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My Top 10 Mysteries & Thrillers of 2017

By Jay Roberts

2017 was a pretty good year for me when it comes to reading. I read the most amount of books I've ever managed in one calendar year. The total would include not just mysteries and thrillers but also some science fiction and some graphic novels.

I got to meet four authors this year. Two of them, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Ingrid Thoft, I'd met before but it is always fun to see them again and I'm looking forward to doing so again in 2018 when their new books come out. Joining the list was Hallie Ephron whom I met when she came to a joint appearance for Ryan and Thoft. All three are members of the Jungle Red Writers blog, which I read daily. The blog has introduced me to a number of new or new-to-me writers over the last year including Francine Matthews, James W. Ziskin and Kristen Lepionka.

The fourth author I met this year was Craig Johnson. He writes the Longmire Mysteries upon which the Longmire TV series is based. He was interviewed in Weymouth, MA by Hank Phillippi Ryan and I went to the event. Hank made a point of introducing me to him before the interview and mentioned that I wrote for Mystery Scene magazine.

(photo by Hank Phillippi Ryan)

Speaking of Mystery Scene, I've been writing book reviews for them for a year now and it has been quite a fun ride so far. I've written 18 reviews, 17 of which got used either in the print magazine or as online exclusive pieces. I've really enjoyed getting to read books months in advance and then write about them for the magazine. And getting to say, even if it is a bit tongue-in-cheek, that I'm a paid professional writer is always good for the ego. I'm looking forward to continuing writing for the magazine in 2018.

I'm also involved on the website. Some of my reviews have been getting noticed and I even got contacted by one author, Barbara Venkataraman, who sent me a print edition collection of her first three Jamie O'Quinn mysteries for review and I liked so much that I bought the next two in the series.

And then there's Twitter banter with some other authors. Following the 2017 Thrillerfest tweets led me to more new authors and the minute chance of going to the 2018 Thrillerfest as well. Sadly that won't be happening but it was a nice dream for a minute or two.

The end of 2017 brought sad news in the form of losing two authors whose work I loved. First there was Joan Hess, whose Claire Malloy series always made me chuckle alongside the mysteries. And just a couple days before writing this article came the news that Sue Grafton had died.  I've read a lot of mysteries from the time I was a kid. From Encyclopedia Brown to Sherlock Holmes, but Grafton was one of the first authors I latched onto as an "adult" reader. Her Kinsey Millhone series remains one of the best female driven PI series out there. RIP to you both. You and your works will be greatly missed.

Sadness aside, let's get to the real reason for this favorite reads of 2017!

#10 - The Cutaway by Christina Kovac (Atria/37 Ink) (My GoodReads Review)

Maybe it is just because I'm a sucker for reporter based mysteries, but the advance copy of this book was just awesome. And the fact that this was a debut novel made it even more wonderful to me that I loved the story so much. I really want to see where the series goes next.

#9 - The Moscow Code by Nick Wilkshire (Dundurn) (My Mystery Scene Review)

The second book in the Foreign Affairs series was my first introduction to the author and series protagonist Charlie Hillier. It won't be my last. 

#8 - The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka (Minotaur Books) (My GoodReads Review)

I have the Jungle Red Writers blog to thank for introducing me to this book from another debut author and after reading it I said it should be the first book on your To-Be-Read list. My affection for this book has not abated and I can only wait with eager anticipation for the next Roxane Weary adventure.

#7 - Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown and Company) (My GoodReads Review)

It has been an interesting year in my reader appreciation relationship with the works of Michael Connelly. For the first time ever I was disappointed in one of his books (The Late Show) and I almost got to meet him on a book tour for the first time. Sadly that didn't happen because it was the same night as the Iron Maiden concert I had already bought a ticket for. But then there was The Wrong Side of Goodbye (which I read in paperback) and Two Kinds of Truth which was an immediate hardcover purchase. While I loved both of them, the latter was particularly good and reinforced the belief that he can do no wrong when it comes to the Harry Bosch universe! Now if only the author could convince Amazon to put the TV show based on the books out on DVD, then he'd officially be a miracle worker.

