My Five Favorite Reads of 2012
My Five Favorite Reads of 2012
by Marni Graff
As a writer I admire authors who find original ways to tell a story. Because my own Nora Tierney Mysteries are set in the UK, I read many of their authors to keep the cadence of their language in my ear. These are my five favorite reads this year, in no particular order, for their approach to the story, for their very human characters, and for terrific storytelling.
1. Sister by Rosamund Lupton has at its heart an unusual concept that will have you hooked from page one.
Beatrice Hemmings is living in the US when a call that her art student sister is missing sends Bee flying across the Atlantic to Tess’s Notting Hill apartment. When the search for Tess ends in tragedy, Bee is left to unravel the truth the police would rather leave alone: what really happened to Tess?
The psychological intensity of the novel and unexpected ending gives readers a stylish tale, literate and successful.
2. Tana French’s Ireland novels become more compelling with each entry; her newest is Broken Harbor.
Murder Squad detective Mick Kennedy lands a high profile case on the half-deserted development called Brianstown, a ritzy neighborhood abandoned in the down-turned economy. The case quickly proves to be one of the most tangled and difficult of Mick’s career.
French’s sense of setting is acute; she brings all the senses to her descriptions and adds nuances that fill the atmosphere of the book with power and emotion. This is a gripping novel created with realistic characters and situations, plot lines that weave and warp, and a sense of setting so powerful you will feel as if you’re there.
3. Elizabeth Haynes is a police intelligence officer whose work led to her debut novel, started during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Into the Darkest Corner revolves around the psychology of romantic obsession.
Catherine Bailey is a free-spirited woman who enjoys partying with her friends in Lancaster, England. Meeting Lee Brightman at a club changes her life. Their connection is immediate; their chemistry explosive. Soon they are inseparable, and Catherine is the envy of her friends. But things change as Lee exerts his dominant nature. Eventually he becomes physically violent.
Haynes device is to alternate two time lines, so in the midst of Catherine’s growing realization of Lee’s dark, abusive personality, we also see her in four years, living in London as Cathy, with a new job and appearance. She is piecing together a different life, even as she experiences flashbacks and panic attacks..
The tension explodes when these two storylines converge into one horrifying present in a horrific climax.
4. Michael Robotham’s clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is one of my favorite series characters. Dealing with the daily effects of “Mr. Parkinson,” Joe is separated from the wife he still loves, but lives nearby, his life entwined with Julianne and their two girls. In Bleed for Me, Joe is waiting for his marriage to formally end.
O’Loughlin understands pain and grief: of losing a child, of losing his functioning as he battles his disease and its effects on a daily basis; of losing the life he thought was perfect.
When his daughter’s best friend, Sienna, shows up at Julianne’s home covered in blood, and then runs away, Joe finds her, shivering and almost catatonic. The blood is her father’s, a celebrated former policeman, found in Sienna’s bedroom with his throat cut. Sienna’s trauma obliterated details of the incident, but she’s convinced she isn’t a murderer–and so is Joe O’Loughlin.
Robotham’s disturbing storyline is all too realistic, as are the fine characters he creates, multifaceted and complex, at times downright chilling. His story is clever and compelling, a terrific psychological thriller that has a fast pace yet at times is achingly moving. There are flashes of unexpected humor, too, which endear the reader to Joe.
5. Lee Child has compared Mark Billingham’s DI Tom Thorne to Morse and Rebus, and Thorne is now a television series in the UK. His newest is the wonderful Good as Dead (The Demands in the US).
Change is on Tom Thorne’s mind after upheaval in his personal life. He’s sold his beloved old BMW for an updated model; he’s put his flat on the market; and he’s considering a job transfer.
Then he’s called by shopkeeper Amin Akhtar, who has barricaded himself with two hostages inside his news shop. The hostages are a cowardly banker and new mother DI Helen Weeks, whom Thorne remembers from a former case. Amin has a specific point to holding these two by gunpoint. They are leverage for Thorne to investigate the apparent suicide of his son in prison. Convinced the youth wouldn’t have taken his life, Amin tasks Thorne with unraveling the secrets behind his son’s death.
Thorne puts his career on the line as he tries to discover the truth before it’s too late.
Billingham’s novels are complex and compelling, filled with psychological insight into his very human character’s mental state. The tension is taut and Billingham manages to keep getting better with each novel. They can’t come fast enough for this writer.
What these books have in common, whether part of a series or a stand alone, is their ability to hook the reader and keep the pages turning. Enjoy finding a new author to follow.
Marni Graff’s UK mystery series features American writer Nora Tierney. The Blue Virgin is set in Oxford; The Green Remains in Cumbria. She is also co-author of Writing in a Changing World, and wrote for seven years for Mystery Review magazine. Graff lives on a river in rural eastern North Carolina, where she is working on the third novel in her series, The Scarlet Wench.
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