2016 Books of the Year

The Missing Clue - December 2016 - Bumsted Picks of the Year - Michael's Pick

The Vinyl Detective Mysteries: Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel
(TP, $19.50, order here)

This year I was a long list judge for "Bloody Scotland". As a result, I read a small pile of not yet released books, and, for the first time in several years, I had already found my book of the year front runner in May; had it ordered by July; and had my statement about it ready to go by late September. Then, in October, the Canadian release was delayed until April 2017.

So while I had subsequently read quite a lot of niche stuff, and even more advance copies, I couldn't find anything that would match my original choice. So, this year, I will instead highlight a debut which should tick a lot of boxes, The Vinyl Detective Mysteries: Written in Dead Wax.

Andrew Cartmel is one of Ben Aaronovitch's TV writing partners, and their mutual influences come quickly to the fore. Rather than fantastical, however, Cartmel is instead taking his inspiration from the cutthroat, yet mundane world of vinyl record collecting. Enter his jazz obsessed cat loving protagonist. Hired to find a rare record, he finds himself on the trail of a pair of killers, in the sights of a femme fatale, and part of an ever-growing conspiracy reaching deeply into the history or recorded music.

Light-hearted, easy reading rarely comes with this balance of complex themes and oddball characters. However, Cartmel should appeal not just to music lovers, but to cosy readers, Aaronovitch fans, and fans of British mysteries in general.  If a book can appeal to that many types of reader, it certainly belongs on this list.

(Book #2 in the series, The Vinyl Detective: The Run Out Groove will be available in May 2017 [pre-order here]. We’re supposed to have Ben Aaronovitch’s ‘Rivers of London’ #6, The Hanging Tree, in mass market at the end of January. This has been pushed back multiple times, but it looks like it’s finally happening [pre-order here].)

The Missing Clue - December 2016 - Bumsted Picks of the Year - Sian's Pick

A Terrible Beauty by Tasha Alexander
(HC, $36.99, order here)
A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde
(TP, $20.00, order here)

With five weeks to go in 2016 as of this writing, I’ve read 90 books (of my goal of 100). Of those 90, I rated 13 with 5 Stars, and four of those were mysteries (or books that we carry). It goes almost without saying that I adored Charles Finch’s The Inheritance, but in the end (with only a small bit of family pressure) I chose Tasha Alexander’s A Terrible Beauty as my favourite book of 2016. Her last four books were four star titles for me, which made this an easier decision. We’ve all seen series fall apart when they hit the double digits but this book, #11 in the ‘Lady Emily’ series, breathed new light into the series for me. It’s beautifully and atmospherically written and keeps you guessing right until the end, although I must confess I skipped ahead at one point to soothe my anxiety. We get to spend more time with Emily’s brilliant friend Margaret as well as see flashbacks to when Philip Ashton had first died (before we meet Emily in And Only to Deceive, the first book in the series). But as much as this book is a culmination of the previous 10, a new reader could easily get up to speed due to the nature of the plot. If you lost interest a few books back, I recommend jumping back in so that this title can be the climax of a delightful binge read.

Now, is the rule one book of the year per person? Yes, yes it is. But am I the one who edits the newsletter? Yes, and as such I can do whatever I want. I declared Darcie Wilde’s A Useful Woman to be an early favourite in the race for book of the year and lots of you have purchased it since. But I don’t want it to go unheralded in this forum. It’s such a fantastic read. Almost never what you expect with a character, Rosalind Thorne, who isn’t your typical historical heroine. She is neither beautiful nor monied, but she is, as the title portends, useful. I loved watching her unravel the murder of an aristocrat at Almack’s (where we see a slightly different side of the storied assembly room), and while her romantic interests are intriguing, they don’t dominate the narrative. A Purely Private Matter will be available in trade paperback in May (pre-order here).

The Missing Clue - December 2016 - Bumsted Picks of the Year - Wendy's Pick

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
(TP, $22.99, order here)

Susie Steiner was a reporter for The Guardian newspaper in the UK. Missing, Presumed is her first mystery novel. The novel is set in present day Cambridge and revolves around the disappearance of graduate student, Edith Hind. The main character Detective Sargent Manon Bradshaw is one of the officers involved in the search. There are many twists and turns in this well written novel. While the disappearance and its ramifications and final resolution are front and centre, this is a police procedural and so other crimes are also investigated. As with most police procedurals there is an undercurrent of the internal politics of the department and the jostling for position among the officers. This is exacerbated in this book as the father of the missing woman is one of the Queen’s physicians with lots of influential friends.  A sequel, Persons Unknown, will be published in June 2017 (pre-order here) with Missing, Presumed itself is coming out in mass market in April (pre-order here).

Later....Discovering that some nameless person had had two picks, I also have another title. Joanna Cannon, The Trouble With Sheep and Goats. Set in London in the very hot Summer 1976, (and yes, I was there), it involves two 10-year-old girls trying to work out what happened to a woman who seems to have disappeared.

Once I started to read both titles I could not put them down so a couple of very late nights.



The Missing Clue - December 2016 - Bumsted Picks of 2016 - Jack's Pick

The Crossing by Michael Connelly
(MM, $12.99, order here)

I have read Michael Connelly books in the past, but have enjoyed none so much as his most recent mass market The Crossing. It is technically the 20th ‘Harry Bosch’ novel, but it also features the main character from Connelly’s other main series, Mickey Haller. The book is somewhat violent, featuring multiple murders over several days, and the timeline of the story is quite short. You need not have read any other books in either series to enjoy The Crossing, although you may find yourself, like me, searching for the other crossover titles in both series. This is a relatively easy read, so perfect for vacation or plane travel. Overall, I found it very well plotted, very exciting, and I enjoyed it a great deal.

For those who are already familiar and caught up with Connelly, ‘Harry Bosch’ #21 The Wrong Side of Goodbye came out in hardcover in November (in stock, reserve here). The TV series based on that character, Bosch, is available it was on the local Global channel and is now available on Crave TV. There are currently two series, with a third on the way.