Best Mysteries of 2013

BEST [Mystery] BOOKS OF THE YEAR (according to Mulholland Books)

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes: An Amazon Best Book of the Year, NPR Best Books of the Year

From Booklist: Harper Curtis isn’t your run-of-the-mill serial killer. He gets to time travel from the 1920s through the 1980s, killing girls in different decades, all to satisfy a bloodthirsty Chicago bungalow. Yes, you read that correctly: the house makes him do it. In this genre-bending novel, Beukes never explains the origins of this evil house or how it manages to transport Harper from year to year. All we know is that Harper is compelled to track down and murder specific “shining girls” in gruesome ways (usually evisceration), and he gets away with it since he can escape across time. Until he leaves Kirby Mazrachi behind in 1989, that is. Kirby miraculously recovers from the vicious attack and is determined to track down her assailant, even if the police consider it a closed case. She enlists the help of Dan, a reporter at the Sun-Times, and they slowly uncover odd clues left behind in a dozen unsolved murder cases; it turns out Harper has been leaving behind items from the future. Not for all tastes, but fans of urban fantasy may be interested in this clever and detailed supernatural thriller.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith: An AudioFile Best Audiobook of the Year, O Magazine Favorite Reads of 2013, Amazon Best Book and Best Audiobook of the Year, Kirkus Reviews Best of 2013

From Booklist: London PI Cormoran Strike’s final feud with his arguably insane fiancée leaves him camping in his office, wondering how his last two clients will keep him afloat and pay for his new secretary, Robin. When a childhood acquaintance asks him to investigate his supermodel sister’s apparent suicide, Strike finds a distraction from his problems that’s happily attached to a check. Lula Landry was surrounded by rabid paparazzi, a drug-addled social circle, a dysfunctional adopted family, and a shifty, newly found birth mother, making suicidal despair hard to dismiss. But with Robin’s surprisingly adept assistance, Strike dismantles witness statements, applying masterful deductive skills to find evidence of murder. This debut is instantly absorbing, featuring a detective facing crumbling circumstances with resolve instead of clichéd self-destruction and a lovable sidekick with contagious enthusiasm for detection. Galbraith nimbly sidesteps celebrity superficiality, instead exploring the ugly truths in Lula’s six degrees of separation. Strike bears little resemblance to Jackson Brodie, but Kate Atkinson’s fans will appreciate his reliance on deduction and observation along with Galbraith’s skilled storytelling.

You by Austin Grossman: NPR Best Books of the Year

From Booklist: *Starred Review* Grossman, author of the delightful Soon I Will Be Invincible (2007), here draws on his own experience as a video-game designer to take us behind the scenes at Black Arts Games, a (fictional) video-game company poised to release a new version of one of its biggest hits. Russell, a new hire at the company (but an old friend of the company’s founders), is thrown in at the deep end when a software bug is discovered that threatens to sink the new game. To find the source of the bug, Russell explores the history of the company, its founders, and his complicated relationships with them. Although it’s structured as a mystery—Russell tries to track down the source of the bug the way a detective might pursue an unknown perp—the book is really a celebration of video games and their creators. It’s full of terminology and dialogue that might seem like another language to the uninitiated reader (we do pick it up as we go along), but, mostly, due to his boundless enthusiasm for his story, Grossman never makes readers feel uninformed or left out in the cold. He invites us into the world of video games, introduces us to the people whose lives revolve around them, and makes us feel right at home. This is only Grossman’s second novel, but, given the strength of this and his first book, we can only await his next offering with keen anticipation. 

S. created by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst: An NPR Holiday Book Pick

From the Book Description: One book. Two readers. A world of mystery, menace, and desire. A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown.
Angel Baby by Richard Lange: Kirkus Reviews Best of 2013, Grift Magazine's Favorite Books of 2013

From Booklist: Luz’s plan to escape her husband, Tijuana’s brutal narco boss, and rejoin her daughter, who is hidden with relatives in L.A., seems flawless right up to the moment Luz is caught with her hands in the safe and frantically shoots her way out the door. Within hours, she’s hired Malone, a surfer gone to seed (and nursing a tragic past), to smuggle her across the border. Luz’s husband quickly sets reluctant enforcer Jeronimo on her trail, holding his family hostage as motivation. When Jeronimo foils a crooked Border Patrol agent’s robbery of Luz’s stolen cash, he and the agent, Thacker, form an uneasy partnership whose unraveling kicks the story into its groove. The story line is certainly familiar, but it’s wrapped in enticing layers. Lange pits Luz and Malone against Jeronimo and Thacker, each pair with one soul desperate to save what they love and one self-destructing from the knowledge they’ve destroyed it. Hope and regret tangle at each turn, and Lange’s tours through Tijuana and SoCal evoke a gritty grace. For readers who have already plowed through all the available Don Winslow.

Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell: One of Publishers Weekly's Top Mystery/Thrillers of 2013, one of BookPage's 10 best mysteries and thrillers of 2013

From the Book Description: Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier.

The blueprint for the killings seems to be De Quincey's essay "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts." Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.

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