It’s only early November, but online retailer Amazon has already announced its Best Books of 2013 picks, including 20 choices in the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense category.
Like Goodreads’ preliminary list of 15 mysteries and thrillers published over the last 11 months that deserve celebrating, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Amazon’s tally; indeed, Stephen King’s Joyland, Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, George Pelecanos’ The Double, Alafair Burke’s If You Were Here, and other works named by Amazon are all worthy examples of what can be accomplished in this genre. But for the most part, this is nothing better than a rundown of the year’s crime-fiction best sellers. There’s scant evidence of serious critical judgments having been made in the selections, and there are no unexpected or daring nominees among the bunch. Gone are the days when Amazon made much effort at serious, professional reviewing of books;
now the critiquing is left up to unpaid amateurs, most of whom have no style to their
writing, lack a broad understanding of the genre’s history, and produce little
better than promotional copy. But then, what do we expect from a sales-oriented site?
If you’re interested in presenting only best-selling crime fiction to your friends and family this year, then look for your holiday gift ideas to Amazon’s “best books” lists. Otherwise, wait for the publication of choices by more thoughtful book-review sources. They should be rolling out over the next few weeks.
UPDATE: As reader Ray Garraty points out in the Comments section of this post, Publishers Weekly recently posted its own selection of 2013’s best crime novels. There are a few books on the list that I haven’t read, but PW’s other choices suggest that its editors exercised both thoughtfulness and discretion in creating their list.