There have been so many wonderful books this year, I found that I really couldn't narrow them down to a manageable size without forgetting someone who deserved to be on the list. Plus, there are so many fabulous “Best Of” lists this time of year, I wanted to cover some which may not have been discussed elsewhere, and add my voice to those that were. Some of these items were released in 2011, but some simply were discovered (by me) this year, and I wanted to share them with you.
AUTHORS TO WATCH
This category contains authors whose first (fiction) book was published in 2011 whose future work I'm eager to read.
Ernest Cline, READY PLAYER ONE (Science Fiction/Fantasy): “Part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera” this novel is not only a commentary on the future evolution of the internet, but also a fun walk down memory lane for anyone who remembers (or just loves) the 80s. Check out the author’s website to find a playlist to accompany the read.
Rochelle Staab, WHO DO, VOODOO? (Supernatural Mystery): A “sophisticated blend of the occult in a flashy West Coast locale for great escape reading.” Rochelle’s debut features a psychologist from Los Angeles who seeks the help of an occult expert to learn the ways of voodoo and clear her friend of murder.
Ransom Riggs, MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (Horror/Mystery/Fantasy): “A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs.” Monsters and strange photographs prompt a troubled teen to travel to a remote island off the coast of Wales to discover the truth behind his own experiences and his family history. Riggs combines so many fascinating elements — vintage photography, WWII, science fiction — seamlessly into one fabulous story. If you’re still not sure, check out some of the photographs on his web site. One look and you’ll need to know the story behind them.
AUTHORS (& SERIES) I DISCOVERED IN 2011
Jennifer Bradbury, WRAPPED (Historical Fiction/Mystery): “Bradbury weaves Egyptology, Napoleonic conquest and a flirtation with the supernatural into a spy thriler.” The unwrapping of a mummy in Regency England leads a debutante whose knowledge of languages and literature set her apart from the crowd, on a path to spies and conspiracy. More to come in this series in 2012.
Alan Bradley, FLAVIA DE LUCE Series (Historical Mystery): A traditional mystery series set in rural England in the 1950s. The youngest child of an eccentric family, eleven year old Flavia is precocious, particularly in the use and mixing of chemicals. She also fancies herself quite a detective, which is helpful considering the number of dead bodies she encounters.
Chris Ewan, THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO Series (Contemporary Mystery): A humorous mystery series that follows crime novelist/burglar-for-hire Charlie Howard in his adventures throughout Europe (and Las Vegas). Fabulously sarcastic, full of crazy capers, but containing all the elements of classic detective fiction, this is a series not to be missed.
Christopher Farnsworth, THE PRESIDENT’S VAMPIRE Series (Supernatural Thriller): “Exactly how I like my Presidential thrillers. With vampires.” - Brad Meltzer. Think you’ve had enough of vampires to last you several decades? Well, don’t swear off completely until you read this series. Nathan Cade became a vampire in 1867 and made an oath to serve the President of the United States for eternity. Zach Barrows is an ambitious White House staffer who is unexpectedly partnered with superhuman covert agent Cade to defend against nightmares both supernatural and all too human. Not only a fabulous thriller, but with a tongue-in-cheek edge that keeps you laughing.
Kathryn Miller Haines, THE GIRL IS MURDER (Young Adult/Historical Mystery): “Take a powder, Nancy Drew. 1940s girl sleuth Iris Anderson is on the case.” I am a fan of Haines’ WWII era MISS WINTER Series, but her latest offering is wonderful for children and adults alike. Again set in WWII New York, Iris is a young girl whose father, a private detective, has just returned from the war. Unfortunately, his injury prevents him from doing the most physical portions of his job. When Iris discovers one of his cases involves a boy at her school, she is determined to become a private eye herself. More to come in this series in 2012.
