The 20 top picks this year span the globe in setting and cross the spectrum in tone.
When you think of criminal malfeasance, you may flash to mean streets and big cities. But crimes sometimes pop up where you least expect them. An overgrown garden outside South Bend, Indiana, hides buried treasure in Jim Allyn’s “Princess Anne.” A rural river holds a deadly secret in Matthew Neill Null’s “Gauley Season.” A virgin Maine timber forest becomes the scene of a careless crime with deadly consequences in Annie Proulx’s “Rough Deeds.” Evil can be all too well-planned, as in Michelle Butler Hallett’s “Bush-Hammer Finish,” set in Newfoundland. But David H. Ingram’s “The Covering Storm” shows that all the planning in the world can’t outpace luck in 19th-century Galveston. The suburbs provide fertile ground for mayhem in Patricia Engel’s “Aida,” Charlaine Harris’ “Small Kingdoms” and Ed Kurtz’s “A Good Marriage.” Crime also thrives in the wide-open spaces, as in James Lee Burke’s almost pastoral “Going Across Jordan.” It even pokes up in the world’s least populated place, as Laura Van Den Berg demonstrates in “Antarctica.” And in “My Heart Is Either Broken” and “Festered Wounds,” Megan Abbott and Nancy Pauline Simpson show that many crimes take place in the smallest of spaces—the human heart.
Lippman and series editor Penzler set a sumptuous and surprisingly varied table for those who like their thrills short, sweet and creepy.