A couple of days ago I posted a rundown of My Top 20 Favorite Thrillers.
Today, I offer up a list of My Top 20 Favorite Crime/Mystery Novels. If you’re a fan of the genre, check out any and all. You won’t be disappointed.
#20. Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyers
Some would call Detective Benny Griessel a legend. Others would call him a drunk.
Either way, he has trodden on too many toes over the years ever to reach the top of the promotion ladder, and now he concentrates on staying sober and mentoring the new generation of crime fighters — mixed race, Xhosa and Zulu. But when an American backpacker disappears in Cape Town, panicked politicians know who to call: Benny has just thirteen hours to save the girl, save his career, and crack open a conspiracy, which threatens the whole country.
#19. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules–a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.
When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders–a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman–have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes–and save himself in the process–before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.
#18. Sirens by Joseph Knox
Infiltrating the inner circle of enigmatic criminal Zain Carver is dangerous enough. Pulling it off while also rescuing Isabelle Rossiter, a runaway politician’s daughter, from Zain’s influence? Impossible. That’s why Aidan Waits is the perfect man for the job. Disgraced, emotionally damaged and despised by his superiors. In other words, completely expendable.
But Aidan is a born survivor. And as he works his way deep into Zain’s shadowy world, he finds that nothing is as it seems. Zain is a mesmerizing, Gatsby-esque figure who lures young women into his orbit–women who have a bad habit of turning up dead. But is Zain really responsible? And will Isabelle be next?
Before long, Aidan finds himself in over his head, cut loose by his superiors, and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman.
#17. The Whites by Richard Price
Back in the run-and-gun days of the mid-1990s, when a young Billy Graves worked in the South Bronx as part of an aggressive anti-crime unit known as the Wild Geese, he made headlines by accidentally shooting a ten-year-old boy while struggling with an angel-dusted berserker on a crowded street. Branded as a loose cannon by his higher-ups, Billy spent years enduring one dead-end posting after another. Now in his early forties, he has somehow survived and become a sergeant in Manhattan Night Watch, a small team of detectives charged with responding to all post-midnight felonies from Wall Street to Harlem. Mostly, his unit acts as little more than a set-up crew for the incoming shift, but after years in police purgatory, Billy is content simply to do his job.
Then comes a call that changes everything: Night Watch is summoned to the four a.m. fatal slashing of a man in Penn Station, and this time Billy’s investigation moves beyond the usual handoff to the day tour. And when he discovers that the victim was once a suspect in the unsolved murder of a twelve-year-old boy-a savage case with connections to the former members of the Wild Geese-the bad old days are back in Billy’s life with a vengeance, tearing apart enduring friendships forged in the urban trenches and even threatening the safety of his family.
#16. Police At the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty
Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.
#15. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow
Hailed as the most suspenseful and compelling novel in decades. Presumed Innocent brings to life our worst nightmare: that of an ordinary citizen facing conviction for the most terrible of all crimes. It’s the stunning portrayal of one man’s all-too-human, all-consuming fatal attraction for a passionate woman who is not his wife, and the story of how his obsession puts everything he loves and values on trial–including his own life. It’s a book that lays bare a shocking world of betrayal and murder, as well as the hidden depths of the human heart. And it will hold you and haunt you…long after you have reached its shattering conclusion.
#14. The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill
Laos, 1976: Dr. Siri Paiboun, a 72-year-old medical doctor, has been unwillingly appointed the national coroner of newly-socialist Laos. Though his lab is underfunded, his boss is incompetent, and his support staff is quirky to say the least, Siri’s sense of humor gets him through his often frustrating days.
When the body of the wife of a prominent politician comes through his morgue, Siri has reason to suspect the woman has been murdered. To get to the truth, Siri and his team face government secrets, spying neighbors, victim hauntings, Hmong shamans, botched romances, and other deadly dangers. Somehow, Siri must figure out a way to balance the will of the party and the will of the dead.
#13. For Those Who Know the Ending by Malcolm Mackay
Martin Sivok is in trouble. Tied to a chair, plastic strips biting his wrists, inside a deserted warehouse. . . There are only so many ways this scenario can end, most of them badly. For now his best hope is figuring out who put him here – and staying conscious long enough to confront them.
To stay awake he reviews the past year of his life: evading the law in the Czech Republic by running to Glasgow, settling into a borderline respectable relationship with his landlady, and getting back into the life at the very bottom of the criminal ladder, alongside Usman Kassar, a cocky, goofy kid anxious to prove himself.
The job should be simple: Smash heads, grab cash, run. The trouble with being two outsiders is, you don’t always know whose heads are too dangerous to crack, or whose cash is too hot to handle…
#12. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
In medieval Cambridge, four children have been murdered. The Catholic townsfolk blame their Jewish neighbors, so to save them from the rioting mob, the Cambridge Jews are placed under the protection of the king. King Henry II is no friend of the Jews—or anyone, really—but he believes in law and order, and he desperately needs the taxes he receives from Jewish merchants. Hoping scientific investigation will catch the true killer, Henry calls on his cousin, the King of Sicily—whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe—and asks for his finest “master of the art of death,” the earliest form of medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno, an expert in the science of anatomy and the art of detection. But her name is Adelia; the king has been sent a “mistress of the art of death.”
In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia faces danger at every turn. As she examines the victims and retraces their last steps, Adelia must conceal her true identity in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she’s assisted by one of the king’s tax collectors, Sir Rowley Picot, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. A former Crusader knight, Rowley may be a needed friend … or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia’s investigation takes her along Cambridge’s shadowy river paths, and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again…
#11. The Drop by Dennis Lehane
Three days after Christmas, a lonely bartender looking for a reason to live rescues an abused puppy from a trash can and meets a damaged woman looking for something to believe in. As their relationship grows, they cross paths with the Chechen mafia; a man grown dangerous with age and thwarted hopes; two hapless stick-up artists; a very curious cop; and the original owner of the puppy, who wants his dog back. . . .
