John Dwaine McKenna
2014 Best Books of the Year
It was an awesome year for crime and mystery fiction, and as a result, it’s generated our longest annual list ever, with selections from around the world. With computers and modern printing methods, an astonishing number of books are being published . . . an estimated one-thousand five hundred per day in the English language, is one figure being given, but the technology is changing so fast that it’s impossible to compile accurate numbers. One thing is for sure: we are living in an unprecedented time of creativity and the availability of books of all kinds has never been greater. In making these selections, which are my personal choices, I’d like to acknowledge the help of Ian Kern and his boss Otto Penzler at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. Hands down, they’re the best in the business! Without further Hoo-Ha, BS or Donkey Dust, here’s the most fiendishly clever, well-written, most intelligent superbly plotted, high quality, interesting and unconventional novels we’ve seen this year. All have been read cover-to-cover by yours truly and rated FIVE STARS for excellence. They’re the best of the year and all are worthy of your attention. Read on and enjoy!
Best Books of the Year 2014
MBR # 131 The Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews
Russia v. USA spy thriller, full of action, intrigue, treachery, tension and tight plotting that all take place in the 21st century.
MBR # 132 The Star of Instanbul, by Robert Olen Butler
Part-time US Secret Agent Christopher “Kitt” Cobb is up to his ears in WWI mayhem dealing with Imperial German and Ottoman Turks in a twisted spy yarn that sees his heart broken by a woman resembling the infamous Mata Hari
MBR # 141 The Tilted World, by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
The great Mississippi River flood of 1927 is the backstory for a rousing tale involving an orphaned infant, two of the toughest Prohibition Agents ever hired, a beautiful, abused and heartsick lady moonshiner, treachery, violence and survival in a doomed river town.
MBR # 143 GAME by Anders DeLaMotte
A bored, shiftless and broke young man finds an expensive new smartphone on the train seat beside him and takes it. The phone lights up and asks, Want to play a game? He clicks ‘YES’ . . . and shortly thereafter, totally out of control, he’s a fugitive running from the law, and in danger of losing his life to someone called the gamemaster.
MBR # 149 Alex, by Pierre LeMaitre
Shopping for a wig turns into unrelenting terror for a young Parisian woman who’s not what she appears to be in this top-notch crime fiction thriller where the twists and turns never cease until the devastating conclusion of this award-winning book.
MBR # 153 The Black-Eyed Blonde, by Benjamin Black
Phillip Marlowe is back! Thanks to the estate of Raymond Chandler, the tough-guy detective with a heart for the ladies is back and better than ever!
MBR # 154 The Kept, by James Scott
In 1875 in upstate New York, a midwife returning to her family after a six-month sojourn working in the city, trudges for miles through the snow to get home to their cabin with gifts for all and cash money for bills, finds her entire family murdered when she arrives. Thereafter the revelations never stop in this outstanding first novel by a shining new talent.
MBR # 155 Chance, by Kem Nunn
A California Psychiatrist who’s watching his life and medical profession spin out of control after just one itty-bitty little illegal act.
MBR # 158 The Ascendant, by Drew Chapman
Another great debut from an up and coming new talent: The U.S. government has been searching for years for someone capable of leading an inevitable 21st century cyber-war, which will be fought on an invisible battlefield with devastating consequences for America and the entire world. The code name is Ascendant. He’s been found, but may be uncontrollable.
MBR # 164 The Lie, by Hesh Kestin
An Israeli lawyer who defends Palestinians is appointed as the supreme arbiter in cases of enhanced interrogation. In a word, Torture. When her own son is captured and held hostage to prevent interrogation of a Palestinian terrorist, her Hobson’s choice is nearly unbearable.
MBR # 166 The Convictions of John Delahunt, by Andrew Hughes
A stunning inside look at the inner workings of the British system of justice in 1840s Dublin, Ireland.
MBR # 167 Natchez Burning, by Greg Isles
A woman comes home to die in 21st century Natchez, Mississippi. Her death triggers a trial that dredges up and revisits the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, which causes a violent reaction from a merciless splinter group of the KKK who want the past to stay buried . . . in the literal as well as the figurative sense.
MBR # 169 The Wayfaring Stranger, by James Lee Burke
A chance encounter with the outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow when he was a teen-aged boy influence the remainder of a man’s life in this stand-alone literary crime thriller from the Grand Master.
MBR # 170 The Cairo Affair, by Olen Steinhauer
A spy-thriller that extends from North Africa to Budapest; where the treachery, double-crosses danger, suspense, deaths and action never quit; where nothing and no one are what they appear to be. It all begins when a married couple are having lunch in an upscale restaurant, and as she’s confessing to having had an affair, a man walks up and shoots her husband in the head.
MBR # 172 The Son, by Jo Nesbo
A stand alone by the Norwegian crime master and creator of Harry Hole. In this one, the heroin addicted son of a disgraced Oslo cop engineers a prison break after learning his father was framed, and takes revenge.
That’s our top fifteen for the year 2014. Here’s a few others that just missed but also merit your attention:
MBR # 138 The Accident, by Chris Pavone
MBR # 152 The Red Road, by Denise Mina
MBR # 161 Providence Rag, by Bruce DeSilva
It was a spectacular year of exciting crime fiction and thrillers, but 2015 is looking even better! I hope you get a chance to read some, or all, of these great novels. And hey . . . stay tuned. We’re going to explore a whole lot more great crime fiction, murder mysteries and thrillers in the new year.
Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, as well as Best Wishes for all of the Holiday Season.