08 January 2020

The Rap Sheet

An uncertain year, 2019, but a lot of good books came out. Plenty of brand names, Bob Crais and John leCarre, Alan Furst and Steve Hunter. Here's a completely arbitrary list of my own.

Laura Lippman, Lady in the Lake.

A smart, tart, penetrating story about race and class, memory and regret, self-absorption, self-awareness, and the limits of transparency.

Chuck Greaves, Church of the Graveyard Saints.

If not exactly an eco-thriller, at least second cousin to Edward Abbey. A completely Western novel, and a meditation on how landscape inhabits us.

Lara Prescott, The Secrets We Kept.

Irresistible. A spy story, a history, a corrective to romance. The deep moans round with many voices. A book of echoes, unspoken sorrows, hope.

Don Winslow, The Border.

A fierce, furious, savage novel, a wounded lion dragging himself through a desolate waste, failing in everything but nerve. An absolute shocker.

Philip Kerr, Metropolis.

Bernie Gunther takes his curtain call. A look behind, the uncertain shadows before, a sense of irredeemable loss, and the hinges of horror creaking open under his feet.

A couple of books that weren't new this past year, but that I came on late. Mick Herron's Slow Horses and John Lawton's Black Out, both exemplars of why to start a series at the beginning. I also stumbled across Val McDermid's Forensics (2014), which is utterly indispensable, I kid you not.

Speaking of which, there was still nothing to beat the austere and windswept Shetland, all gorse and moody weather, or the sturdy and engaging Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez.

And best picture? Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. (I know, I don't like him either, but fair is fair.)


  1. Great list. And I am still heartbroken that we lost Philip Kerr back in 2018 and, with him, Bernie Gunther.

  2. Kerr ought to be *required* reading in this genre. His entire Bernie Gunther series is simply unforgettable.

    I have not read Lippman's book, in part because there are so many great things out there in my TBR pile, but also, to be frank, I was put off by her pirating the title. Why not just call it THE BIG SLEEP, or FAREWELL, MY LOVELY? A writer as capable as Lippman is (and she definitely IS!) could come up with something better.

    Agree on Winslow (more required reading), and my brother raved about Herron's book, and it's in my TBR pile.

    Lastly, whole-heartedly agree on both SHETLAND and ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. Henshall as Perez is always worth watching, great supporting cast and of course, the scenery!

    Tarantino, love him or hate him, really delivered with ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD. So did DiCaprio (the scene where he's eating lunch and reading alongside his pre-teen costar is an Oscar clip if ever there was one) and Pitt (So many good things in his performance) and Morgot Robbie absolutely stole the show as Sharon Tate.

  3. What an eclectic list! Thank you.

    You and Brian are way ahead of me, but you really caught my attention with Val McDermid's Forensics. I haven't seen Once Upon a Time, but that's on my list too.

  4. Chuck Greaves sounds great! Luv westerns!


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