Monday, November 15, 2021

“Kirkus” Weighs In on 2021’s Bests

My onetime employer, Kirkus Reviews, today joins the crowd of publications naming what they say are the foremost novels released over the last year. Kirkus has assembled not only a “100 Best Fiction Books of 2021” list, but also separate categories of “bests” in historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy, romance, debut fiction, and environmental fiction. You will find those categories here.

Below are Kirkus’ picks for “Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2021”:

Northern Spy, by Flynn Berry (Viking)
Razorblade Tears, by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron)
Infinite, by Brian Freeman (Thomas & Mercer)
The Corpse Flower, by Anne Mette Hancock (Crooked Lane)
The Other Black Girl, by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Atria)
Billy Summers, by Stephen King (Scribner)
Untraceable, by Sergei Lebedev (New Vessel Press)
The Man Who Died Twice, by Richard Osman (Pamela Dorman/Viking)
Unthinkable, by Brad Parks (Thomas & Mercer)
A Lonely Man, by Chris Power (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
False Witness, by Karin Slaughter (Morrow/HarperCollins)
Lady Joker, Volume 1, by Kaoru Takamura (Soho Crime)
Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

I cannot claim to have tackled all of these yarns, but I have read a few. Those include Cosby’s second novel, Razorblade Tears, a work I abandoned reading on two or three occasions before I finally finished it. I’m not a big fan of revenge novels, which is precisely the definition of this violent story about two older, ex-con fathers—one black, one white—who seek justice for their murdered gay sons. Furthermore, I found Cosby’s portrayal of a gang of malevolent white bikers to be riddled with clichés. Nonetheless, I pushed on through the pages, hating the book … until I loved it. Cosby, the author of 2020’s Blacktop Wasteland, manages in the end to make his unlikable pair of protagonists worth cheering on. And that is certainly no mean feat.

(Hat tip to Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine.)

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