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Analyzing the ABBC: Crime Fiction & Thrillers 2011

Here’s the next installment analyzing the results in the 2011 ABBC, the All-the-Best Books Compilation. Today, I’ll look at the four mysteries and thrillers that have received the most mentions by reputable commentators.

In fourth place to date, with eight mentions, is Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All the Time, a blunt, pitch-black reflection on violence in the rural Appalachians. It’s about bad blood, booze, bible banging and the backwoods, a tough combination that gets passed down a cruel family tree. Some will find this gratuitous and others will find it enthralling, but every reader is likely to have an opinion.

There’s a tie for second place. The first book with nine mentions is Alice LaPlante’s Turn of Mind. It centers on a doctor in the grips of early Alzheimer’s who is accused of murdering her best friend. The book follows her attempts to recall the long-term friendship and sometimes adversarial relationship with the victim. Critics have praised LaPlante’s ability to capture the internal voice of a tough, intelligent mind clouding over with the fog of dementia.

The other second place choice is a familiar face. Everyone seems to love Louise Penny and her witty, urbane detective Armand Gamache. The Inspector is back in the village of Three Pines again for A Trick of the Light, investigating a murder in the art world of local Clara. Penny’s mysteries are cozy but still substantial, featuring full-blown characters who together create a community you’ll be happy to revisit, despite the murder rate. While you can jump in with this seventh entry, but you’ll enjoy the character arcs more if you start at the beginning with Still Life.

The most frequently mentioned thriller or  in this year’s compilation, however, is a debut novel by S. J. Watson. Before I Go to Sleep has received eleven mentions to date for the haunting trip of its amnesiac narrator. Christine awakes next to a stranger and looks in the mirror to find a woman 25 years older than she believes herself to be. The stranger tells her that he is her husband Ben and that an accident years ago rendered her unable to remember more than the current day. Later, a call from a man claiming to be her therapist tells her to consult her diary, in which she find an entry reminding her not to trust Ben. These are just the first twists in a disconcerting psychological puzzle.

To see the rest of the books in this category or the others,  download the complete ABBC, in which new lists and awards are still being compiled. The ABBC lives at my other blogging home, Williamsburg Regional Library’s Blogging for a Good Book.

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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).

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