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November 26, 2011 / C.T. Henry

2011 Holiday Gift Guide for Mystery Fans

It’s that time of year again.  Don’t know what to get a mystery fan this holiday season?  This year’s Gift Guide features some of the best authors in the mystery and thriller genre.  These are also some of the best novels of 2011.

For Paperbacks, you can also view last year’s Holiday Gift Guide for Mystery Fans.

I just can’t wait to curl up with my tea and a book this holiday season.

THE ULTIMATE GIFT OF 2011:

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

This is the number one, most highly acclaimed book of 2011.

Synopsis:

“As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me. . . .”

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

FOR THE HARD-BOILED P.I. LOVER:

If the Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr (2010) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

Mark my words: This book will be a classic.  No one writes better hard-boiled detective fiction than Philip Kerr.

Synopsis:

Berlin, 1934: The Nazis have secured the 1936 Olympiad for the city but are facing foreign resistance. Hitler and Avery Brundage, the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, have connived to soft-pedal Nazi anti- Semitism and convince America to participate. Bernie Gunther, now the house detective at an upscale Berlin hotel, is swept into this world of international corruption and dangerous double-dealing, caught between the warring factions of the Nazi apparatus.

Havana, 1954: Batista, aided by the CIA, has just seized power; Castro is in prison; and the American Mafia is quickly gaining a stranglehold on the city’s exploding gaming and prostitution industries. Bernie, who has been unceremoniously kicked out of Buenos Aires, has resurfaced in Cuba with a new life, seemingly one of routine and relative peace. But Bernie discovers that he truly cannot outrun the burden of his past: He soon collides with a vicious killer from his Berlin days, who is mysteriously murdered not long afterward-and an old lover, who may be the murderer.

FOR THE CONTEMPORARY P.I. LOVER:

The Gentlemen’s Hour by Don Winslow (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

The highly acclaimed sequel to Don Wilson’s The Dawn Patrol.  If you like mysteries set in sunny California, this one is for you.

Synopsis:

Laid back, ultra–California cool, the former cop turned PI begins each day with the Dawn Patrol, a close-knit group of surfers, best friends who not only ride waves together but have one another’s backs out of the water. It’s the life Boone loves, all he wants. To him, “There’s no such thing as a bad day at the beach.” So when one of their own is murdered—especially an icon like Kelly Kuhio, a local hero—and another surfer, a young punk from the Rockpile Crew, stands accused, the small world of Pacific Beach is rocked to its core.

Boone knows he can no longer ignore the painful truth that violence is seeping into the surfing community. But when he agrees to help the defense, the outrage he courts from the community, and the Dawn Patrol, is more than he ever anticipated. He’s risking losing the relationships that define his life— just when he needs them most.

As Boone digs deeper into San Diego’s murkier side, delving into places the city’s reputation conscious establishment would rather he left alone, it becomes clear that more than a murder case is at stake. He soon finds himself out there alone, struggling to stay afloat, as the waves get rougher and rougher . . . and more deadly.

FOR THE NOIR LOVER:

The Killer’s Essence by Dave Zeltserman (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

I’ve been waiting all year for this book.  Dave Zeltserman’s suspenseful stories always leave you wanting more.

Synopsis:

Stan Green is a New York City Homicide Detective who has seen better days. As his family life threatens to disintegrate and his work partner disappears, he is assigned to the most shocking case of his career-a strange and remarkably violent murder. Stan must look into the crime alone. He finds just one witness, a neurologically disabled recluse who sees through the souls of others as demonic hallucinations. As more murders occur, and he drifts further from his family and friends, Stan’s suspicion and rage escalate. Soon he realizes that the deaths fall into the pattern of a serial killer–and starts to believe that his witness is not at all insane, but terrifyingly perceptive . . .

FOR THE POLICE PROCEDURAL LOVER:

The Drop by Michael Connelly (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

There is no greater pleasure than reading a Harry Bosch novel.  The Drop is no exception.

Synopsis:

Harry Bosch has been given three years before he must retire from the LAPD, and he wants cases more fiercely than ever. In one morning, he gets two. DNA from a 1989 rape and murder matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Was he an eight-year-old killer or has something gone terribly wrong in the new Regional Crime Lab? The latter possibility could compromise all of the lab’s DNA cases currently in court.

