The Girl with the Dragon TattooStieg Larsson, Translated by Reg Keeland
RaveThe Washington Post...an intelligent, ingeniously plotted, utterly engrossing thriller that is variously a serial-killer saga, a search for a missing person and an informed glimpse into the worlds of journalism and business ... In time we meet a fiendish and all too efficient serial killer, but the novel's most memorable character is the woman who provides its title ... Lisbeth is a punk Watson to Mikael's dapper Holmes, and she's the coolest crime-fighting sidekick to come along in many years ... It's hard to find fault with "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." One must struggle with bewildering Swedish names, but that's a small price to pay. The story starts off at a leisurely pace, but the reader soon surrenders to Larsson's skillful narrative ... It's a book that lingers in the mind.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestStieg Larsson, Translated by Reg Keeland
RaveThe Washington PostOnly now, with the publication of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the third novel in the late Stieg Larsson's immensely popular Millennium trilogy, can we fully appreciate the Swedish writer's achievement ...his trilogy is best understood as a great, sprawling, angry political novel set in Sweden but confronting issues that resonate throughout the Western world ... For much of the novel, she is confined to a hospital as her enemies plot to have her sentenced to prison — or, if that fails, killed — even as Mikael fights to prove her innocence ...suffice it to say that the novel fully lives up to the excellence of the previous two and that it brings the saga to a satisfactory conclusion ...a rich, exciting, suspenseful story, with a huge cast, and involves us deeply in Lisbeth's fate, even as it carries us into all levels of Swedish society.
The BlindsAdam Sternbergh
PositiveThe Washington PostSternbergh’s characters are intriguing, his plot is suspenseful and his outlook is endearingly dark ... For Sternbergh, just about all our minds are guilty and thus potentially fascinating, if not homicidal. Readers who share his dim view of humankind can embrace The Blinds as naughty fun, but it can also be viewed as a meditation on the ubiquity of evil. Read it and weep. Or laugh. Or both. Sternbergh is an original, grandly irreverent writer.
Proving GroundPeter Blauner
RaveThe Washington Post...[an] exceptional novel ... Even after the trial ends, brutal surprises keep emerging. Throughout, Peter Blauner’s characters are complex and his prose is as impressive as his plot. His gritty portrayal of urban crime recalls the work of Richard Price and Dennis Lehane ... [Blauner's] return to crime fiction novels after a 10-year hiatus is most welcome.
RaveThe Washington Post[Kanon] "is a master of the genre, and here delivers a book that will appeal to fans of The Americans and Bridge of Spies ... Frank’s plan to escape the Soviet Union is immensely complicated, but its unfolding is enhanced by Kanon’s graceful writing ... as readable and suspenseful as the fine espionage novels of Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, Charles McCarry, Robert Littell, Alan Furst and John Le Carré — and its roller-coaster plot will keep you guessing until the final page.
Catalina EddyDaniel Pyne
RaveThe Washington PostThe stories are connected by the excellence of Pyne’s writing and, beyond that, by a sense of existential dread; these stories portray an America in which nuclear annihilation is only the worst-case scenario in a world of ceaseless peril ... Pyne delivers his noir in vivid, often gorgeous prose ... Laughter and love can be found in Catalina Eddy, but finally it’s an ambitious panorama of lives lived in the shadow of that mushroom cloud. If the author offers us anything to cling to, it’s Riley, in her wheelchair, fighting to defend her pride and dignity, whatever the odds.
QuicksandMalin Persson Giolito
RaveThe Washington Post...a remarkable new novel ... Giolito, who practiced law before she turned to fiction, writes with exceptional skill. She seems to know everything about Stockholm’s rich and the ways of teenage girls. Her story examines the corrosive effects of vast wealth ... It’s a long novel, perhaps a little too long, but always smart and engrossing. We race along to learn whether Maja’s lawyer can save her. Or whether, in fact, prison may be where she belongs. Giolito keeps us guessing a long time and the outcome, when it arrives, is just as it should be.
I See YouClare Mackintosh
RaveThe Washington PostMackintosh understands the complexities — the endless ups and downs — of police work and family life, and she presents them with skill and sensitivity. Beyond that, her greatest gift may be her plotting. About halfway through I Let You Go, she introduced a shocking twist that turned her tale on its ear and carried it to a new level. Now, in I See You, she hits us with an equal astonishment at her story’s very end. She’s a master of surprises ... Perhaps because of Mackintosh’s years of police work, her first two novels reflect an exceptional sense of evil; they feature three characters who, despite their charming exteriors, are pure psychopaths, creatures who would cut your throat for a dime. She offers good people, too, but it’s her recognition of inhumanity that has made her books brilliant and unnerving. It’s hard to choose between her novels. Read them both. What matters is that Mackintosh seems destined to do important work for many years to come.
PositiveThe Washington PostIn his new novel, the ingenious dystopian thriller NK3, Tolkin is back with a Los Angeles populated by mindless creatures who live for sex and drugs. Indeed, it’s a world in which almost everyone has lost their mind. Might Tolkin again be having a bit of satirical fun as he inflicts each new horror upon the City of Angels? ... The novel is clever entertainment about a disaster that won’t happen; we face many dangers but having our memories stolen by the North Koreans is not among them.
