a politically incorrect character and his incendiary dialogue, this foray into a terrorist plot by an unlikely coterie may not be for you.

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