Thursday, December 9, 2021

End-of-the-Year Book Recommendations from James W. Ziskin

It's the time of the year for gift-giving, so give us your book suggestions please!

It’s becoming a tradition for me to put together an end-of-the-year list of books I recommend. This is not a best-of list. I’m not a fan of those since there’s no way people can read everything. So how can they declare some books the best? Not that I don’t admire the books that make those lists. I do. It’s simply that those big names and big successes get plenty of ink elsewhere, so I try to shine a light on excellent books and fine authors I enjoy instead. They may not be on the New York Times bestsellers list—yet—but these are some wonderful novels I’ve read in the past year. I highly recommend them.

In no particular order:


The Out-of-Town Lawyer, Robert Rotstein

This gem is set for publication in 2024. Rotstein writes beautifully, with great sensitivity and insight. His legal thrillers are top notch.


Staged for Murder, Erica Miner

Do you love music? Opera? Wagner? Intelligent murder mysteries? Then Staged for Murder is for you.

Murder at the Brand-New Jubilee Rally, Terry Shames
It’s always a treat when a new Terry Shames book falls in your lap. I got the chance to read Jubilee Rally early on. Not sure when it will be published, but it features Samuel Craddock at his best. You know it’s good!

Blacktop Wasteland, S. A. Cosby
S. A. Cosby needs no nod from me, but I’m offering one anyway. Blacktop Wasteland, as well as his latest Razorblade Tears, is on everyone’s best-of list. Nominated for every award you can think of, Blacktop is a heist-gone-terribly-terribly-wrong story. It’s tense and compelling. You just might grip the book so hard that you’ll pull it apart with your bare hands. It’s that good.

Implied Consent, Kennan Powell
A yet-to-be released legal thriller, this is a wonderful book, dealing with tough subjects and painful memories. Implied Consent is a #MeToo era story of Hollywood intrigue and dark behavior from a writer I always read. Always.

The Bombay Prince, Sujata Massey
Massey’s Perveen Mistry series keeps getting better with each book. I think I love this one best of all. The historical details are so rich and Perveen’s character is one of the best in crime fiction today. If you haven’t read any of these books, you’re missing out!

Death of an American Beauty, Mariah Fredericks
Another “beauty” from the oh-so-talented Fredericks. This series features the fierce heroine Jane Prescott and a cavalcade of shady characters, Bible-thumpers, and prostitutes in Gilded Age New York City. Read American Beauty for the historical tapestry, perfect plotting, and richly drawn characters. I love this series!

The Three Mrs. Wrights, Linda Keir
The team of Linda Joffe Hull and Keir Graff make an unusual—and unlikely—writing duo named Linda Keir. And they are marvelous together. The Three Mrs. Wrights is a tremendously entertaining portrait of a serial-cheating sociopath. If forced to describe this book in one line, I would say, “Love means never having to tell the truth.”

Pretty as a Picture, Elizabeth Little
Elizabeth Little is one of the finest word magicians plying today. Her sentences are so clever/beautiful/intriguing, and enviable. Wow. She can write. Pretty as a Picture is one part true-crime obsession, one part cold case, with the glitter of Hollywood glamour sprinkled on top. Green light this book.

What’s Done in Darkness, Laura McHugh
Laura McHugh is an award-winning writer of thrillers and crime fiction, and she’s at the top of her game in What’s Done in Darkness. A sensitive and terrifying story. So well done. 

The Hollywood Spy, Susan Elia MacNeal
Susan Elia MacNeal has done it again. Her indomitable Maggie Hope finds herself in Los Angeles in 1943. Far from the frontlines, Maggie discovers that not all the dangers of war were Europe and the Pacific. Fabulous book with Hollywood stars and social conscience galore.

Pesticide, Kim Hays
A new author to me, Kim Hays has delivered a remarkable procedural set in Bern. Pesticide, due out in 2022, is Switzerland’s answer to Scandinavian noir. Fresh and oh so readable, you won’t be able to put it down. A new favorite of mine.

Fogged Off, Wendall Thomas
One of my favorites at anything she does, Wendall Thomas is a wildly talented—and hilarious—writer. Fogged Off brings Cyd Redondo back in her third eco-adventure. London, Jack the Ripper, AND endangered species? What more could you want? 

The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter, Timothy Miller
The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter will delight Sherlockians, art lovers, and ├Žsthetes of every stripe. With meticulous research and great erudition, Miller has written a stunning addition to the enduring and evergreen canon of Sherlock Holmes adventures. Highest recommendation for this remarkable novel. Coming in February 2022.

Death at Greenway, Lori Rader-Day
I ALWAYS recommend Lori Rader-Day’s novels. But this book exceeded my expectations. It impressed me so much. Not only is the story engrossing and superbly written, the characters are memorable and complex. I was stunned by the amount of research and detail that went into this book. The voices are all authentic and so British. And the main character, Bridey Kelly, is a richly drawn, brilliant piece of literary creation. Ditto for Gigi. A wonderful pair of characters set against the backdrop of World War II evacuations of children. Agatha Christie’s Greenway is a delightful bonus. This book is a wonderful treat.

Happy reading and holidays to all!

8 comments:

  1. Jim! I am gobsmacked to be on this list with so many books I love. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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  2. JIM! Thank you for having Death at Greenway on this tremendous list. We have a lot of the same favorites, of course...

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  3. This post is a Reader's Trifecta. An author whose work I admire recommends two of my favorites. Anything these three, James W Ziskin, Wendall Thomas, and Lori Rader-Day write is well worth your time. Happy Holidays.

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  4. P.S. Delighted to hear that there is a new Terry Shames/Samuel Craddock waiting in the wings.

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  5. This is fabulous list. (All modesty aside.)

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  6. I am so honored to be on your terrific reading list!

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  7. A great list. I’ve read many and will add the others.

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