Narrowing 2005's best to just 10 was tough, but here goes: "Bangkok Tattoo" by John Burdett (Knopf). In this exotic, finely detailed adventure...
Narrowing 2005’s best to just 10 was tough, but here goes:
“Bangkok Tattoo” by John Burdett (Knopf). In this exotic, finely detailed adventure, Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Royal Thai Police and his cheerfully corrupt boss concoct a coverup when it appears that a sweet prostitute friend of theirs murdered a CIA operative. Seen through Sonchai’s serene eyes, Bangkok nightlife is equal parts seamy and sweet.
“The Lincoln Lawyer” by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown). Connelly’s best known for his high-octane books about cop Harry Bosch, but this legal thriller is equally terrific. Defense attorney Mickey Haller, whose swanky Lincoln (license plate NT GLTY) is a mobile office, uses his considerable wits to save himself when an apparently foolproof case of alleged assault goes south.
“The Big Over Easy” by Jasper Fforde (Viking). A mind-blowing romp from the wildly imaginative author of the Thursday Next books. In an unlikely but winning mix of fairy tale and film noir, Detective Jack Spratt and Sergeant Mary Mary of the Nursery Crimes Division track down whoever pushed a minor aristocrat and philanthropist, one Humpty Dumpty, off a wall.
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“With No One As Witness” by Elizabeth George (HarperCollins). New Scotland Yard’s Thomas Lynley investigates serial murders of teenage, minority boys. George, a part-time Washington resident, makes of this a textured, achingly compassionate character study with life-changing ramifications for Lynley and his colleagues.
“The Lighthouse” by P.D. James (Knopf). A famous novelist is murdered at a remote island retreat; he was a nasty piece of work, and several island residents had motives. Enter brilliant and understated Commander Adam Dalgliesh, who deftly probes psyches and histories to find the culprit in one of the most compelling books of James’ remarkable career.
“Locked Rooms” by Laurie R. King (Bantam). Brimming with 1920s verve, this continues King’s vividly imagined series about Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes’ younger (but equally brave and smart) wife. Someone’s trying to kill Russell in San Francisco as she looks after family affairs; the answer involves a grim legacy of the 1906 earthquake.
“The Inside Ring” by Michael Lawson (Doubleday). In this droll, intelligent thriller, a tough Congressional fixer is assigned to plug the leak when a Presidential assassination attempt exposes a gap in the Secret Service’s protection. The author, a Seattleite, appears to know his way around Beltway politicking and has a knack for sketching characters in deft and nuanced strokes.
“The Hot Kid” by Elmore Leonard (Morrow). Without losing an ounce of his usual crisp prose, wry dialogue, and no-fat plotting, one of crime fiction’s wiliest pros steps away from his accustomed turf with a jaunty homage to pulp fiction. In Depression-era Oklahoma, a keen-eyed young U.S. Marshal matches wits and nerve with a dim but brutal nemesis.
“To the Power of Three” by Laura Lippman (Morrow). Lippman excels at situations and characters that slowly, teasingly reveal their secrets. A shooting in a girls’ bathroom at a suburban Baltimore high school leaves one kid dead, another slightly wounded, a third critically so; as families grieve, a weary and kind-hearted detective starts asking questions.
“Citizen Vince” by Jess Walter (Regan Books/HarperCollins). This big-hearted tale concerns a low-level criminal who discovers a sense of civic duty buried beneath his cynical exterior. Spokane author Walter writes about intangibles like hope and redemption as authoritatively as he portrays gangsters, hookers and high-stakes poker, in probably the only novel ever to feature cameos by both former Congressman Tom Foley and John Gotti, the Teflon Don.
Seattle writer Adam Woog’s column on mystery and crime fiction appears on the second Sunday of the month in The Times.