2012 saw the release of some outstanding novels in the Mystery genre. Here are the picks by this Blog for best of the year:
The Leopard by Jo Nesbo - A chilling new entry in the series that features Oslo police detective Harry Hole. This one is a near-epic hunt for a serial killer who uses a fiendish device called the Leopold Apple on his victims. A gripping and psychologically complex narrative of Harry's obsessive pursuit of the killer. Jo Nesbo's novels are rich in character and twisted, big canvas plots. This crime thriller was the best read of the year.
The Black Box by Michael Connelly - LAPD detective Harry Bosch returns to investigate the cold case of a female journalist murdered twenty years before during the 1992 Rodney King trial riots in the city. As Bosch digs deeper into the death, seemingly mundane threads weave together to link to powerful people and a past war crime. A solid and methodical police procedural, with Michael Connelly writing at his satisfying best.
Defending Jacob by William Landay - Both a riveting legal mystery and a troubling picture of a family cracking apart under the stress of a murder indictment against one of its members. The teenage son of a Boston Assistant D.A. is arrested for the bloody murder of a classmate. Jacob insists he is innocent, but his worried parents face mounting doubts. The novel is a compelling, disturbing read with a hideous twist at the end. A can't-put-down plot and a tense moral puzzle. Outstanding.
The Expats by Chris Pavone - An intriguing tangle of deception and an innovative take on the espionage novel. A woman who is a retired CIA covert agent begins to suspect that her husband may be involved in a secret life of his own. When the couple comes under surveillance by someone, alarm bells begin to ring. The plot is full of unexpected twists as each layer of lies is peeled away both within the couple's marriage and their covert lives, which have been kept secret from each other. An unpredictable and thoroughly enjoyable spy thriller read.
Raylan by Elmore Leonard - Best outing in years for crime writer Leonard as he brings back his iconic character, fast-draw U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens. Here Raylan is up against canny, treacherous offenders in backwoods Kentucky coal country. Full of the author's trademarks of dead-on dialogue, oddball criminal types, and quick, lethal violence. An entertaining treat for Elmore Leonard fans.
Honorable Mention - Broken Harbor by Tana French, The Fear Index by Robert Harris, Driven by James Sallis.