Some people like to do these lists because everybody else is doing it. Others refuse to do so for the same reason. I'm a combination of the two: if everyone else does it, then I don't want to, but I'm going to anyway ... because it's what I actually want to do.
But enough with the Maxwell Smart jokes and on with the list. As always, it's based on my personal reading of the year, which has nothing to do with publishing date. Since tracking it, I've learned that I only read about thirty books a year, all chosen by a whim of the moment.
EVERY DEAD THING by John Connolly
Famed for its hourglass shaped plot (one story tapers into the next), the first Charlie Parker novel is filled to the brim with lyrical writing and beautifully gruesome imagery.
CITIZEN VINCE by Jess Walter
There are two novels in this list about crims trying to get clean or stay clean, with both having a decidedly literary bent. Walter does a brilliant job here of fleshing out so much in so few words that I really should get off my arse and read some of his other work as soon as possible.
NO DOMINION by Charlie Huston
Thankfully the world of books generally does a fair sight better with sequels than cinema does, but in the hands of Charlie Huston, disappointment seems to never be on the cards. Thanks to vampire private investigator Joe Pitt, I want to be Charlie Huston when I grow up.
BENEATH A PANAMANIAN MOON by David Terrenoire
Piano-playing spy John Harper has a damned fine sense of humour and a softer side when compared to more traditional protagonists in the genre and it's these differences that bring Terrenoire's debut floating up above the rest. It took me far too long to get around to reading this, but the day David writes another novel is the day I queue up for it.
SATURDAY'S CHILD by Ray Banks
Other than wanting to be the love child of Charlie Huston and Ray Banks, I can't say enough about this fine piece of work. But if I had to choose my absolute favourite of this list, it would be a close fight between this one and the next.
THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE by Don Winslow
The retired hitman being pulled back into the biz is not a particularly new idea, but the depth of Frank "Frankie the Machine" Macchiano lifts this to the top of the foam from the cappuccino. Bob De Niro's working on a film of this and, as long as he doesn't stuff it up, I'll be one of the early viewers.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY by James M. Cain
Only one classic this year, and it was one I'd seen the movie of, so I wasn't amazingly shocked by the unfolding of the plot. Still, I gobbled down this timeless and twisted tale of desire in a couple of evening sessions. And it tasted damned good, I tell you.
RAZOR by Larry Writer
This year I delved into non-fiction of various subjects, but this account of the razor gang wars of 1920s Sydney reads almost like fiction, so I'm including it here. The detail of the research is mind blowing and made even more impressive by being set in locations that I know well. Whatever the newspapers of today may say, Sydney is a far safer city than it used to be.
THE CONFESSION by Olen Steinhauer
In my blogging travels I've come across a number of authors whose work I've read, but this is the first time I've read a second book from any of them (that has more to do with my playing catch up than the quality of the writing). I'm extremely glad I did. Everything I liked about Olen's first in the series, THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS, is in its sequel, but the story is taken to another level here. I can't think of any better endorsement of this amazing Eastern European spy series other than saying I have the next two books waiting on my shelf.
I was very tempted to include Joe R. Lansdale's LOST ECHOES in the list, even though I'm only about a third of the way in. Although I doubt very much that I'll be disappointed with the rest of it, I have to be fair, so I've kept it to a simple mention.
Come on then, fess up. Who tickled your tockley this year? And why?