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December 10, 2009



A great list. Three I'd add (all brutal and unforgiving):

"The Devil's Redhead" by David Corbett
"The Calling" by Inger Ashe Wolfe
"Tokyo" by Mo Hayder (which haunts me to this day).

Jen Forbus

Additionally, I'd probably want THE COLD DISH (Craig Johnson), ENVY THE NIGHT (Michael Koryta), SHUTTER ISLAND (Dennis Lehane) and L.A. REQUIEM (Robert Crais) on my list.


I'm with Dean on Mo Hayder. I think she blew the lid on the genre open with The Devil of Nanking/Tokyo.

keith Rawson

I'll ditto you with the Ice Harvest.
Also, I would include Drive by Jim Sallis.


THE LINCOLN LAWYER was a fine book. Otherwise, I'd probably list a few of the other Scandinavians, such as Fossum, and perhaps John Harvey.

Corey Wilde

Indridason, definitely. Pelecanos and Lehane, yes. I'd scratch the Connelly book though. Not memorable, not influential, not even all that original.

LA Requiem by Robert Crais
Toros & Torsos by Craig McDonald
Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series, my favorite of which is The Dramatist.

No Ellroy on your list???


I'm not well-read enough to contribute, in all honesty, but I guess it depends on your criteria. A few of the best novels of this decade are only going to reveal themselves over time.

The Lincoln Lawyer, I don't think, will be one of them. It's a good book and I really liked it, but it's not an obvious classic. Although it's the Connelly I'd have picked, from what I know. Mystic River is surely undisputed. I'd say The Night Gardener is too. Steig Larsson, whatever you think of the books, has to be there. I'd pick What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman, but as long as she's there somewhere that's cool.

Second the vote for Mo Hayder. Between The Treatment and Tokyo, she should be in. Probably for Tokyo.

No The Da Vinci Code? Comes back to criteria. Just asking... :-)


Okay, add Bruen's Jack Taylor series. That's the trouble with list making. You keep forgetting someone.

Christine Brown

A great list of books. I agree that Mo Hayder is outstanding - Birdman and The Treatment were amazing.


Although, despite my caveat of not having read enough, I'll also stick my neck out and say China Mieville's The City & The City should be in there.


Hope I'm not posting this twice: I'd also stick a vote in for China Mieville's The City & The City.


I'd add Persuader by Lee Child.


Asa Larsson / Sun Storm.
Karin Fossum (any)
Stef Penny / The Tenderness of Wolves
Diane Stettefield / The Thirteenth Tale
I adore Connelly but those two you mention are not my particular favourites.
Colin Cotterill/The Coroner's Lunch


Oh, I could go on for ever, it is impossible isn't it?

Steve Oerkfitz

I would have included a Philip Kerr or Ian Rankin in there. Glad you didn't include Da Vinci Code-very badly written novel-I couldn't get past the first 100 pages.

Naomi Johnson



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I am if anything, always pRedICtAbLe


Jason Pinter

Gotta put Charlie Huston's Hank Thompson trilogy on there.

Dorian Stuber

Peter Temple, absolutely, abolutely, absolutely.

What about Kirino's Out? Is that from the 00s or from the 90s?

Indridason, any and all, but I especially like Hypothermia.

I quite like Jeff Lindsay's Darkly Dreaming Dexter, too.

Roddy Reta

I'd say the best crime novel by a mile was THE BOTTOMS by Joe Lansdale (2000)


@maxine and @dorian - christ, I forgot Peter Temple's THE BROKEN SHORE. Plum forgot it. Same with THE BOTTOMS, which I absolutely adored when I read it but somehow it slipped my mind.

@jason - if we are talking about best crime writers of the decade, Huston wins out, absolutely. But I also think his best work is more recent, and I was reluctant to list too many books past 2007. (Tana French, same deal, but I may change my mind a few years' from now. Same with Mo Hayder.)

Re: Kirino - OUT, if I remember correctly, was originally published in Japan in the late 1990s, so technically it wouldn't count as "best of 00s" even though it wasn't available to the English speaking world then. LA Requiem was published in 1999, which was an absolutely stellar year for crime fiction (Jan Burke's BONES, Peter Robinson's IN A DRY SEASON, Val McDermid's A PLACE OF EXECUTION...)

Dorian Stuber

Someone mentioned John Harvey--The Frank Elder trilogy deserves to be here. And Denise Mina's Field of Blood, though I thought the other two went off.

I see this is a game one could play for a long time...


Love your list. I think I will do one. You should try Jo Nesbo, if you haven't already. Start with The Redbreast. Love his books.

Derek Thompson

Tell No One by Harlan Coben, for me.

Dean James

When you remember that the current decade doesn't end until December 31st, 2010, you have to realize there's whole year's worth of books to come that are being left out of consideration....

David thayer

I second Denise Mina and Mo Hayder for THE DEVIL OF NANKING. I would nominate William Landay's MISSION FLATS, Peter Abraham OBLIVION. Robert Ellis, William Lashner for the Victor Carl books, Kevin Wignall's FOR THE DOGS.
You're right, lists are fun.

Leighton Gage

Thank you, Sarah, for this most excellent list.
There were a number I've missed.
Great Christmas presents for my daughters.
Then I can borrow and read them.
I'm off to the bookstore tomorrow.

Terrill Lankford

As much as i love THE ICE HARVEST, I hope people don't forget Scott Phillips' lesser known but absolutely brilliant COTTONWOOD when they compile their best books of the decade lists. It's a masterpiece.


I have to say Peter Temple as well- The Broken Shore and Truth are both brilliant.

Reginald Hill has written some very interesting books this decade eg Death's jest book, Dialogues of the dead.

And Christine Falls and The Silver Swan were both impressive.


Robert Wilson - the Seville set is great, but I'd go with A Small Death in Lisbon. Surprised to see so much appreciation for Mo Hayder; I've only read The Devil of Nanking and really didn't like it, and I *really* wanted to like it.


This is a great list but what I really need at this exact moment (maybe I can extrapolate from this list) is "best crime novels in mass market paperback to buy as gifts..."

Ken Mahieu

DEAD HOUR - Denise Mina 2006. Single newspaper woman Paddy Meeghan somehow manages to rise through the ranks despite many handicaps, some of her own making, balancing the demands of her boss, peers and Irish Catholic family - and occasional dead bodies - in Glasgow, Scotland.

LAZYBONES - Mark Billingham 2003. Best book yet in an excellent series (beginning with the very creepy SLEEPYHEAD) featuring seasoned London detective Tom Thorne. LB is one of those rare books whose climax lives up to all the feverish quotes.

SHATTER - Michael Robotham 2009. Tension hits in the opening pages as a naked woman, talking on a cell phone, is poised to leap from a bridge. It further evolves when a second incident incident follows not long after.

NAMING OF THE DEAD - Ian Rankin 2007. The flawed hero has been an earmark of a crime fiction going back to the PI's of the pulp era. None has done it better than Rankin, particularly after the fist half dozen books in this series - Insp. Rebus drinks too much, has unsuccessful relationships with all women, is underappreciated by his bosses, self destroys his own career multiple times - yet we still love and respect him. And Rankin always enhances his novels with the issues that touch the lives of his fellow Edinburgh citizens - immigration, drugs, prostitution, state separation, or war dead.

IN THE WOODS Tana French 2007. Several crime fiction novels of late have focused on the life-altering aftermath that crime victims must endure. None has done it better than this story that has its roots in a day when three kids ran into the woods near their home and only one came out.

BENEATH THE SKIN - Nicci French 2000. NF write excellent novels of women suddenly being thrown into life or death circumstances with little or no support from the outside world. This novel revolves around three London women, who each receive threatening letters from a stalker, a stalker who begins to deliver on his promises. Very suspenseful. Great characters.

REDBREAST - Jo Nesbo 2007. After a monumental mess-up, Detective Harry Hole is promoted, a situation not unfamilar to those of us who have labored in the corporate world. Harry's former partner is later killed and he becomes suspicious of a member of the force. One of the unique, interesting, and sometimes frustrating signatures of Nesbo's series is that the story seemingly reaches it's climax, case closed, but there are another 150 pages yet to go - all is not as it appears. This book is to Norway as THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is to Sweden, namely an all-time best seller.

POINT OF RESCUE - Sophie Hannah 2008. Not for mommies, especially those with five year old daughters. But for the rest of us, Wow! At many points, unputdownable.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN - Cormac McCarthy 2005. A great read even for those of us who have seen the movie more than once. Anton Chigurh, world's worst best bad guy.

HARDBALL - Sara Paretsky. 2009 Really resonates with those of us who grew up during the MLK Marquette Park march days in 60's Chicago, and teaches the rest of us. The usual no frills, right up front stuff from SP.

PRICE OF BLOOD - Declan Hughes 2009 There's lots of good stuff out these days about the Irish Troubles and the aftermath for the survivors, but Declan Hughes consistently delivers characters and stories throughout his series that seem almost too genuine to be totally fictional.

WOLVES EAT DOGS - Martin Cruz Smith 2004. Arkady Renko is one of the great characters of crime fiction, starting with his debut in GORKY PARK in the early 80's. Through the years, MCS finds clever ways to get Arkady away from his native Moscow, and this time he is investing largely in Chernobyl


Martin Cruz Smith is a great choice, Ken. I'd forgotten about him. I'd also add a little Walter Mosley into the list.


the best of this decade :

Morag Joss - Half Broken Things
Frances Fyfield - The Art Of Drowning
Arnaldur Indridason - Silence of the Grave
Ruth Rendell - Adam and Eve and Pinch Me
Craig Russell - Brother Grimm
Laura Wilson - The Lover
Sarah Waters - Fingersmith
Fred Vargas - Have Mercy On Us All
Mo Hayder - Tokyo
Barbara Nadel - Deadly Web
Jose Carlos Somoza - The Athenian Murders


I'd go with "What the Dead Know" by Laura Lippman.

Bill Loehfelm

This is a great list but I'd have to add Andrew Pyper's THE KILLING CIRCLE. Tight and original.

Bruce Krajewski

An impressive list, and now I wish I had time to read more crime fiction. If anyone U.S. based has been hankering to read the last novel in The Millennium Trilogy, I am offering a free copy (based on the person providing a comment on the blog) of Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. Thanks.

Steve Connell

Thanks for the great list, Sarah -- I share your admiration for the ones on your list that I've read, and the ones that I haven't I'll be reading very soon.

I have some additional suggestions, but in a lot of cases I found it hard to figure out if I'd be nominating a book in itself, or more the best book by someone I rate highly for their work as a whole. LEE CHILD's Reacher series, for example, has been patchy, but it's been one of the most enjoyable I've read over the last decade, so I really want to propose one of his books -- "Echo Burning" is still the standout, I think.

And for sheer output and consistent brilliance, espcially when it comes to dark humor and dazzling dialog, I reckon it's hard to beat BILL JAMES, who turned 80 this year and must have published at least 20 books this decade. If the Harpur & Iles books began to get somewhat ritualistic, I still found them compulsive reading; but the new series he launched mid-decade (credited to another alias, DAVID CRAIG) featuring Cardiff-based detective Sally Bithron yielded his best work, I think, in "Tip Top" and "Hear Me Talking to You."

CHRISTOPHER COOK's "Robbers" (2000), on the other hand, was a brilliant one-off (as far as I know, he hasn't published anything since then). I'd also put in a word for GILES BLUNT's debut, "Forty Words for Sorrow" (2001)


It's great seeing Louise Penny get the notice I really think she deserves. Her work has a quiet beauty, and the characters feel like they're written with a lot of love. Her books are a real treat for me.

Levi Stahl

I'd add Charles Ardai's second book as Richard Aleas, Songs of Innocence. It dealt with some of the things that had frustrated me about the first book and took the story in a surprising direction without ever losing momentum.

And I just this morning finished Megan Abbott's Bury Me Deep because of your recommendation above; it's every bit as good as you say. What a book!

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