2015 was a great year for reading in both quantity and quality. I finished 61 titles, and will likely finish one more—the forthcoming Out of the Blues by Trudy Nan Boyce—which is three short of last year’s mark. The majority of the titles were fiction, but the total includes a tolerable number of nonfiction works, too. The nonfiction tended towards history and true crime, which included a number of interesting titles including Night by Elie Wiesel and Mind Over Matter by Ranulph Fiennes.
I entered 2015 with my two ever recurring goals—1. Increase the number of “new” authors (in 2014 I read only eight authors new to me); and 2. Increase the number of female authors on my reading list. I successfully increased the number of new writers, and also managed to add a few—only three—female authors to my list (all are included in the “new to me” category).
I became acquainted with the work of ten authors in 2015: David Lippincott (Salt Mine), James W. Hall (Bones of Coral), Sandra Block (The Girl Without a Name), Rick Ollerman (Truth Always Kills), Trace Conger (The Shadow Broker), Andrew Coburn (The Babysitter), Tony Park (Ivory), Christine Matthews (Beating the Bushes), Carolyn Hart (High Stakes), and John Saul (Nathaniel). The best of the “new”—and it was actually published in 2015—was Park’s Ivory. The number of new authors, and female authors, was due, mostly, to writing reviews for Ed Gorman’s blog and Mystery Scene Magazine.
As is my habit, I returned to old favorites many, many times. In fact, four authors accounted for 17 titles, which is approximately 28 percent of the total for 2015. I read five by Jack M. Bickham, and four each by Jack Higgins, Dean Koontz, and Ed Gorman.
Now all that is left is my top five favorite novels of—at least that I read in—2015. No rules, except no repeats. If I previously read it, it is not eligible for the top five. It was difficult to pare the list to five, and there were two or three that were cut from the list that I wish hadn’t been. With that said, my five favorite novels of 2015 are—
5. Ivory by Tony Park. Mr. Park is an Australian thriller writer who writes vividly about Africa. This one is set in Mozambique, South Africa, and the Indian Ocean. The protagonist is an ex-SAS officer turned pirate to finance the rehabilitation of his family’s hotel on the Island of Dreams. The pacing is fast, and the locales are exotic and it actually lives up to the term “thriller.”
4. The King of Horror and Other Stories by Stephen Mertz. If the title didn’t give it away, this is a collection of short stories by crime and adventure writer extraordinaire Stephen Mertz. It includes all of Mr. Mertz’s short stories over the past several decades, and each is very entertaining. Read the Gravetapping review.
3. Split Image by Ron Faust. This is an old school noirish treasure. It is dark, riveting, and curious; as much literature as commercial. It weaves an enticing mixture of Edgar Allan Poe—think “The Tell-Tale Heart”—Alfred Hitchcock, and a 1950’s Gold Medal novel. It is one of Mr. Faust’s finest novels. Read the Gravetapping review.
2. The Husband by Dean Koontz. This is a mesmerizing, well written, and extraordinarily entertaining thriller. It is smooth with the beat of poetry in its prose—not in a complicated manner, but rather the meter and rhythm. It opens in a rush, and keeps the steady pace from beginning to end without falling into the trap of overwrought doldrums or meaningless melodrama. Read the Gavetapping review.
1. Snowbound by Richard S. Wheeler. This title won a Spur Award when it was published in 2010; an honor it surely deserved. It is the story of John C. Fremont’s ill-fated fourth expedition, which was ostensibly to find a railroad route across the Rocky Mountains at the 38th Parallel between St. Louis and San Francisco. A fool’s dreams at best. It is a powerful novel of survival and calamity, and deserving of a much larger audience than it has so far reached. Read the Gravetapping review.