Paul Doiron here—
One of the most common questions I get asked, when someone learns that I’m a novelist, is what books I’ve read recently. Readers like to hear recommendations, and they figure that as an author I should have lots of good tips. The awful truth is that, between editing books and magazines at Down East, and writing my own novels, I’ve had to make sacrifices, and one of them, sadly, has been reading for pleasure.
Fortunately, I have someone in my life whose recommendations I trust. My wife, Kristen Lindquist is a fabulous poet and essayist; she is also the most voracious reader I know. She polished off Sharon Kay Penman’s Lionheart the other night, and by the time I finish typing this, she’ll probably be done with Michael Connelly’s The Drop.
To head off more requests for year-end recommendations, I asked my own best reader to save my bacon (again):
When I was in second grade, someone gave me the first Nancy Drew book to read, and I was instantly enraptured by the titian-haired sleuth. Imagine my excitement to discover that there were, at that time, over 50 more books in the series for me to read, and more to come! I had to get special dispensation to check out Nancy Drew (and later, Hardy Boys) books from the school library (apparently they were considered too mature for most 7 year olds), but my lifelong love of mysteries (a.k.a. crime fiction) was kindled at that early age.
Our mutual affection for the genre is one of the many things Paul and I bonded over when we first met. We shared our favorite authors: he introduced me to Raymond Chandler and read me all the Sherlock Holmes stories; I introduced him to Elizabeth George and P.D. James. And so it began, fifteen years ago. Little did I know at the time that one day he himself would be one of my favorite crime fiction authors.
Now that Paul has what amounts to two full-time jobs, as Down East’s editor-in-chief by day and novelist by morning, night, and weekend, he doesn’t do a whole lot of reading in his free time. In fact, he doesn’t have a whole lot of free time, period. So it falls to me to keep up with the latest crime fiction, which included reading the books by all the fellow nominees when Paul ‘s first book, The Poacher’s Son, was nominated for various awards this past year. While there are still many great authors and series for me to discover, the following are some of my favorites from this past year, in no special order. I hope for some of you this will provoke the joy of discovery of a new, good series akin to what I felt when I first met Nancy in The Secret of the Old Clock.
- The Godfather of Kathmandu, John Burdett (2010): I love this beguiling series, featuring Thai police inspector Sonchai Jitpleecheep, which combines the delights of an exotic setting and culture with wit, sex, and Buddhism. First book in the series: Bangkok 8.
- One Was a Soldier, Julia Spencer-Fleming (2011): I was worried that once the two lovers, Police Chief Russ Van Alstyne and Episcopal priest Claire Fergusson, finally got it on and got married that something would be lost. But strong writing, plot, and character development keep this series just as compelling as ever. First book in the series: In the Bleak Midwinter.
- Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson (2011): A quirky, intelligent series featuring the hapless Jackson Brodie, with wonderful characters, cleverly interwoven story lines, and unforeseeable twists and turns. First book in the series: Case Histories.
- A Trick of the Light, Louise Penny (2011): Her Chief Inspector Gamache books, set in the idyllic Canadian town of Three Pines, seem like charming “cozies” on the surface—which makes their hard-edged revelations of the characters we come to know and love that much more jarring. First book in the series: Still Life.
- The Indian Bride, Karin Fossum (2007): I read this a few years ago but I can’t recommend this Norwegian author highly enough. Her Inspector Sejer is a kindred soul to P. D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh, and this book in particular is one of the most moving, haunting mysteries I’ve ever read. First book of the series available in translation: Don’t Look Back.
- Other Scandinavian authors I recommend (all of whom are way better writers than Stieg Larsson): Ake Edwardson (Swedish)—first (translated) book in the Erik Winter series: Death Angels; Hakan Nesser (Swedish)—first translated book in the van Veeteren series: The Mind’s Eye; Jo Nesbo (Norwegian)—first translated book in the Harry Hole series available in the U.S.: The Redbreast; and the master, Henning Mankell (Swedish), whose Kurt Wallander series begins with Faceless Killers and concludes with this year’s The Troubled Man.