My Top 10 Mysteries & Thrillers of 2018
By Jay Roberts
We've come to the end of another great year in reading. While I read a few graphic novels and some science fiction novels, my main reading enjoyment once again comes from reading those 'Blood, Bodies and Bullets' mysteries and thrillers that I love so much.
Some things are the same this year. I'm still reading (and spending more money than I should on new to me authors) the Jungle Red Writers blog on a daily basis as well as taking part in the Goodreads.com community. And I'm happily still doing reviews for the great Mystery Scene Magazine.
2018 was a year where I got to meet a number of authors. Some I had met previously like Hank Phillipi Ryan and Hallie Ephron (from the Jungle Red Writers blog). But other authors included JRW bloggers Julia Spencer-Fleming, Lucy Burdette and Rhys Bowen (author of the superb Molly Murphy series!).
(photo by Kristopher Zgorski)
I ended up missing out on going to any book conventions and while that is disappointing, I did get to meet Kristopher Zgorski, the owner of the influential mystery blog BOLO Books!
Another personal highlight of the year was discovering that a line from the Mystery Scene review I did for the William Christie thriller A Single Spy got quoted in the paperback edition of the book.
There were two big disappointments for me this year in the reading world. The first was learning that one of my favorite authors, Mary Daheim, has had her publisher switch her Emma Lord series over to ebooks only publication. I don't know about other readers but for me this is a horrible development. As if it wasn't bad enough for the authors, then there are those of us who are proud Dead Tree Readers (term stolen from J.A. Jance) who will NEVER read a book on an e-reader device. At the very least, publishers making the mystifying decision to only publish ebooks should offer a print on demand option because they are cutting their noses off to spite their face with this shortsighted decision.
The second disappointment was the announcement of the pending demise of Midnight Ink Books. I read a number of authors who have their books published by Midnight Ink and the notion that they might not be able to continue with their series just sticks in my craw a bit.
Okay, enough with the blathering and pontificating, let's get down to revealing my ten favorite books of 2018!
This was just a flat out great action thriller and the fact that this was a debut novel for the author makes it all that more powerful of a read.
#9 - Murder At An Irish Wedding by Carlene O'Connor (My Goodreads Review)
As much as I liked the first book in this series, the second book was even better. The third book comes out in paperback in January 2019, and I just can't wait to get my hands on that one. This series is currently my 2nd favorite of the cozy genre.
#8 - Death Over Easy by Maddie Day (My Goodreads Review)
If you were wondering what my favorite cozy mystery series was, here it is. The Country Story mystery series by Maddie Day (the pen name for Edith Maxwell) is absolutely fabulous. I can't get enough of this one and wish I could somehow hop ahead in time and come back with more books in the series so I didn't have to wait for them. In the interest of full disclosure, I did get an advance copy of the book from the author. But as anyone who knows me, my opinions are always honest and blunt. So when I say that you should be reading this series, believe me I mean it! I was also happy to see that the review I wrote had the author saying it was one of the best reviews she'd received. And she used lines from the review as part of the online pre-release hype for the book. Now if only the restaurant featured in the series was a real place so I could go eat some breakfast there!
#7 - Murder, She Wrote - Manuscript For Murder by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land (My Goodreads Review)
For accuracy's sake, I'm crediting the book as it was published but obviously Jon Land wrote this book and it was, as I said in my review, a grand slam of writing entertainment. I'm a big fan of Land's work but other than the first book he co-wrote in this series, I've never read any of the tie-in books in this series before. What I like is how the setting and plots have advanced long past the actual TV show. Jessica has grown with the times and the way Land balances the cozy genre and adds in some genuine action thriller nuances to the storytelling without sacrificing either style for the other made this a real winner!
#6 - The Disappeared by C.J. Box (My Goodreads Review)
I'm really trying to rack my brain to come up with some kind of superlative that I haven't already applied to the Joe Pickett series from C.J. Box. I guess the best thing I can come up with is that while his books are almost universally entertaining with a dash of education about a particular subject threaded into the plot, Box is the only author who has ever made me wish I had more of an interest in being the kind of outdoorsman that Joe Pickett is.
#5 - Bury The Lead by Archer Mayor (My Goodreads Review)
From one book to the next, the work that Archer Mayor does with the Joe Gunther series is continually amazing to me. All this time and he still finds new ways to further develop each of the main cast of characters while telling a compelling tale of murder and mayhem in a straight up style that relies on solid writing instead of over the top theatrics that would seem out of place. And this book is yet another prime example with Mayor weaving his storytelling magic!
#4 - Red War by Kyle Mills, Vince Flynn (My Goodreads Review)
With Kyle Mills continuing to make the late Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series his own, the winning streak continued with Red War. I got an advance copy of this book as part of the Mitch Rapp Ambassador program (and later won an autographed copy) and as I read the book it became clear with each turn of the page that this is still the best action/international intrigue thriller series on the market. No one comes in my opinion.
#3 - Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (My Mystery Scene Magazine Review)
I have to say that I was a bit disappointed in Connelly's book last year, The Late Show. It was the first time I didn't thoroughly love a book he'd written. So when I received an advance copy of this book to review for Mystery Scene and saw that it featured the same character from the previous book, I was a little hesitant. I mean, this was my first chance to review a book by someone who most would recognize as an "A-list" author. I didn't want to hate the book! Thankfully, this book was freaking awesome! There's no calm and sedate way to convey just how much I loved this book. Dark Sacred Night once again confirmed Connelly's status as one of the best writers of crime fiction today and only further whetted my appetite to see what he has up his sleeve next.
Set against the backdrop of one on the most ruthless empires in history, the D.B. John thriller was probably the biggest surprise read of the year for me. I can't describe the book any better than how I did it in my review: "Part electrifying spy tale, part exposé of a country and its practices to exercise complete domination of its citizenry, Star of the North is a starkly ambitious thriller that will leave readers both emotionally spent and satisfied."
#1 - Head Wounds by Dennis Palumbo (My Mystery Scene Magazine Review)
I read this book VERY VERY early in the year and in my review I predicted that it would be hard to beat as my favorite thriller of 2018. Such was the case because while I hadn't read any of the author's previous work, his cinematic sense of storytelling just fired the senses with each passing chapter in the book as the story raced to it's shattering conclusion. On top of which, anyone who can work in the music of Warren Zevon into a book has to be great, right?
So there you have it, my picks for the ten best reads of 2018! I should mention that the Peter Blauner book Sunrise Highway just missed making the list but it was an immensely powerful read and you should definitely check it out.
As I look ahead to 2019, there is the usual cast of characters (okay, authors) that I'm looking forward to reading new books from, not too mention books from Aimee Hix, Ellen Hart and others. But if I was to pick one author in particular that I am most eagerly awaiting a new book from it would be Ingrid Thoft, whose Fina Ludlow series is heartily captivating and a must read for any fan of detective fiction.
That's all I've got for this year, here's hoping you all find a bevy of books to read in 2019! I know that I certainly will.