#6 - (TIE) Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Forge Books) (My GoodReads Review)

               Presumption of Guilt by Archer Mayor (Minotaur Books) (My GoodReads Review)

There's not a whole lot new I can say about how much I love Hank Phillippi Ryan's Jane Ryland series. It is just a fact of life. Each tale is compelling and there's always some little bit of storytelling that sticks out. This time it was how the victim of a crime can clear her attacker of another crime of which he's accused. As always, I can't wait to see what's next and my next interaction with Ryan herself on her many and varied author appearances.

Meanwhile, I had fallen behind by a book with the Joe Gunther series by Archer Mayor. But I got my butt in gear and finished the one I slacked on, and LOVED it! It must be something about New England authors and their ability to capture the sense of place that makes me love all these stories set in my home region. Now I just have to get to reading the author's most recent book Trace, though I'm sure it will be just as exciting to read as this one was.

#5 - Pendulum by Adam Hamdy (Quercus) (My Mystery Scene Review)

I called the first novel by Adam Hamdy a "captivating thriller" in my review and meant it. A fantastic opening leads to an across the pond hunt for answers as the series hero tries to stop a killer and figure out why he was one of the targets. Just a really great read and the first in a planned trilogy.

#4 - Enemy of the State by Kyle Mills / Vince Flynn (Atria/Emily Bestler Books) (My GoodReads Review)

There is just no let up in the Mitch Rapp series. Kyle Mills further cements making the character his own in this book and you feel constantly adrenaline fueled in this worldwide chase of thriller!

#3 - Vicious Circle (G.P. Putnam's Sons) (My GoodReads Review)Paradise Valley (Minotaur Books) (My GoodReads Review) by C.J. Box

C.J. Box had a REALLY good year in my judgement. I wasn't crazy about last year's Off The Grid Joe Pickett adventure but Vicious Circle was a marvelous return to form in my mind. And if that wasn't enough (since the Joe Pickett series is, after all, his main series), Box then goes about giving readers a gripping and satisfying ending to his Highway Quartet series in Paradise Valley. Both books were pleasures to read!

#2 - A Single Spy by William Christie (Minotaur Books) (My Mystery Scene Review)

I am not normally one for historical thrillers but in the case of William Christie's outstanding A Single Spy, I might just have to re-evaluate my position on the matter. This book charts the evolution of a young Russian teen from homeless urchin to spy in training to working field agent. All set against some real World War II events and manages to straddle the line between informative and entertaining without sacrificing one for the other. A thrilling work!

#1 - Duplicity by Ingrid Thoft (G.P. Putnam's Sons) (My GoodReads Review)

Because I read so many books, I don't really have time to go back and do a lot of re-reading. Duplicity makes me wish I could though. In fact, I wish I could go back and read this literary thrill ride again...for the first time.

I am an acknowledged fan of the author but this book was something that just resonated with me all throughout the year. I read this book back in January and I've been talking about it and thinking about it throughout 2017.

In my review I called it Thoft's (at least to this point) magnum opus and said it was "quite simply one of the best private eye novels I've ever read!" That assertion stands fast and to say that Ingrid Thoft has become one of my favorite authors seems like an understatement of epic proportions. Otherwise, words fail me on how to describe just how great a book this is. Race out now and get your copy, you will become immersed in the world of Fina Ludlow and won't ever want to leave.

So there you have it! That's what made my blood pressure rise and my heart go all aflutter this past year.

As for 2018, I'm looking forward to more from the authors on this list as well as new works from Ellen Hart, Jon Land, Paige Shelton, Vicki Delany and so many more. And there's the whole idea of being introduced to more new authors as well. May the new year bring you plenty of happy reading!

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