Rather Be the DevilIan Rankin
PanThe Washington PostRankin makes a less-than-convincing case in this disappointing novel. I found nothing in these pages more suspenseful than whether Rebus, who may have cancer, would survive it ... The book has its dramatic moments. One chapter begins with a very respectable citizen inexplicably running naked down the street as passersby snap photos. And a vengeful man armed with a huge sword — a veritable scimitar — threatens to chop off a rival’s head as a warning to others. Rebus even gains a confession in the woman’s long-ago murder. But the novel simply has too many characters and too much going on. I despaired of keeping things straight — and I was taking notes. Rankin has done better in the past and no doubt he’ll do better in the future. Let’s hope.
Midnight SunJo Nesbo
PositiveThe Washington Post[Midnight Sun] tells a simple story — in the best sense of the word — and tells it well. Unlike thrillers that deal in incomprehensible plots and cheap thrills, this is the believable, focused story of a young man trying to escape the consequences of crime and facing hard choices about love, religion and life itself.
Before the FallNoah Hawley
RaveThe Washington PostCrash it does, and soon readers and federal officials alike are struggling to understand why. It’s an irresistible mystery and, for the icing on his fictional cake, Hawley adds a satirical portrait of a cable news star named Bill Cunningham that will delight some readers and outrage others ... Hawley has spun a tale that’s at once an intriguing puzzle, a tasty satire and a painful story of human loss.
RaveThe Washington PostEileen is a remarkable piece of writing, always dark and surprising, sometimes ugly and occasionally hilarious. Its first-person narrator is one of the strangest, most messed-up, most pathetic — and yet, in her own inimitable way, endearing — misfits I’ve encountered in fiction. Trust me, you have never read anything remotely like Eileen ... Eileen may bore some readers and repulse others, but those with a yen for the perverse may well embrace its unsettling pleasures and exceptional writing.
PositiveThe Washington PostL.S. Hilton’s Maestra will be one of this year’s most talked-about novels, simply because of its explicit sex scenes. It’s one of the raciest mainstream books published in recent memory. The good news is that the British, Oxford-educated author not only writes well about sex, she writes well about everything. You could cut the sex scenes and Maestra would still be a fascinating novel about a young woman on the make. It just wouldn’t be as much fun.
Wilde LakeLaura Lippman
RaveThe Washington PostThe book is unusual in that Lippman spends more time relating Lu’s childhood and family life than she does the novel’s nominal plot, which concerns a murder case that Lu prosecutes. But Lippman’s portrayal of Lu’s girlhood and family is so exceptional, readers won’t miss the legal drama. You rarely find characterizations as sensitive as these in genre fiction or, indeed, any fiction ... Lippman’s novels are tough-minded, entertaining, heartfelt and wise, and they have deservedly won the Edgar award, the Anthony, the Agatha and every other crime-fiction prize. She’s one of today’s essential writers, and this, her 20th novel, reminds us why.
The Crow GirlErik Axl Sund
PanThe Washington PostThese women and the serial killings that connect them provide the basis for a strong if overly gruesome plot. The sexual abuse of children is among the most despicable of crimes, and the authors deserve praise for addressing it candidly. Unfortunately, they have filled their novel with so many instances of rape, sadism, torture and murder that the reader is overwhelmed ... Amid all these plot threads, in a very long novel, dimly remembered names keep popping up, and we struggle to recall if they are victims, abusers, police or innocent bystanders ... The detective, mother of a young son, is the book’s moral center, and her rage is understandable. But the authors should have focused their material far more carefully so that we could read their story, however sordid, with understanding if not always with pleasure.
Disappearance at Devil's RockPaul Tremblay
PositiveThe Washington PostTremblay is a prize-winning writer of supernatural horror fiction and Devil’s Rock reflects his fascination with the unseen ... Tremblay’s portrait of these boys is arguably brilliant, although it can also be maddening...We are reminded that close exposure to the minds of 13-year-old boys carries the risk of permanent brain damage for someone of mature years. Yet the novel also offers an abundance of fine writing ... Ultimately, Tremblay, who has two children, has written a book about parenthood, one that will be most fully appreciated by others who have known the mingled joy and heartbreak that accompany that greatest of life’s challenges.
Rise the DarkMichael Koryta
RaveThe Washington PostRise the Dark is both first-rate entertainment and an unusually interesting thriller in terms of its characters, its plot and the ideas it explores, which include the electrical grid, Tesla’s history, spiritualism and the nation’s possible vulnerability to a right-wing takeover.
The TrespasserTana French
RaveThe Washington Post...it’s time to recognize that French’s work renders absurd the lingering distinction between genre and literary fiction ... with her anger, intelligence and toughness, [Conway] emerges as French’s finest character yet ... Many fine writers have written well about police work but I don’t recall any novel that digs more deeply into police culture, the tricks of the trade, the ugly side and the heroics, too, than French does here ... it’s time for more of the people who review books and award prizes to rethink the cliches about genres and recognize the excellence — the literary excellence — of her work.
