The Best Reads of 2017

Last year was a banner year for wonderful books. Of the 174 books Auntie M reviewed, 25 of them received her coveted “Highly Recommended” rating. All of these have longer reviews archived on the site, but just to refresh your memory, here they are listed simply in the order I read them:

Everything You Want Me To Be/Mindy Meja: The story of a small-town high school senior’s murder, told from three voices including the dead girl. Well-crafted and surprising.

Garden of Lamentations/Deborah Crombie: the 17th Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James police procedural finds James’s newest case revolving around the murder of a young nanny in Notting Hill while Kincaid is involved in high espionage.

Among the Ruins/Ausma Zehanat Khan: the third Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery takes the duo from their Canadian home to Iran, where intrigue swirls around them both as they investigate the murder of a Canadian-Iranian documentary filmmaker.

Swiss Vendetta/Tracee de Hahn: this debut introduces Swiss-American detective Agnes Luthi, trapped during an ice storm at the castle-like chateau of a wealthy family to investigate a murder, just as she’s recovering from her husband’s suicide.

A Death in the Dales/Frances Brody: Kate Shackleton, supposedly on vacation, finds herself investigating an old murder and becomes convinced the wrong man was hung as the killer in this entertaining historical series.

A Cast of Vultures/Judith Flanders: Editor Sam Clair finds herself wrapped up in a murder when a body is found after a neighborhood fire, to the chagrin of her detective partner. Entertaining and well-plotted with a self-deprecating protagonist.

The Satanic Mechanic/Sally Andrews: Visit South Africa’s Karoo where Tannie Maria, baker extraordinaire, must investigate when a man is poisoned in her presence. Creative and unique and complete with recipes.

Quieter Than Killing/Sarah Hilary: the fourth detective Marnie Rome series brings the detective facing her own ghosts when she and partner Noah Jake tackle a series of what might be vigilante crimes. Deeply emotional and highly original.

Conviction/Julia Dahl: the third Rebekah Roberts novel takes the investigative journalist’s newest story too close for comfort when she tries to free an innocent man convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.

Written in Bones/James Oswald gives Insp. Tony McLean a strange case when a body is dropped from the sky and lands in a tree.

The Chalk Pit/Elly Griffiths: the series featuring forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway takes on a personal threat when she’s called to investigate old bones found during a chalk pit excavation for a new restaurant. Highly absorbing.

Magpie Murders/Anthony Horowitz: the mystery-within-a-mystery by the author of Foyle’s War and many Midsomer Murders scripts creates a prickly homage to the Golden Age authors, as an editor searches for the final chapter of the last book of her publishing house’s most lucrative series.

Die of Shame and Love Like Blood intertwines two of Mark Billingham’s grand novels, bringing DI Nicola Tanner and Tom Thorne together in a most creative way. Complex and compelling reads.

Perish the Day/ John Farrow: highlights the Canadian author’s series featuring retired detective Emile Cinq-Mars with weather always an issue, as he and his wife travel to her NH roots and become involved with the killing of her niece’s friend.

The Marsh King’s Daughter/ Karen Dionne: a sophisticated tale of revenge and heartache, told compellingly from the POV of a young woman whose mother was held in captivity since before she was born. A distinct sense of place adds to the atmosphere.

The Child/Fiona Barton: Book 2 Auntie M read out of order in the series featuring reporter Kate Waters –see Jan 8th for the review of The Widow, Book 1, also HR. Here an infant’s bones are found from a decades-old burial, sparking a new investigation.

Glass Houses /Louise Penny: an Inspt. Gamache tour de force, when murder hits Three Pines and Gamache is forced to make one of the hardest decisions of his career. Unsettling, creative and very Gamache.

Let the Dead Speak /Jane Casey: Detective Maeve Kerrigan is saddled with a rookie and a strange case where the victim is missing from the murder scene. Inventive, with twists and turns that keep the series fresh.

Dead Woman Walking/Sharon Bolton: a stand-alone with two sisters who take a fated balloon ride and only one survives. A fascinating story that will surprise readers from a master plotter.

A Patient Fury/Sarah Ward: Third DC Childs mystery, where the young detective is faced with a possible murder-suicide of a entire family, but suspects it’s what she’s meant to believe. Compelling, with a super-surprise ending.

Insidious Intent/Val McDermid: the Queen of Scottish Noir at the top of her game, as Tony Hill and Carol Jordan investigate when a series of burned out cars containing bodies lead them to an elusive killer. Has an ending readers can’t possibly predict that has left everyone shocked and more than one in tears.

Nine Lessons/Nicola Upson: continues her series set between the World Wars with Josephine Tey as the main character, this time in Cambridge when a rapist is on the loose just as her friend, Detective Archie Penrose, has a strange case to investigate, and their private lives become entangled. Literary prose, compelling plotting and great characters.

Sweet Little Lies /Caz Frear: introduces DC Cat Kinsella, whose must ask her father if he has an alibi for the night a woman is murdered near his pub. An accomplished debut.

Sleep No More/P D James: a slim collection of short stories by the master of crime fiction, with stories that will have readers thinking long and hard with their atypical murders and often surprising twists. Engrossing and readable.