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Best of 2014

January 20, 2015

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Continuing with some of our “Best of” lists, we have a list from Josh, and surprise, surprise… its a book list!
So from Josh MacPhee—10 Best Crime Novels I Read in 2014:
 
The Mongolian Conspiracy by Rafael Bernal (New Directions, 2013)
A new translation of a great Mexican noir novel, with a classic protaganist gunslinger who “tries not to think” but can’t help himself.
 
Exterminating Angels by Peter Dunant (Pluto Press, 1986)
A media-savvy left-wing terror cell goes after corrupt corporate wrong-doers. What more do you want?
 
Cockfighter by Charles Willeford (Virgin Crime, 2005)
Wow. Not exactly a crime novel per se, but an amazing tunnel into the mind and emotions of a Southern cockfighter in the 50s with a screw loose. A must read.
 
The Steel Spring by Per Wahlöo (Vintage, 2011)
Wahloo is best known for his serial detective novels written with Maj Sjowal, but he also wrote 5 stand alone books from a quirky Marxist perspective. The Steel Spring might be the best, a powerful merger of crime and sci-fi tropes.
 
A Grave in Gaza by Matt Beynon Rees (Mariner, 2009)
Not the best plot or writing, but it’s set in Palestine, and prompted strong memories of my trip their, and that’s good enough for me.
 
An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell (Vintage, 2014)
A nice, quiet ending to Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series. Not the best book of the lot, but a fun read and a good way to say goodbye to a great character.
 
Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano (Pan, 2008)
More like “true crime” about the new Italian Mafia, but written in hard-boiled prose and almost certainly more gruesome and overwhelming than anything a fictional novel can conjure.
 
Cristine Falls by Benjamin Black (Picador, 2008)
This series is all about mood. Set in 1950s Ireland, it simultaneously feels contemporary and completely 19th century. The atmosphere is thick, and that’s a good thing.
 
Kismet by Jacob Arjumi (Melville House, 2010)
In Kismet we are introduced to Arjumi’s private detective Kayankana. He’s German, but of Turkish ethnicity, which he plays up when convenient in order to dupe racist Germans into thinking he’s a “stupid Turk,” which then lets him get away with all kinds of humorous tricks and scams. In this book, he helps a Brazilian restauranteur take on a new mob that’s come to Frankfurt. These books are laugh out loud funny, and a great insight into the subtle and not-so-subtle xenophobia of the “New Germany.”
 
Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin, 2014)
A really fun toss in the blender with South African torturers and hit-men, conjoined twins, burnt-out detectives, and earth liberationists. It’s so chock-full that it’s a little rough around the edges, but still a great read.

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