Night SchoolLee Child
RaveThe Washington PostWhat makes Night School the best of the Reacher novels I’ve read is that Child has concocted a brilliant plot ... Child portrays bodies in action memorably...The details of the search are ingenious, the outcome makes sense and the writing is smart and surprising. This is one of the best thrillers you’ll read this year.
Listen to MeHannah Pittard
RaveThe Washington Post...captivating...you won't put this story down ... Pittard brilliantly explores the couple’s reliance on each other, the mingled joy, mystery and sadness of their marriage ... Pittard deserves the attention of anyone in search of today’s best fiction.
RaveThe Washington PostFor much of the way, Siracusa is a sophisticated, elegantly written, delightfully cynical look at four middle-aged Americans, not unlike people most of us know, as they struggle to make sense of their lives. Then, abruptly, the story darkens. All readers may not share my admiration for its shocking conclusion, but it’s that sudden glimpse of tragedy, even of evil, that gives Ephron’s novel the feel of a classic.
RaveThe Washington PostJoe Ide, one of this year’s more unlikely first novelists, has produced one of its most enjoyable, offbeat thrillers ... The letters IQ are the initials of the book’s African American hero, Isaiah Quintabe. We see him in 2005, as a teenager, and 2013, in his 20s ... People come to him with problems the police won’t touch but that IQ — a big fan of Sherlock Holmes — solves with Holmes-style analysis ... Strange characters populate the novel ... It’s a mad world that late-blooming Joe Ide has brought forth from his past, a spicy mix of urban horror, youthful striving and show-business absurdity. His IQ is an original and welcome creation.
Deep FreezeJohn Sandford
RaveThe Washington PostDeep Freeze is the 10th novel in the Flowers series, and as always, Sandford devises a bizarre plot for his hero to untangle. Set in the winter chill of the northern Minnesota town of Trippton, the novel is both a murder mystery and a satire of small-town life … Flowers’s adventures are a riot, in part because of the author’s belief — which he shared with me — that most criminals are remarkably stupid.
A Legacy of SpiesJohn Le Carré
PositiveThe Washington PostIf Legacy isn’t among Le Carré’s very best, it’s entirely readable and often ingenious, in part because it amounts to a sequel, more than 50 years later, to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold ... A Legacy of Spies thus operates on two levels. It reconstructs Leamas’s doomed operation even as it shows Guillam 50 years later trying to escape punishment for actions hailed as heroic at the time. The novel can be challenging as it often leaps between past and present, but le Carré’s books usually repay our patience. This one does, as Guillam’s troubles extend beyond the lawsuit to the murder of his friends, an attempt on his own life, corruption in high places, a search for Smiley and an unexpected life as a fugitive ... if le Carré should make A Legacy of Spies his last, it would be an honorable exit.
The Broken ShorePeter Temple
RaveThe Washington PostThere is, in fact, a great deal of action ahead — murder, rape, suicide, child abuse, police brutality, shootouts — but always in the context of gorgeous writing. The novel is in fact an exceptional blending of first-rate crime fiction and a literary sensibility … Temple presents sophisticated portraits of at least a dozen of Port Monro's citizens — the rich and the poor, the honest and the corrupt — all seen with compassion and without illusion. His story becomes political when the locals fight to stop a proposed luxury resort that will despoil their coast, and a charismatic young Aboriginal leader takes up the cause. Throughout, Temple finds time to please us with flashes of writing that range from poetic to brutal.
Sleep No More: Six Murderous TalesP. D. James
RaveThe Washington Post...six previously uncollected, quite wonderful 'murderous tales' that will delight her longtime fans and can be a fine introduction to her work for others ... The stories collected here are variously surprising, sardonic and darkly humorous, and are always intelligent and beautifully written. As much as any crime writer I know, James transcends genre and should be viewed simply as a writer of exceptional literary skill ... This collection would make an excellent holiday gift for a literate friend, even though the author’s message has precious little to do with peace on earth or goodwill toward men.
The Woman in the WindowA. J. Finn
RaveThe Washington Post...if The Woman in the Window achieves success, it will be entirely deserved. It’s a beautifully written, brilliantly plotted, richly enjoyable tale of love, loss and madness ... Although Finn’s plot must not be revealed, it’s fair to say that his characters are rarely who or what they first appear to be. And that his story ends with a series of mind-boggling surprises. The Woman in the Window is first-rate entertainment that is finally a moving portrait of a woman fighting to preserve her sanity ... With The Woman in the Window he has not only captured, sympathetically, the interior life of a depressed person, but also written a riveting thriller that will keep you guessing to the very last sentence.
RaveThe Washington PostHis new novel offers a painful look at an honorable man, longing for peace, but confronting an adversary who had only conquest in mind and only contempt for Chamberlain’s good intentions … Although his story is based on fact, Harris uses two fictional characters to achieve his novelistic ends … Some critics still call Chamberlain an appeaser, but Harris underscores the importance of the time he bought when he quotes Hitler saying bitterly in February 1945, when Germany’s defeat was near, ‘We ought to have gone to war in 1938.’ Once again, Harris has brought history to life with exceptional skill.