Best mysteries for 2012

I obviously took my eye off the ball on this one.  I have been busy looting my “for later shelf” in my library catalogue account for my reading and forgot to keep up with the latest releases.

Determined I shouldn’t miss out on this year’s gems I started looking at the Golden Dagger Awards which are always a good guide to those who like British mysteries. This year Gene Kerrigan carried it off with his novel The Rage. One of the emerging genre of Irish crime writers, Kerrigan’s writing has both depth and readability. The judges described The Rage as “a complex noir thriller that’s multi-layered and solidly written, with great style and pace”

The equivalent American mystery award is The Edgars, which was won this year by Mo Hayder, for her novel Gone. Hayder is a bit gritty for my tastes, so I probably won’t follow up on that on one. However the Scandinavian Crime writer Anne Holt was also nominated for 1222 and I’ll certainly be reading after seeing this review.

Old friends Jo Nesbo (The Leopard), James Lee Burke (Creole Belle), and Colin Cotterill (Grandad There’s a Head on the Beach) also appear on a number of different lists. I have read Grandad There’s a Head on the Beach, but I am still catching up on the back catalogues of both Nesbo and Burke, so I’ll save those for later.

I’m sorry to say that Cotterill’s latest lost me a bit. His gentle humour is still in evidence but I found Grandad There’s a Head on the Beach just too relentlessly bizarre. It features a family who have followed their dementia-afflicted mother to a crumbling resort she has purchased, located on a Thai beach that is rapidly being demolished by extreme weather. After finding a head on the beach, they become aware of the corruption and exploitation behind its non–investigation by the police.

Mysteries from my 2012 completed list:

  • Sixkill, the last novel Robert B Parker wrote before his death.
  • The Drowning by Camilla Lackberg, another excellent and readable offering from this Scandinavian author, part cosy mystery, part police procedural.
  • Ian Rankin’s Impossible Dead the latest in his new series set in The Complaints – I’m looking forward to the resurrected Rebus meeting the inspector from Complaints in his latest book Standing in Another Man’s Grave.
  • Yiddish Policemen’s Union is by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon. It is set in an alternative history where Israel was over-run within a few years of its inception and the Jewish state ended up in a leased part of Alaska. The lease is about to run out. Quirky and satisfying.
  • Stagestruck, by Peter Lovesey starring one of my favourite detectives, Inspector Diamond.

Best book covers of 2012 – New Zealand’s finest

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New Zealand books this year show a stunning range of covers. This is my pick of the year’s top covers.

  • Fonts and typefaces are being used to striking and singular effect.
  • Art books may have the advantage when it comes to a stylish cover, but even textbooks can make the cut.
  • Sometimes words are enough (see Geoff Cochrane and Sarah Jane Barnett).
  • Simplicity is powerful ( see Kobi Bosshard, Erewhon calling, and Simon Sweetman’s On Song)
  • Retro is popular – especially 60s and 70s.

Are there any standouts for you?

More book cover delights: