Best-of-2010 Megalist: Crime Fiction and Thrillers

These eleven crime novels and thrillers have received the most mentions on best-of-the-year lists and awards as compiled in my Megalist of books published in the U.S. during 2010.

1. Room, by Emma Donoghue (46 votes to date)

The runaway winner in this category is narrated by Jack, a 5-year-old who readers come to realize has been kept in a single room with his mother for his entire life. Ma has done her best to make this seem like normal life, but as the story unfolds, it becomes clear that this imprisonment and the regular visits of Old Nick are something much more sinister.

2. Faithful Place, by Tana French (21 votes to date)

Frank Mackey avoided his home neighborhood for over 20 years after his girlfriend failed to show for their elopement. Discovery of her suitcase forces him to return to investigate what happened to the girl that he thought deserted him. French fashions a searing portrayal of Dublin past and present in a story of dysfunctional families, lost love, and impoverished lives.

3. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson (19 votes to date)

Convalescing from her shooting and still under guard as a murder suspect, the slight tattooed hacker Lisbeth Salander works with journalist Mikael Blomkvist via computer to clear her name and track her lifelong tormentor. As the last of a trilogy, this one’s not much use for book groups unless they’ve read the first two.

4 (tie). Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin (11 votes to date)

Their interracial friendship was destroyed twenty-five years earlier when Larry Ott’s date failed to come home, but now as police constable, Silas Jones is forced to look up his old friend (whose guilt was suspected but never proven)  when a similar crime occurs. Franklin has been praised for his atmospheric portrayal of Mississippi and the lingering ghosts of racism.

4 (tie). Our Kind of Traitor, by John Le Carré (11 votes to date)

The old master of espionage turns to international money laundering for the subject matter of his latest, which follows a Russian mafia oligarch, a businessman and money launderer, through his attempt to defect and the resulting MI-6 investigation.

6 (tie). Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny (9 votes to date)

Reviews continue to be strong for Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec and his ongoing relationship with the hamlet of Three Pines. In this sixth installment,  he’s revisiting his last case in Three Pines while investigating the murder of an eccentric researcher in Quebec City. Book groups would do best to start at the beginning with Penny’s wonderful series.

6 (tie). Mr. Peanut, by Adam Ross (9 votes to date)

In the creepiest novel on this list, a violence-and-video-obsessed man’s wife turns up dead from anaphylactic shock brought on by a peanut. The two investigating detectives (who have their own dark family problems) are convinced that David killed Alice after years of alternating love and torment.

8 (tie). I’d Know You Anywhere, by Laura Lippman (8 votes to date)

Lippman’s latest alternates between the present day, where Eliza Benedict is a suburban housewife, and the summer 23 years earlier when she was kidnapped and saw the killing of another girl by the same man. She escaped, but now Walter is on death row, supposedly  reaching out to make amends before his execution. Revisiting the past tests Eliza’s stability and memory as she confronts her master manipulator.

8 (tie). Moonlight Mile, by Dennis Lehane  (8 votes)

Lehane returns to his Boston PI duo Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro for their sixth case: investigating the disappearance of 16-year-old Amanda McCready again (they solved her first kidnapping, at age four, in 1998’s Gone, Baby, Gone). The history of that past case drives a wedge between the now-married investigators. Book groups should begin with earlier titles in the series, or perhaps pair this book with the film of Gone, Baby, Gone.

8 (tie). The Poacher’s Son, by Paul Doiron (8 votes)

Doiron’s debut is the tale of Mike Bowditch, a Maine game warden who works to clear the name of his father, a brutal, alcoholic poacher who Mike still can’t believe is guilty of the timber executive murder of which he is accused. Exciting wilderness scenes are a highlight here.

8 (tie). Savages, by Don Winslow (8 votes)

Two Laguna Beach guys are doing well dealing marijuana until they get a warning from a Baja Cartel that is getting rid of independent rivals. Things escalate when their friend and bed partner Ophelia is kidnapped by the cartel. But Ben and Chon have some tricks up their sleeves, and everything will come down to some high octane negotiations and a risky trade.

This top ten list is just the tip of the iceberg for crime fiction fans: 232 other titles have received votes so far as a “best-of-the-year.” To see those other titles, or to find which sources advocate each of these books, download the full Megalist spreadsheet (in Excel) via my other blogging home, Blogging for a Good Book.



About the Author:

Neil Hollands is an Adult Services Librarian at Williamsburg Regional Library in Virginia, where he specializes in readers’ advisory and collection development. He is the author of Read On . . . Fantasy Fiction (2007) and Fellowship in a Ring: a Guide for Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Groups (2009).

3 Comments on "Best-of-2010 Megalist: Crime Fiction and Thrillers"

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  1.' CarolK says:

    I’m dong a little better on this “have read” (5)on this list.

    The ending of Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone Caused so much debate in our household that I was thrilled to see the story continued in Moonlight Mile. It gave us another opportunity to hash out the morality of this story. Moonlight Mile is fast paced, all Lehane. Kenzie and Gennaro, parents themselves now, are fun to watch in marriage, always tense but always loving. Bubba, the couple’s fiercely loyal, hulk of a friend who can take on any criminal, including the Russian Mafia, returns!

    It’s my favorite of this list!

  2.' Jane Forex says:

    Even if I would change something in this list, I totally agree that “Room” is the best one!
    The feelings it evokes in the reader linger for days afterwards. I was completely immersed in the story and it doesn’t happen very often.

  3.' Pharma Baia says:

    I agree with you guys (and girls)!
    Room is a great book, a little disturbing sometimes but I really enjoyed the reading.

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