Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Holiday Cheer!


Terry here: The year-end book review is one of my favorite blog posts. I love to read what others recommend. And I enjoy going back over the books I’ve read during the year and remembering why I either loved them or not so much. Occasionally because I was on a conference panel or was given a book as a gift, I discovered writers I might never have otherwise read, and that can be so rewarding! 

 Be prepared. I read a LOT of books this year, and this is a long list. I tried to pare it down, but every one that I recommended I felt really deserved recognition. 

 Here they are in the order I read them. 

 Bombay Monsoon, James Ziskin. Set in 1975, it’s the story of a young journalist who is sent on assignment to India and ends up falling for the wrong woman. Although it’s about a reporter, the book had the feel of a spy novel. 

 All Her Little Secrets, Wanda Morris. Who doesn’t know by now that Wanda Morris is an exceptional writer. This is the story of a lawyer who has kept her past hidden and gets her comeuppance when the man she has been sleeping with gets murdered and she is promoted into his position. The writing is superb, the story engrossing.

Here are two books I probably would never have picked up had I not been moderating a panel that included these writers: 

Device Free Weekend, Sean Doolittle. Techno thriller about Ryan Cloverhill, who made billions of dollars on a tech career. He invites seven friends to an all-expenses-paid weekend on his private island. The friends are allowed no devices—phones, tablets, or laptops. The book goes from an intriguing setup to a breath-taking plot. Ingenious and fast-paced. 

 Dance of the Returned, Devon A. Mihesuah—about American Indian time travel. Leroy Red Bear Ears is the instigator of the portal to the past for this Choctaw tribe. This is for sure something I never would have picked up on my own and I’m so glad I did. It’s beautifully written, with well-drawn characters and a deep plot. It digs deep into Choctaw culture, which is understandable because Mihesuah is a member of the Choctaw nation. 

 Hide, Tracy Clark. In Hide Clark really steps up her game. Part thriller, part police procedural, it introduces Harriet Foster, a cop who lost her partner to suicide and has been reassigned to a different police department. Very textured, well-written story.

 For a change of pace from my usual thriller/cop fare, I read Susan Shea’s Murder Visits a French Village. Loved this book. It’s a true mystery, but also has wonderful descriptions of French cooking and French culture. 

 Exit Wounds, Shannon Baker-A perfectly executed mystery. A huge family is surprised when their elusive mother, an artist, kills a man. Baker’s ability to describe people is unparalleled. I was completely engrossed and felt like I knew these characters. 

 For another book that’s a little different, read Gerald Elias’s Roundtree Days. It’s a hoot, a send-up of Longmire Days, the festival held each year based on Craig Johnson’s famous Sheriff Longmire. Characters and situations are hilarious.

 Relentless, Shawn Wilson—Another “panel” discovery. The perfect blend of police procedure and personal life. Partnership between the two cops really easy and believable. 

 Dead Drop, James L’Etoile—Terrific thriller. Non-stop action, with great descriptions, interesting characters, and very well written. 

 The Dog Stars, Peter Heller. Not really a mystery. I love Heller’s writing. It’s always lyrical and he weaves such a good story. This one is sad, but worth every minute of the read. 

Dead Lions, Real Tigers, and Spook Street, Mick Herron. I am gaga over the Slough House Series. I’m reading them slowly because I don’t want to come to the end of the series. After I read one of the books, I hardly remember the plot. It’s the characters that completely engage me. And I love the wicked, snarky wit in Herron’s writing. 

All That is Mine I Carry With Me, William Landay—Two things make me recommend this book. One, an intriguing plot with a truly surprise twist at the end. Two, the structure is interesting. It alternates between present-day action and another story-line with the dead woman telling what actually happened. Not always easy to pull off, but Landay nails it. 


Brilliant, engaging, serious, philosophical, violent, really an amazing book. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Set in the near future, it will grab you and hold onto you through the whole book. 

Another “panel” read: 

Helpless, Anette Dashofy—great thriller. Seat-of-your-chair action. Really well written. About a horrific set of murders in a small town. When I say I couldn’t put it down, I mean it. 

This is another one outside my usual reading: Play the Fool, Lina Chern. Great debut novel about a woman who reads Tarot cards and gets involved in a murder by a gangster. Very funny and well-written. 

 Saving Myles, Carl Vonderau—excellent read. Banker’s difficult son is kidnapped and the banker has to work for a crooked bank to pay back a loan to save him. 

 Here are a couple of non-mysteries I really enjoyed: 

 Return to Valetto, Dominic Smith. A professor returns to a dying Italian town where he used to spend his summers. A woman has moved into the house where his mother lived, claiming it was given to her by the man’s grandfather, who disappeared during WWII. It’s beautifully written, good plot, great characters. 

 Late Bloomers, Deepa Varadarajan. A delightfully unexpected book about an older East Indian couple who had an arranged marriage. The wife gets tired of husband’s gloom and doom and griping and divorces him. It’s funny and warm and the characters are memorable. 

 Ending with BSP: If you’re looking for a good read, my latest Craddock novel, Guilt Strikes at Granger’s Store, just got named one of the top mysteries of 2023 by Library Journal. 

 Happy Reading and Happy Holidays!


SF said...

These sound very good and I've only read one of them.


Terry said...

They are good!

Susan C Shea said...

Thank you, Terry! I'm honored and delighted that you liked my 2023 book.