Camilla Läckberg, THE FJÄLLBACKA MURDERS Series (Thriller): “Not the next Stieg Larsson — She’s better.” Based in a Swedish resort/fishing village, where everyone knows each other, these dark psychological thrillers follow protagonists author Erika Falck and her boyfriend, detective Patrik Hedström as they investigate deaths in their small community. So far THE ICE PRINCESS, THE PREACHER, THE STONECUTTER and THE GALLOWS BIRD have been translated into English, but there are many more to come. She’s the sixth bestselling author in Europe and there’s also a Swedish TV adaptation in the works.
Sophie Littlefield, AFTERTIME Series (Dystopian Fiction): “A gripping and emotional tale of survival that will keep any reader on their toes.” Following the meltdown of civilization where humans have become zombies, Cass Dollar must learn to survive in the aftertime, and traverses the devastated California fighting to find her missing daughter, Ruthie. This is not your typical zombie series, you’d be hard pressed to find this depth of characters and psychological development anywhere.
Susanna Kearsley (Historical & Contemporary Fiction): This is an author who has been around for a long time, and I regret that I haven’t found her sooner. For fans of Mary Stewart, this is the author for you. She mingles the past and the present with fabulous tales and just the right amount of romance.
Jesse Petersen, LIVING WITH THE DEAD Series (Urban Fantasy): “A comedy with brains, bravado and bite.” Unlike Littlefield’s series, this is a parody of the zombie genre. Sarah and David are going through a rough patch in their marriage — made rougher when their couples counselor tries to eat them. They have to fight for survival of their marriage and their bodies as the zombie apocalypse devastates the world. Strangely, they discover they’re good at it, and even start their own small business “Zombie Busters” (for all your zombie extermination needs).
Books that really deserve mentioning even though everyone else already did.
Stephen King, 11/22/63 (Science Fiction): If you could go back and change one moment in history, what would it be? And what are the consequences? King’s latest explores these questions and more. English teacher Jake Epping discovers a portal to 1958 inside the local diner and is sent on an insane mission to stop the Kennedy assassination.
Ernest Cline, READY PLAYER ONE: See review above.
Michael Koryta, THE RIDGE Supernatural Thriller): “Part ghost story, part murder mystery, all thriller.” A death in a mysterious lighthouse, a big cat sanctuary where the cats become increasingly restless as they sense impending evil, THE RIDGE alternates between the stories of a journalist and a deputy sheriff as they uncover a story of 19th century greed that continues to take lives.
Alafair Burke, LONG GONE (Psychological Thriller): “What if everything you thought you knew turned out to be a lie?” Unemployed Alice Humphrey gets the break of a lifetime, managing an art gallery. Thankful for the job, Alice doesn’t question the mysterious benefactor, or the controversial art that covers the walls. However, when she arrives at work to find her new boss murdered, she becomes the focus of the investigation and must find her own way out, leading her to secrets and deceptions that will change her life. One of the most poignant examinations the current economy as well as the horrors that lie behind our daily lives, a suspenseful read with twists and turns you won’t see coming.
MYSTERY/THRILLER RELATED TELEVISION I DISCOVERED IN 2011
All should be available for viewing (or purchase) online at iTunes or Amazon.
WHITECHAPEL (BBC) - Ensemble police drama.
CASE HISTORIES (Masterpiece Mystery) - Based on the crime novels of Kate Atkinson.
STATE OF PLAY (BBC) - The murder of an MPs research leads journalists to a complex scandal.
Dark Matters: Twisted But True (Science Channel) - Hosted by Walter from Fringe (added bonus). Explores strange science and some of the best unexplained mysteries. Think Einstein’s brain, mind control, etc.
ZEN (Masterpiece Mystery) - Based on the crime novels of Michael Didbin.
A big thank you to all the authors who’ve made 2011 a fabulous year in reading! Books make great gifts, in shopping for yourself or others this holiday season please remember to support independent bookstores!
Also, please consider donating to the Sirens of Suspense Holiday Food Drive HERE
WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITES FROM 2011? Tell us by commenting below or visit us and share your thoughts on our Facebook page!
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