The year was filled with great reads. And while newspapers and websites are obsessed at the end of the year in tallying up their ``best of’’ lists, I thought I’d take the opportunity to mention a few of the books I found most engaging. The list is by no means complete. Just three of the books I enjoyed reading the most and why.
Have a book or new author you want to share? E-mail me at email@example.com. I’d love to hear what you think. And if you’re keen on hearing what comes next for Jonas Brant, the character at the center of my debut novel Even the Wind, drop me a line or catch up with me on Twitter @brantproject.
Without delay, my picks of the year:
The Mulberry Bush by Charles McCarry
Charles McCarry is a seriously underrated novelist. The author of such gems as The Tears of Autumn and The Shanghai Factor is in top form in his latest outing. The Mulberry Bush is the tale of an unnamed American spy and his quest to exact revenge on the people he holds accountable for his father’s demise. The book begins in a rose garden in Buenos Aires where the lead character meets the daughter of a famous Argentinean revolutionary. From there, the novel takes flight, bouncing its way across continents and time. All the hallmarks of McCarry’s writing are here. The narrative, while implausible in places, moves at a swift pace. Scenes come alive with the sights, sounds and smells invoked by a surefooted author. Entwined in the lead character’s personal quest is a rumination on the state of surveillance in the present day, and a warning about the individuals that practice the craft. This is McCarry at the top of his game.
Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin
Any time a new novel featuring the intrepid John Rebus hits the shelves is cause for celebration. The latest outing finds Rebus coming out of retirement. All the familiar elements are here. Siobhan Clarke, Malcolm Fox, Big Ger Cafferty — and, of course, the crusty but lovable Rebus. The writing, as ever, is tight and engaging. Rankin is solid and dependable, just like his protagonist. If the novel feels a bit worn-in — we’ve seen these characters and these places before — it’s because it is. This is familiar ground and nobody treads it with more confidence and grace than Rankin. Of course, no Rebus novel would be complete without that most regal of characters — Edinburgh. As always, Rankin does a fine job of painting the Scottish capital with a fine brush stroke, warts and all. No wonder Edinburgh and Rankin have become forever joined at the hip.
Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Make Me by Andy Martin
Meta at its best. This is the story of story. Cambridge academic Andy Martin peers over the shoulder of author Lee Child as he crafts the latest outing for lead character Jack Reacher in this fascinating look at the process of writing. This is literary criticism like nothing that’s come before. Martin is in the room as Child writes the first sentence in Make Me, the 20th novel in the Reacher series. And he’s there when it ends, when the author puts his final stamp on what is to become a sure-fire New York Times best-seller. Martin writes with the panache and flare of a thriller writer himself, bringing immediacy and tension to the lonely craft of writing. This is a must-have for any Reacher fan, or for any writer. Funny, playful and erudite, this is a meditation on narrative, on process and on brand building. Fascinating stuff.
If you're interested in downloading the first couple chapters of Even the Wind, please visit Amazon. The paperback version will be released in the coming weeks -- hopefully before Christmas.
As always, enjoy whatever you’re reading. Cheers, Phillip