MysteryPeople’s Top Ten Books of 2011

~Post by MysteryPeople Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

This was such a great year in crime fiction that I debated long and hard about what to include in MysteryPeople’s Top Ten for 2011. In the end, I decided to cheat and just include more than ten.

1. The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

A thirteen year old girl searches for her missing friend in 1980’s suburbia and gets some truly grown-up lessons. Megan combines the structure of a mystery with the point of view of a Young Adult novel to look at the dark and uncomfortable complexities of emotions and how we can be ruled by them.


2. Crimes in Southern Indiana by Frank Bill

A great collection of visceral stories that all take place in a decaying area where the South meets the Midwest. No matter how wild and violent these tales get, Bill grounds them with believable characters who have been living on the edge and are now pushed off.


3. Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman

After being diagnosed with cancer, poignant PI Moe Prager looks into the murder of an EMT who refused aid to someone. Moe’s search ends up being a moving reflection on time, regret, and the way we spend our lives, as well as the impact we have on others.



4. Hell is Empty by Craig Johnson

This book split Craig’s fans, and I’m in the camp that thinks this is one of his best. It’s a thrilling action-adventure with some of his best set pieces. There is the usual humor and humanity, along with a look at spirituality that gives more insight into series character Sheriff Walt Longmire.



5. Cold Shot to the Heart by Wallace Stroby & Thick as Thieves by Peter Spiegelman

Two fantastic, fast-paced heist novels that bring the genre into the new millennium. Stroby gives it heart with a crack female robber trying to get enough money to get her lover out of prison. Spiegelman gives us a band of crooks going after a Bernie Madoff-style villain.


6. The Cut by George Pelecanos

Everything that I love about Pelecanos is in this story about an Iraq war vet who is hired to retrieve stolen property (this time, some missing marijuana). A fun action crime story with great characters, that is also socially aware.


7. The Lost Sister by Russel McLean

A wonderful Scottish take on the hard-boiled PI, with ex-Dundee cop Jay McNee trying to find a missing girl with ties to a vicious gangster. Think Lawrence Block crossed with Ian Rankin.




8. The Ranger by Ace Atkins

Great kick off to a series that mixes influences from westerns, crime novels, country music, 70s southern action movies, and anything else that’s good, gritty, and greasy, with bad-ass good ole boy Quinn Colson out to clean up his Mississippi town. This book is a lot of fun with a lot to say.


9. One True Sentence by Craig MacDonald

MacDonald looks at gun-toting Texas crime writer Hector Lassiter during his Lost Generation days in Paris, when he and his buddy Ernest Hemingway were on the hunt for someone murdering publishers. A bittersweet portrait of artists as young men.



10. Fun & Games and Hell & Gone by Duane Swierczynski

The first two books in the Charlie Hardesty trilogy have trapped our tough ex-cop in a house with nefarious killers outside and a crazy starlet inside, then put him in a prison where he may or may not be a guard. This is pulp fiction on an epic scale told with grand skill. I cannot wait for the conclusion with Point & Shoot this Spring.

7 thoughts on “MysteryPeople’s Top Ten Books of 2011

  1. Great list! I’m writing a satirical, urban, family drama with supernatural elements, and reading new and classic mysteries like the ones you’ve listed has really inspired me in my writing process.

    If you’re curious, I’ve been posting the chapters of my novel, VERA, on my blog. I’d love to hear what you think. (I made a book trailer too!)

    Thanks for all your great work. I look forward to coming in the next time I’m in Austin.

    Alice Blunt

    1. Hi Alice,
      Have you heard of BookCountry? It’s an online community for genre writers and a way to get feedback on your work. Full disclosure: I work for Penguin and Penguin is one of the investors. But it’s still cool. You should check it out.

  2. David:

    Icame to Pelecanos when he was already established, so maybe I would have had a different reaction if I’d read the early work cold, but I don’t think he’s written a bad book.

    That said, he’s pretty amazing from the ‘D.C Quartet’ onwards….

    1. Thanks. I’ll try him again. Don’t even remember the name of the one book I tried. In crime/mysteries, I gravitate toward James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Craig Holden (Four Corners of Night is exceptional) and ESPECIALLY Richard Price. Too bad he only writes one book every five or ten years).

      I don’t know if you read horror novels, but I’ve got a couple coming out in ’12 if you do. I’m at Thanks. D.

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