The best mysteries and thrillers are like delicious phyllo dough pastries. You never know what's inside them until you take a bite. Then their flavors begin to meld and spices that might seem overwhelming alone blend with others to reveal surprising sensations. The best pastries satisfy your yearnings and make you want eat every last crumb as quickly as you can. The best mysteries and thrillers of 2012 offer tantalizing blends of evil and kindness, madness and mayhem and you'll want to find a cozy spot where no one can bother you as you devour them without interruption.
The Best Thriller of 2012:
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is a deftly sculpted psychological thriller that resembles an upside-down cake laced with arsenic. Amy disappears on her fifth wedding anniversary and her husband Nick is accused of her murder even though no body has been found. As more facts about each of the characters reveal themselves, the reader is caught up in a web of deception, madness and cruelty that only a skilled writer could pull off. You will either adore this book or find it "too much." Regardless, Flynn's skill at weaving the intricate threads that keep the story taut must be admired. Once you start the book, be prepared to do nothing else until you finish.
The Best Mystery of 2012:
A Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (although her A Trick of the Light could have tied for first place). Penny just keeps getting better and any title in the Inspector Gamache series is almost impossible to beat. A Beautiful Mystery is set in a remote monastery where a monk's murder poses a "locked" room quandary. Only the monks were there and none of them could have done it - or could they? This order of monks may be ready to make real money with their Gregorian chant recordings. Inspector Gamache and his aide Jean-Guy Beauvoir have problems with headquarters and their personal lives that may interfere with finding the killer. As always, Penny makes each character a blend of complicated emotions as she shows how evil can be overcome. Read all of these mysteries (eight thus far with another on the way) before the debut of the Canadian public television series soon to come of the first two books.
Other great mysteries I read in 2012 include:
Black Water Rising by Attica Locke is a debut mystery that won high acclaim last year. Jay Porter is an African-American attorney in Houston in this piece set in 1981. He lives in fear because only one juror stood between him and a felony conviction and the FBI file on him is thick so he never wavers from being upright and law abiding. But when a mystery involving politics, oil and corruption literally falls into his lap when he saves a woman from drowning, his proper life begins to unravel. Will his investigations of Houston's power elite ruin his quiet life? Locke's newest novel, The Cutting Season, is one I hope to read soon as it's also garnering lots of critical praise.
Defending Jacob by William Landay is a fast-paced courtroom drama and story of the son of a district attorney who's accused of killing a classmate. As the father tries to save his son, he has to ask if a tendency to violence is an inheritable trait and then to explore his own past. The courtroom scenes are crisp and realistic as the author is a former district attorney. The book will keep readers on the edge until the extremely clever ending.
The Paris Directive by Gerald Jay introduces Inspector Paul Mazarelle, a droll, sly, unkempt, seemingly slow, cognac swigging, former Parisian star inspector who now lives in a small Dordogne village where a grisly murder is committed. The victim's daughter and the inspector track an international killer and find unexpected hurdles to overcome. This is the first in a series I predict will capture readers everywhere. It's cinematic touches in evoking the countryside and the mischievous inspector seem perfect for the screen as well. I can already envision some great actors portraying Mazarelle.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton is part mystery, part historical fiction and part classic British domestic drama. Sixteen-year-old Laurel watches a man die at a 1960s picnic and recalls the memory at her mother's 90th birthday celebration as she seeks clues to the death in her mother's early days as a young woman in WWII's London blitz era.