Which isn’t to say that every book cover in this genre produced since January 1, 2011, was a winner. Some of them were boring or downright repulsive, while most were simply unimaginative--lacking in wit or surprise. I mean, how many shadowy figures of men and women do we have to see decorating the jackets of mysteries and thrillers before readers and more imaginative graphic designers finally revolt, demanding less safe, less lackluster concepts? On the whole, bottom-line-oriented publishers are not terribly daring; it’s partly the responsibility of designers to convince them to experiment with fresh approaches. But it’s also up to readers to judge more books by their covers--and reject those that don’t display at least some novelty in their façades. We aren’t robots, after all. Part of the appeal of any new book is the way it looks, not just the author’s name (familiar ones selling the best) or the words inside or the price on the jacket flap.
As in previous years, our demanding panel of judges for 2011 is four strong: Linda L. Richards, a novelist and the editor of January Magazine; David Middleton, a graphic artist, illustrator, and photographer who also holds the title of art and culture editor for January; Kevin Burton Smith, the talented editor-creator of one of the Web’s top crime-fiction resources, The Thrilling Detective Web Site; and your humble servant, J. Kingston Pierce, editor of The Rap Sheet. We’ve spent the last year gathering works we thought merited inclusion in this Best Crime Novel Covers competition, and several weeks cutting our roster of two dozen picks in half. Some of the finalists are more audacious than others. One is notorious: the front of Assassin of Secrets, a novel that sparked a plagiarism scandal and was yanked from stores in November. Each of our judges has his or her favorites, but the finalists all rank as remarkable.
Now we want to know your opinions.
Below, you will find our dozen nominees for Best Crime Novel Cover of 2011. At the bottom of this post is a ballot on which you can vote for your favorites. Feel free to choose as many jackets as you think deserve acclaim. We’ll keep the voting open until midnight on Friday, January 6, after which we’ll announce the results.
Click on any of these covers for an enlargement.
One more thing: If you think we’ve neglected to mention some outstanding example of a crime-fiction front from the last year, please let us know about it in the Comments section of this post. And include a Web address where we can see your nominee for ourselves.
READ MORE: “My Year of Reading: Favorite Covers of 2011,” by David Abrams (The Quivering Pen); “Favorite Covers of 2011,” by Dan Wagstaff (The Casual Optimist); “The 10 Best Covers of 2011,” by Emily Temple (Flavorwire); “Top Covers of 2011” (Kirkus Reviews).