#10. The Force by Don Winslow
He is “the King of Manhattan North,” a highly decorated NYPD detective sergeant and the real leader of “Da Force.” Malone and his crew are the smartest, the toughest, the quickest, the bravest, and the baddest, an elite special unit given carte blanche to fight gangs, drugs, and guns. Every day and every night for the eighteen years he’s spent on the Job, Malone has served on the front lines, witnessing the hurt, the dead, the victims, the perps. He’s done whatever it takes to serve and protect in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean—including Malone himself.
What only a few know is that Denny Malone is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash in the wake of the biggest heroin bust in the city’s history. Now Malone is caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk the thin line between betraying his brothers and partners, the Job, his family, and the woman he loves, trying to survive, body and soul, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.
#9. Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornburg
The headline reads ? LOCAL GIRL SLAIN, BODY FOUND IN TRASHCAN. When Richard Bone sees a picture of conglomerate tycoon J.J. Wolfe in the newspaper, he’s struck by how closely he resembles the man Bone saw dumping the body: could this millionaire redneck be the killer? Bone’s close friend Cutter, a crippled Vietnam vet, is convinced that Wolfe is the killer. With nothing much more to lose, the reckless Cutter and handsome gigolo Bone hit the road to the Wolfe headquarters in the Ozarks, totally unprepared for what awaits them.
#8. The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved.
Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives. A private investigator in Vegas, Wyatt’s latest inquiry takes him back to a past he’s tried to escape—and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead.
Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past—with the day her beautiful older sister Genevieve disappeared. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.
As fate brings these damaged souls together, their obsessive quests spark sexual currents neither can resist. But will their shared passion and obsession heal them, or push them closer to the edge? Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened, that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free—or ultimately destroy them?
#7. Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane
Boston private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro are hired to find four-year-old Amanda McCready, abducted from her bed on a warm, summer night. They meet her stoned-out, strangely apathetic mother, her loving aunt and uncle, the mother’s dangerous, drug-addled friends, and two cops who’ve found so many abused or dead children they may be too far over the edge to come back. Despite enormous public attention, rabid news coverage, and dogged police work, the investigation repeatedly hits a brick wall. Led into a world of drug dealers, child molesters, and merciless executioners, Patrick and Angie are soon forced to face not only the horrors adults can perpetrate on innocents but also their own conflicted feelings about what is best, and worst, when it comes to raising children. And as the Indian summer fades and the autumn chill deepens, Amanda McCready stays gone, banished so completely that she seems never to have existed.
Then another child disappears. . . . Dennis Lehane takes you into a world of triple crosses, elaborate lies, and shrouded motives, where the villains may be more moral than the victims, the missing should possibly stay missing, and those who go looking for them may not come back alive.
#6. The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
A threat is called into the LAPD Bomb Squad and when tragedy ensues, the fragmented unit turns to Dick Stahl, a former Bomb Squad commander who now operates his own private security company. Just returned from a tough job in Mexico, Stahl is at first reluctant to accept the offer, but his sense of duty to the technicians he trained is too strong to turn it down. On his first day back at the head of the squad, Stahl’s three-person team is dispatched to a suspected car bomb. And it quickly becomes clear to him that they are dealing with an unusual mastermind–one whose intended target seems to be the Bomb Squad itself.
As the shadowy organization sponsoring this campaign of violence puts increasing pressure on the bomb maker, and Stahl becomes dangerously entangled with a member of his own team, the fuse on this high-stakes plot only burns faster.
#5. Get Carter by Ted Lewis
Doncaster, and Jack Carter is home for a funeral – his brother’s. Frank’s car was found at the bottom of a cliff, with him inside. Jack thinks that Frank’s death is suspicious, so he decides to talk to a few people. Frank was a mild man and did as he was told, but Jack’s not a bit like that.
#4. IQ by Joe Ide
A resident of one of LA’s toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores.
East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood’s high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can’t or won’t touch.
They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he’s forced to take on clients that can pay.
This time, it’s a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.
#3. Green Sun by Kent Anderson
Hanson thought he had witnessed the worst of humanity after a tour of duty in Vietnam and a stint as a cop in Oregon. Then he moves to Oakland, California to join the under-funded, understaffed police department.
Hanson chooses to live – alone – in the precinct that he patrols; he, unlike the rest of the white officers, takes seriously his duty to serve and protect the black community of East Oakland.
He will encounter prejudice and hate on both sides of the line… and struggle to keep true to himself against powerful opposition and personal danger.
#2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
#1. The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow
Frank Machianno is a late-middle-aged ex–surf bum who runs a bait shack on the San Diego waterfront when he’s not juggling any of his other three part-time jobs or trying to get a quick set in on his longboard. He’s a stand-up businessman, a devoted father to his daughter, and a beloved fixture in the community.
Frank’s also a hit man. Specifically: a retired hit man. Back in the day, when he was one of the most feared members of the West Coast Mafia, he was known as Frankie Machine. Years ago Frank consigned his Mob ties to the past, which is where he wants them to stay. But a favor being called in now by the local boss is one Frank can’t refuse, and soon he’s sucked back into the treacherous currents of his former life. Someone from the past wants him dead. He has to figure out who, and why, and he has to do it fast.
The problem is that the list of candidates is about the size of his local phone book and Frank’s rapidly running out of time.
And then things go really bad.