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Reviewer Picks Reviewers Pick Their Favorite Books of 2012

Recently we asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2012. Included is a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles, all published this year. Take a moment to read these varied lists of titles and see if you agree with their selections! Please note that due to personal and professional commitments, some reviewers were not able to participate in this feature.

Kate Ayers

Alexis Burling

Tom Callahan

  • THE CHRISTMAS KID: And Other Brooklyn Stories by Pete Hamill
    One of America’s greatest writers offers here for the first time in book form a collection of short stories about the borough where he grew up. These stories were first printed in a newspaper 30 years ago and are as poignant and relevant today as when they first appeared. Hamill is a writer who can take your breath away with the power of his craft.
    The literary discovery of the year is the publication of the long lost unpublished novel by the legendary noir writer James M. Cain. This is not a minor noir tale but Cain at the height of his powers. Charles Ardai spent nine years searching for and then editing the manuscript. We can thank Hard Case Crime for giving mystery fans a real treat this year.
  • THE COMEDY IS FINISHED by Donald E. Westlake
    Speaking of treats from Hard Case, they also published this year the last, unpublished book of another mystery legend, Donald E. Westlake. Westlake shelved this book about revolutionaries kidnapping a famous Hollywood comedian in the early 1980s when a movie with a similar theme came out. He shouldn’t have worried. This is a masterpiece of suspense that will keep you guessing and page-turning the entire way.
  • THE TWENTY-YEAR DEATH by Ariel S. Winter
    It is not often that a first-time author will have the guts to submit a 700-page novel consisting of three mystery stories spread out over 20 years and written in the voices of three famous, dead mystery writers. But Winter did, and the results are stunning. The third story in particular is a noir gem. It will be interesting to see what Winter does next.
  • THE CUT by George Pelecanos
    Pelecanos is an amazing writer at the height of his power. His mysteries set in Washington, DC almost transcend genre to capture real life in the mean streets of urban America. And all his characters are engaging and human, even the bad guys. Pelecanos has used his writing talent to help great TV shows like "The Wire" and "Treme" in recent years. One hopes that this is the start of a long series involving Iraqi vet Spero Lucas.
  • DAYS OF DESTRUCTION, DAYS OF REVOLT by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco
    What Pelecanos writes about fictionally, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Chris Hedges writes about journalistically: America’s economic sacrifice zones where poverty, despair and economic exploitation imprison citizens and kill the dream. Hedges is a reporter in the true and best tradition of reporting; he is a truth teller first and foremost.

Sarah Rachel Egelman

Harvey Freedenberg



Maggie Harding

  • THICKER THAN WATER: A Leo Waterman Mystery by G.M. Ford
    The latest in the Leo Waterman mystery series. Good sleuthing with a touch of humor.
  • ROBERT B. PARKER'S FOOL ME TWICE: A Jesse Stone Novel by Michael Brandman
    I love that he is keeping Robert B. Parker's characters alive for us.
  • THE LAST MAN by Vince Flynn
    My latest favorite author. Up-to-the-minute black-ops thrillers.
  • TAKEN: An Elvis Cole Novel by Robert Crais
    Another excellent adventure for Joe Pike and Elvis Cole.
  • SHIVER by Karen Robards
    I enjoyed my first encounter.

