One of the first things I do at the start of every year now is create a fresh computer folder into which I begin depositing scans of especially creative and interesting covers taken from new works of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction. Twelve months later, I extract from that folder what I believe (and what other folks in the publishing business have suggested) were the genre’s most engaging book fronts, released both in the United States and Britain. Occasionally, as in 2015, the candidates are especially numerous. In other years, the picks are fewer—not necessarily as a result of less artistic talent being demonstrated in this field, but as in 2016, because there were so many novels styled quite similarly to one another, employing what have become all-too-familiar components: shadowy figures, running figures, and men or women photographed from behind.
From a preliminary lineup of almost three dozen choices, I culled out 15 finalists for The Rap Sheet’s Best Crime Fiction Cover of 2016 competition. Some of these contenders are built principally around photos, while others deserve attention for their typographical innovation or the appeal of their illustrations. Several are deliberately ominous, while others are considerably more playful in their conception. Every one of them, however, catches the eye, whether being displayed on a bookstore shelf or a Web page.
This is the ninth year The Rap Sheet has asked its discriminating readership to judge crime novel façades. Below, you will find all of the 2016 nominees—arranged alphabetically—followed by a simple electronic ballot on which you can vote for the cover you think deserves top honors. As a consequence of suspected ballot-stuffing shenanigans last year, I am limiting each poll participant this time to one chance at choosing his or her favorites; however, you can register your support for more than one cover on that single occasion. So make this opportunity count! We’ll keep the voting open here for the next week and a half, until midnight on Wednesday, January 25, after which the results will be announced.
Click on any of the jackets below to open an enlargement.
ONE THING MORE: If you think we have neglected to mention some other crime-fiction cover from 2016 that is also deserving of widespread acclaim, please post a comment about it at the end of this piece. Just be sure to include a link to where on the Web other Rap Sheet readers can see that additional cover for themselves.