Periscope Depth

50 books 2014: Best Mystery / Thriller

I read 50 books in 2014. This week, I’m going through each genre and highlighting my favorites.


Never Go Back (Jack Reacher, Book 18), Lee Child: One of the most entertaining Reacher novels in years. It shows some rare strengths from Child: making the crisis that Reacher faces personal, using Reacher’s advantages – his predilections for violence and wandering – against him. Still full of the usual pedantry and idiosyncratic detail, but whaddaya want from Jack Reacher?


The Lady in the Lake, Raymond Chandler: One of Chandler’s more labyrinthine plots, by virtue of the fact that he combined two of his previous stories into one, a trick he frequently pulled. It works because Marlowe, the narrator, keeps running into people who ask him why he’s bothering them, so he recaps the investigation up to that point. This would be tiresome if it weren’t absolutely necessary (“why do we care about this woman again? Right – because she’s the wife of the detective hired by the parents of the dead wife of the doctor who’s the neighbor of the gigolo who …”). Chandler’s style and his relentless pacing – the whole case takes, what, three days? Four? – keep the novel moving.


Winner Take All (Previously published as Rain Storm and Choke Point) (A John Rain Novel), Barry Eisler: A fun little action thriller. Contains Eisler’s usual tangents on mixed martial arts, liquors of the world, and U.S. influence in geopolitics. If you find those fun, you’ll enjoy this; if not, not.


Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow: The legal thriller that set the bar for the 80s, 90s, and the current era. Dated more by its sexual and racial proclivities than by its technology. Dense with legal intrigue without being inaccessible. You’ve probably had the twist ending spoiled already, but it’s still a good book!

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