Joe Hartlaub

  • LEPER TANGO by David MacKinnon
    Hilarious, offensive and wonderfully and beautifully written, LEPER TANGO follows a self-destructive, sex-addicted attorney (who is at all times a breath away from disbarment) as he pursues a high-end prostitute who has him where she wants him.
  • PINES by Blake Crouch
    Blake Crouch appears to have been born with a writing instrument in his grasp and possessed of a canny storytelling ability that makes disappointing his audience an impossibility. PINES continues his amazing streak of dark, genre-bending novels with this twisting tale of a Federal agent tasked with locating two missing colleagues, and who finds himself trapped in a small and bizarre town that is off the beaten path in more ways than one.
  • TRUST YOUR EYES by Linwood Barclay
    Taking his ‘A’ games to a whole, new level, Linwood Barclay’s TRUST YOUR EYES concerns a map-obsessed man who spots a photo of a murder being committed on a street-view web program. Leaving the comfort and security of his room draws himself and his caretaker brother into terrible danger. It is no surprise that this book was almost immediately optioned for film.
  • LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING by Peter Farris
    This book and author seemingly came out of nowhere, but this unforgettable story, about a group of crossed and double-crossed ex-convicts, a bank robbery gone horribly wrong, and an elderly, alcoholic small town Georgia sheriff will find its way onto your list of books to be re-read each year. More than a noteworthy debut, LAST CALL FOR THE LIVING heralds the emergence of a literary talent that runs long, wide and deep.
  • A FOREIGN COUNTRY by Charles Cumming
    Charles Cumming is a master of the old-school spy thriller, and A FOREIGN COUNTRY is a full-bore demonstration of all of his talents. A spy who was set up and drummed out of MI6 is brought back to the fold to investigate the sudden disappearance of the first female chief of the agency. Cumming’s canny observance of how the world truly works is worth the price of admission all by itself; his pacing, which quietly and steadily ratchets the suspense quotient ever upward, is an added bonus.
  • KILL YOU TWICE: An Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell Novel by Chelsea Cain
    I would have predicted that Chelsea Cain’s series concerning Portland serial killer Gretchen Lowell and her unwilling, erstwhile love interest Archie Sheridan would have run out of road a book or two ago. As KILL YOU TWICE conclusively demonstrates, however, Cain just seems to be getting started in this ingenious, chilling installment that combines elements of horror, mystery, and yes, romance of the darkest stripe.
  • CREOLE BELLE: A Dave Robicheaux Novel by James Lee Burke
    While it is unknown at this point whether CREOLE BELLE will be the last Dave Robicheaux novel, James Lee Burke continues his string of excellent novels with this epochal story that sheds light and dimension on Clete Purcel, Robicheaux’s loyal, dangerous and self-destructive friend. Burke revisits familiar themes in new ways here, touching not only on the supernatural but also on the here-and-now world of south Louisiana in a way that transcends its fictional setting, creating a new reality that demands to be experienced.
  • BROKEN HARBOR by Tana French
    The fourth of Tana French’s books concerning the investigating Dublin Murder Squad, BROKEN HARBOR concerns the investigation of a family’s wholesale slaughter, the reason for which lies, apparently inexplicably, in the past. While French’s penchant for drawing the reader in with a tantalizing mystery is on full display here, it is her ability to shatter the reader’s heart and tread gently on the pieces that keeps the pages turning, almost in spite of themselves.
  • THE LOST ONES: A Quinn Colson Novel by Ace Atkins
    Ace Atkins has always been a compelling author, but arguably never more so than with THE LOST ONES. The second in the Quinn Colson series, the former Army ranger turned rural Mississippi sheriff deals with guns, drugs, human trafficking, and his own well-intended but dangerous impulses. The primary reason for picking up THE LOST ONES, however, is Atkins’ prose, which sparkles and shines through the grit, dust and dirt of the subject matter.
  • CRASHED: A Junior Bender Mystery by Timothy Hallinan
    The beginning of a new series for Timothy Hallinan introduces Junior Bender, a high-end Los Angeles burglar who finds himself forced into babysitting a former child television star who is now a down-and-out drug addict and who is on the verge of a highly questionable movie comeback. Hallinan’s prose and sharp characterization will make you fall in love with genre fiction, and reading, all over again.

Michael Magras

L. Dean Murphy

  • THE DARK ROSE by Erin Kelly
    Like a butterfly flitting between 1989 and 2009, the tale of teen Louisa Trevelyan’s obsessive love of Adam Glasslake takes a tragic turn, and Louisa goes on the lam. Kelly’s keyboard is a Stradivarius and she a literary virtuoso in this dark drama of love and love betrayed.
  • THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich
    In this tale of racial injustice on an Ojibwe Indian reservation in 1988, Pulitzer Prize finalist Louise Erdrich expands her scope to include intolerance on many levels. In the Afterword, Erdrich reveals personal tragic information.
  • SOME KIND OF FAIRY TALE by Graham Joyce
    Teenaged Tara slips into another world and can’t return for six months, only the world has aged 20 years. Tara has matured, but “her family didn’t grow at all. They’d allowed age to diminish them instead of mature them.” Joyce’s fairyland is one of miracles. “Thing is, if you don’t believe in miracles, you’re left only with the beautiful and unsolvable mystery.”
  • A QUIET VENDETTA by R.J. Ellory
    When the teen daughter of Louisiana’s governor is kidnapped, there’s no doubt her life is in peril. Her bodyguard turns up as a dead body stuffed into the trunk of a vintage car, his heart carved out and put back in place. “This is criminal psychology you’re talking here” by the multi-award-winning author of intense crime fiction.
  • VIRAL by James Lilliefors
    In remote pockets of the Third World, a deadly virus sweeps through impoverished shantytowns. Meanwhile, in Washington, a message may be the key to stopping the crisis --- if private intelligence contractor Charles Mallory can decipher the puzzle before time runs out.
  • THE GOOD FATHER by Noah Hawley
    This tale of a presidential nominee assassination recounts historical murders and delves into the lives of the accused gunman’s family, brought to you by the screenwriter and producer of the hit TV series "Bones."
  • DAMAGE CONTROL by John Gilstrap
    John Gilstrap’s Jonathan “Digger” Grave series packs the punch of a rocket-propelled grenade. Jonathan and Boxers have their secret identities compromised by a high-level FBI informant, much to the chagrin of friend and FBI director Irene Rivers. The dynamic duo saves only one hostage of 10 and barely manages to bring him back to the US amidst unimaginable carnage.

Ray Palen

Norah Piehl

Amie Taylor

Carole Turner