I really, really did read something other than mysteries and crime novels in 2012. Let’s see, I read the … hmmm. I read the oral history of MTV. I’m reading that new history of Marvel Comics right now.
But most of my reading has, in recent years, revolved around the murder and mayhem genres. That’s after a lifetime of reading science fiction and fantasy, a genre I still like to explore once in a while.
So this list skews heavily to crime novels and mysteries. But if you’re looking for a good read, you’ll find a few here.
My favorite book I read in 2012 was undoubtedly Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl.” The story of a seriously screwed up marriage and what happens after the wife goes missing, “Gone Girl” was a huge hit and is being made into a movie. You’ve probably read it by now, but if you haven’t, it’s worth seeking out. Be aware: There’s a twist in the middle. And if you’re married, it will have you seriously examining your relationship.
One of the best surprises of the year for me was “The Last Kind Words” by Thomas Piccirilli. The story revolves around three generations of a family that’s always been on the shady side of the law. What happens when one brother comes home just before the other is due to be executed makes for a gripping read.
Families and crime are also the stuff of “The Prophet,” Michael Koryta’s mix of “Friday Night Lights” and a murder mystery and “Live By Night,” Dennis Lehane’s continuing exploration of a mid-20th century Boston family whose members straddle both sides of the law.
Lehane’s early works are among my favorite books of all time, and 2012 featured new work by some of my other favorite crime fiction authors, including “As the Crow Flies,” Craig Johnson’s latest tale of Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire; Lee Child’s “A Wanted Man” and other Jack Reacher tales; “Spilled Blood” by Brian Freeman; “The Drop,” the latest Mickey Haller/Harry Bosch story from Michael Connelly; and “Taken,” another story about L.A. private eyes Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, from Robert Crais.
If you haven’t read anything by Josh Bazell, I highly recommend “Beat the Reaper” and his newest, “Wild Thing,” two books that follow a former mob doctor in hiding. The latest features a story about a search for a Bigfoot/Loch Ness-type creature as well as a guest appearance by political pin-up girl Sarah Palin. Seriously.
Ben H. Winters gave us the first of three books set in the waning days of the Earth. “The Last Policeman” features a cop trying to solve a homicide at a time when the world is going to hell and nobody else cares. I’m looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.
And we’ve noted the passing of legendary crime fiction writer Robert H. Parker. His estate has chosen a couple of writers to continue some of his series and Ace Atkins did an admirable job with a new Spenser story, “Lullaby.” Atkins’ tale was the equal of later-day Parker and that’s a good thing.