This past year was the first in ages when I didn’t have a new book out. I haven’t stopped writing. Far from it!* But it did give me a bit of a breather in which to read – and now to talk about other’s books.

Therefore, in the spirit of the season, I’m giving my very very unscientific “favorite reads of 2019” list. This isn’t a “best of,” far from it. I’m sure I’ve left off dozens of wonderful books (including books I adored but have simply forgotten in all the holiday hoopla). In addition, so many friends and fellow area crime writers have published this year that I’m actually trying NOT to include those – ideally, you’ve read their “five questions” interviews on this blog. And some 2019 books I know I want to read (Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay, I’m looking at you) are still on my TBR pile. Still… here’s a list, maybe with some books you hadn’t heard of! Won’t you share yours?

Costalegre by Courtney Maum. Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover. I picked up this fantastic little novel because of it’s beautiful jungle cover, complete with tiger. I discovered a story of artists in exile inside, complete with madness and beauty.

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves. The first book in a new series by a long-time favorite, full of insight into what makes people (including murderers) tick.

Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith. A moody coming-of-age novel that posits that sometimes you can best become yourself by trying on someone else’s identity. A stunner.

New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke. Dave Robicheau and Clete return.

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke. Locke brings the characters of Bluebird Bluebird back and considers the meaning of justice.

Metropolis by Philip Kerr. A farewell and a beginning from a master, who had the grace to tie it all up before he left. Philp – and Bernie Gunther – will be missed.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. A new voice who makes the absolutely horrible sound quite reasonable. But… families, you know?

Miraculum by Steph Post. My introduction to fellow Polis Books author Post was this wonderfully odd, mystical historical, set in a small touring carnival in1923 – think “Freaks” for the new age…

The Institute by Stephen King. A throwback? Sure, but I couldn’t put it down.

How to Be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery. OK, this came out at the end of 2018, but I didn’t discover it until this year. This collection of tales (and tails) concern the animals we love, and some we don’t, all of which have something to share. Just beautiful.

*My beloved An Incantation of Cats comes out in January. Because it isn’t holiday related, we made the decision to bump it from December to give it a better shot. I also have some other projects in the works… more as they develop.