Bill Loehfelm’s Favorite Reads from 2011

Bill Loehfelm was born in Brooklyn and grew up on Staten Island. He is the author of the novels Fresh Kills (which won an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award), Bloodroot, and The Devil She Knows. Loehfelm lives in New Orleans with his wife, the writer A. C. Lambeth. You can follow him on Twitter @BillLoehfelm.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran
One of the most unique characters I have encountered in a long time. Mixes everything from the magical to the macabre. It’s set in New Orleans in 2007, which made it a tough read for me, and I mean that as a compliment. Gran shies away from nothing and never loses her sense of humor. I hear this is the first book in a planned series featuring Claire. Can’t wait for the next one.

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson
Atkinson is pretty much my hero these days. I think she’s one of the best novelists working today, and except for maybe James Lee Burke (and it’s close), she’s the best crime writer I know. Each of her Jackson Brodie novels (this is the fourth) starts with a collection of characters that seem as randomly placed and connected as stars in the sky. Over the course of the story, Atkinson connects them into a gorgeous constellation. Her books function at the highest level in every way.

A Death in Summer by Benjamin Black
Black’s Quirke novels are high-quality noir set in 1950s Dublin. Like a lot of my favorite books, Black’s books are peopled by complex, dark characters, both the recurring ones, like the pathologist Quirke and his daughter, and the other characters unique to each novel. Following Quirke as he tries to manage his relationships can be as compelling as watching him try to solve the murder that forms the core of each book. This one gets out into the Irish countryside in high summer and is completely immersive. I enjoy Black’s subversion of the simplistic fairy-tale portraits of Ireland we often get in popular entertainment.

Feast Day of Fools by James Lee Burke
He is still King James. This is the third book in a deep and dark new series featuring a Texas sheriff named Hack Holland. This book, the most recent Holland book (Rain Gods), and the most recent Robicheaux novel (The Glass Rainbow) all show Burke on an incredible creative run deep into his career. I know this is on every year-end list out there, especially genre lists, but it belongs there.

The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman
What gets me about Lippman’s work, and my favorite thing about it, is how she makes it impossible to spectate, to be passive. She forces you to engage your own moral standards and sense, and not in any heavy-handed way but by making you care about the characters making the decisions. I think that’s a real skill, one that’s near its best in this book. I don’t know how many times, especially with this latest book, I’ve asked myself what I would do or would’ve done. She writes books you think about even when you’re not reading them.

All Authors’ and Editors’ Favorite Reads of 2011

The Introduction