Then Bosch and his partner are called to a death scene fraught with internal politics. Councilman Irvin Irving’s son jumped or was pushed from a window at the Chateau Marmont. Irving, Bosch’s longtime nemesis, has demanded that Harry handle the investigation. Relentlessly pursuing both cases, Bosch makes two chilling discoveries: a killer operating unknown in the city for as many as three decades, and a political conspiracy that goes back into the dark history of the police department.

FOR THE BRITISH MYSTERY LOVER:

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

For the first time in its one-hundred-and-twenty-five-year history, the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate has authorized a new Sherlock Holmes novel.  If you’ve ever watched Anthony Horowitz’s Foyle’s War, you know that this novel will be worth it.

Synopsis:

London, 1890. 221B Baker St. A fine art dealer named Edmund Carstairs visits Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson to beg for their help. He is being menaced by a strange man in a flat cap – a wanted criminal who seems to have followed him all the way from America. In the days that follow, his home is robbed, his family is threatened. And then the first murder takes place.

Almost unwillingly, Holmes and Watson find themselves being drawn ever deeper into an international conspiracy connected to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston, the gaslit streets of London, opium dens and much, much more. And as they dig, they begin to hear the whispered phrase-the House of Silk-a mysterious entity that connects the highest levels of government to the deepest depths of criminality. Holmes begins to fear that he has uncovered a conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of society.

FOR THE SPY LOVER:

Trinity Six by Charles Cumming (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

The most closely-guarded secret of the Cold War is about to be exposed – the identity of a SIXTH member of the infamous Cambridge spy ring.  You’re in for a great spy story.  

Synopsis:

London, 1992. Late one night, Edward Crane, 76, is declared dead at a London hospital. An obituary describes him only as a ‘resourceful career diplomat’. But Crane was much more than that – and the circumstances surrounding his death are far from what they seem.

Fifteen years later, academic Sam Gaddis needs money. When a journalist friend asks for his help researching a possible sixth member of the notorious Trinity spy ring, Gaddis knows that she’s onto a story that could turn his fortunes around. But within hours the journalist is dead, apparently from a heart attack.

Taking over her investigation, Gaddis trails a man who claims to know the truth about Edward Crane. Europe still echoes with decades of deadly disinformation on both sides of the Iron Curtain. And as Gaddis follows a series of leads across the continent, he approaches a shocking revelation – one which will rock the foundations of politics from London to Moscow…

FOR THE PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER LOVER:

Iron House by John Hart (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

One of the most prolific and highly regarded writers today, John Hart just keeps on surprising us.  He’s that good!

Synopsis:

Two babies left to die in an icy creek. Two boys who must fight to survive. Two men, two very different lives. One unbreakable bond.

When a twelve-year-old boy murders his tormentor in their brutal orphanage, his older brother takes the blame and runs to New York – into the heart of organized crime. Two decades later, Michael returns to North Carolina with a sentence on his head, the mob in hot pursuit and his long-lost brother in trouble of a different kind. With vast sums in play, political fortunes at risk and bodies piling up, the brothers must reunite to solve the mystery of their shared past.

FOR THE ACTION THRILLER LOVER:

Fun & Games by Duane Swierczynski (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

Buckle your seatbelt.  This is the first of three explosive pulp thrillers from Duane Swierczynski. You won’t be disappointed, and seconds after you turn the last page, you’ll want to get Hell and Gone as soon as possible.

Synopsis:

Charlie Hardie, an ex-cop still reeling from the revenge killing of his former partner’s entire family, fears one thing above all else: that he’ll suffer the same fate.

Languishing in self-imposed exile, Hardie has become a glorified house sitter. His latest gig comes replete with an illegally squatting B-movie actress who rants about hit men who specialize in making deaths look like accidents. Unfortunately, it’s the real deal. Hardie finds himself squared off against a small army of the most lethal men in the world: The Accident People.

It’s nothing personal-the girl just happens to be the next name on their list. For Hardie, though, it’s intensely personal. He’s not about to let more innocent people die. Not on his watch.

FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS MYSTERY LOVER:

The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron (2010) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

I’m a sucker for mysteries set in the great outdoors.  Although very different from C.J. Box’s game warden Joe Pickett, you’ll love Paul Doiron’s latest debut featuring Mike Bowditch, a game warden in Maine.

Synopsis:

Set in the wilds of Maine, this is an explosive tale of an estranged son thrust into the hunt for a murderous fugitive—his own father. Game warden Mike Bowditch returns home one evening to find an alarming voice from the past on his answering machine: his father Jack, a hard drinking womanizer who makes his living poaching illegal game. An even more frightening call comes the next morning from the police: they are searching for the man who killed a beloved local cop the night before—and his father is their prime suspect. Jack has escaped from police custody, and only Mike believes that his tormented father might not be guilty.

Now, alienated from the woman he loves, shunned by colleagues who have no sympathy for the suspected cop-killer, Mike must come to terms with his haunted past. He knows firsthand Jack’s brutality, but is the man capable of murder? Desperate and alone, he strikes up an uneasy alliance with a retired warden pilot, and together the two men journey deep into the Maine wilderness in search of a runaway fugitive. But the only way for Mike to save his father is to find the real killer—which could mean putting everyone he loves in the line of fire.

FOR THE COZY VILLAGE MYSTERY LOVER:

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (2010) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

Lousie Penny is simply the best cozy mystery author since Agatha Christie, and Bury Your Dead is one of her best novels.

Synopsis:

It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society— where an obsessive historian’s quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly 400 years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?

Although he is supposed to be on leave, Gamache cannot walk away from a crime that threatens to ignite long-smoldering tensions between the English and the French. Meanwhile, he is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. “It doesn’t make sense,” Olivier’s partner writes every day. “He didn’t do it, you know.” As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive the terrible event of his own past before he can bury his dead.

FOR THE LEGAL THRILLER LOVER:

The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

Only Connelly can deliver such a compelling story about our current financial woes.  Hands down, Mickey Haller is my favorite attorney to read to about.  

Synopsis:

Mickey Haller has fallen on tough times. He expands his business into foreclosure defense, only to see one of his clients accused of killing the banker she blames for trying to take away her home.

Mickey puts his team into high gear to exonerate Lisa Trammel, even though the evidence and his own suspicions tell him his client is guilty. Soon after he learns that the victim had black market dealings of his own, Haller is assaulted, too–and he’s certain he’s on the right trail. Despite the danger and uncertainty, Haller mounts the best defense of his career in a trial where the last surprise comes after the verdict is in.

FOR THE HISTORICAL MYSTERY LOVER:

Heartstone by C.J. Sansom (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

If you haven’t started C.J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series, you’ve been missing the most enjoyable reading experiences of our life.  Sansom’s latest is no different. It sucks you in, and you don’t want to leave its pages. 

Synopsis:

Summer, 1545. England is at war, and Matthew Shardlake is about to encounter the most politically dangerous case of his career. While a massive French fleet prepares to attack, every able-bodied man is being pressed into military service. Meanwhile, an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr asks Shardlake to investigate claims of “monstrous wrongs” committed against a young ward of the court. Shardlake’s inquiries take him and his loyal assistant, Jack Barak, to Hoyland Priory and Portsmouth, where the English fleet is gathering. There they uncover a startling link between the ward and a woman incarcerated in Bedlam.

With a fantastic backdrop of wartime intrigue and a dramatic finale onboard one of Henry VIII’s great warships, Heartstone is certain to catapult this internationally bestselling series to greater prominence.

FOR THE INTERNATIONAL MYSTERY LOVER:

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (2011) (Amazon UK, Book Depository UK)

Harry Hole is the future of detective fiction.  You won’t be disappointed.

Synopsis:

Internationally acclaimed crime writer Jo Nesbø’s antihero police investigator, Harry Hole, is back in a bone-chilling thriller that will take Hole to the brink of insanity.

Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.

Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he’s received and the disappearance of Jonas’s mother—and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised—and constantly revised—by the killer.


Have a wonderful holiday!

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