Monday, December 08, 2003

The Washington Post named their "Best of 2003" yesterday. The list included a handful of crime fiction titles. Here's what they had to say:

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon (Doubleday). It's midnight, and an autistic 15-year-old boy is sitting on the lawn, holding his neighbor's dead dog, covered with blood. The neighbor runs out screaming, police arrive, the boy hits a policeman and ends up in jail. Thus begins a jolting spiral of events in the life of one of this year's most memorable characters. In this striking first novel, Haddon is both clever and observant, and the effect is vastly affecting.

Havana, by Stephen Hunter (Simon & Schuster). Consider the irony that one of the best thriller novelists around is also The Washington Post's chief film critic. . . . He writes some of the most complex and innovative, not to mention exciting, action novels of the past 23 years. . . . Now comes Havana, in which Earl [Swagger] -- on special assignment from the Arkansas state patrol -- takes on the gangsters, spies and communist revolutionaries of 1953 Cuba.

Soul Circus, by George Pelecanos (Little, Brown). What's so brilliant about it, and Pelecanos's novels in general, is that he raises these questions not only in meditative passages but also in scenes of the rawest violence. In the space of a couple of paragraphs, four gang members suddenly die in bloody, balletic sequence, and you find yourself reeling from the senselessness of their deaths, the waste of their stupid lives. Ditto for the ending of this superb novel.

I missed the first two, but Soul Circus was terrific. I thought the previous book in the series (Hell to Pay, a Gumshoe Award-winner) was even better, but this one is still damn good. Pelecanos writes better than just about anybody else in the genre and surely deserves the accolades.