Best of 2012: Fiction

Updated: April 5, 2013

Book cover for The absent one
The absent one
Adler-Olsen, Jussi.

The second in the Department Q series from Danish award-winning crime and suspense writer, Jussi Adler-Olsen. Detective Carl Mørck, his assistant Assad, and a new colleague, Rosemary, are the team that solves Denmark's coldest of cold cases. The plot and suspects are more sinister than in The Keeper of Lost Causes. Twenty years ago a brother and sister were brutally murdered. A suspect from an elite boarding school and his clique of friends, who are now in the upper echelons of society, are somehow involved. However it is Kimmie, a bag lady, who holds the secrets that will solve the crime and she is on the run from being killed and from her own troubled past.

Book cover for Beautiful ruins : a novel
Beautiful ruins : a novel
Walter, Jess, 1965-

In 1962 Italy, the famously disastrous filming of 20th Century Fox’s Cleopatra brings together a wildly disparate bunch of characters: the unfortunate owner of a perpetually empty Italian hotel, a stunning American starlet who may or may not be at death’s door, a would-be novelist who can’t get past Chapter One, a venal Hollywood public relations hack, and the legendary drinker, fighter, lover, actor, and movie star, Richard Burton. When this motley crew collides, they end up unintentionally changing each other’s lives for decades to come in this beautifully observed novel, which deftly blends fact and fiction.

Book cover for The chaperone
The chaperone
Moriarty, Laura
Call Number: F

During the summer of 1922, 36 year-old Cora Carlisle spends five weeks in New York City as the chaperone for an arrogant and uncooperative 15 year-old dance student, the future silent film star Louise Brooks.  Cora takes on this onerous responsibility because she hopes to track down the birth mother who placed her in a New York City orphanage when she was a young girl.


Book cover for Dare me : a novel
Dare me : a novel
Abbott, Megan E., 1971-

Abbott's early novels were historical hard-boiled crime fiction told from a woman's point of view. Her more recent work has shifted away from gangsters and femme fatales towards the secret worlds of teenage girls - and believe it or not, it's even darker. Dare Me centers on a group of fiercely competitive cheerleaders who fall under the sway of a charismatic new coach, and the fallout that occurs when she tries to disrupt their pecking order.

Book cover for Derby Day
Derby Day
Taylor, D. J. (David John), 1960-

This tale of Epsom Derby wonder horse Tiberius is the best 19th century novel written in 2012. British author Taylor nails the Victorian language of Dickens and the social satire of Thackeray in this authentic throwback to the long, leisurely, multi-layered, many-charactered entertainments of a bygone age. Royalty, nobility, professionals, tradesmen, criminals, and assorted lowlifes all come together for England’s most important horse race, and many destinies, both equine and human, will be determined at the crossing of the finish line.

Book cover for Fourth grave beneath my feet.
Fourth grave beneath my feet.
Jones, Darynda.
Call Number: M

Charley Davidson is back. She's having trouble dealing with everything that's happened to her in the last few months but when a new case lands in her lap she gets up, straps on her trusty sidearm Margaret and heads out in the world to get some answers with her own version of Of course, Reyes Farrow is still around and even though Charley is still a little miffed with him, animosity takes a back seat to lust (and all those demons that are after them both). Another fun romp with your favorite Grim Reaper!

Book cover for Gone girl : a novel
Gone girl : a novel
Flynn, Gillian, 1971-
Call Number: M
Flynn's psychological thriller about a husband who may or may not be responsible for his wife's disappearance has been drawing rave reviews, but be sure not to miss her other books. Sharp Objects in particular will raise goosebumps on even the hottest summer days.

Book cover for HHhH
Binet, Laurent.

The title is an acronym for the German phrase Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich, (“Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”). This is the story of Operation Anthropoid, which was the 1942 plot to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia and known as the Butcher of Prague. In an ingenious approach to writing historical fiction, Binet tells the story in 270 short chapters with incessant authorial intrusions on how he came to write the book, his research, and his views on invention vs. historical fact in fiction.

Book cover for I am an executioner : love stories
I am an executioner : love stories
Parameswaran, Rajesh.

A striking debut collection of short fiction that traffics in desire. In "The Infamous Bengal Ming," a lovesick tiger mauls his keeper and then prowls the city in anguish under helicopter high beams. In "Demons," a quietly desperate wife idly wishes her husband dead, then is crushed by guilt when he suddenly dies of a heart attack. These characters - human, animal, and insect - bear the puzzling weight of destroying what they love, or being destroyed by it.

Book cover for The map of the sky : a novel
The map of the sky : a novel
Palma, Felix J.
Call Number: F

When Horsell Common is invaded by strange ships from another world, Scotland Yard seeks out H.G. Wells, whose new novel The War of the Worlds bears an uncanny resemblance to recent occurrences. Did Wells know about the Martian invasion prior to its happening? In the second book of a planned trilogy, following up 2011's The Map of Time, Felix Palma spins a gripping tale of alien invasion and time travel.

Palma has won the following awards: Cadiz Latin American Story Award, 2003, for the short story "Los Arácnidos" ("The Arachnids"); Luis Berenguer Award for Novel, 2005, for Las Corrientes Oceánicas; Ateneo de Sevilla XL Prize, 2008, for El Mapa del Tiempo.  [Contemporary Authors Online 2012, Literature and Resource Center]


Book cover for Memoirs of an imaginary friend
Memoirs of an imaginary friend
Dicks, Matthew.

Budo has been alive for five years, which is a very long time for an imaginary friend, but he knows that one day he will die, when 8-year-old Max stops believing in him. Until then, though, Budo will do all he can to keep Max safe. When Max falls into real peril, Budo is faced with a horrifying dilemma: what if helping Max to escape means giving him the strength to live without Budo? Will appeal to those who enjoyed Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or Emma Donoghue’s Room.

Book cover for Monstress : stories
Monstress : stories
Tenorio, Lysley.

This debut collection of stories is noteworthy for its depiction of a spectrum of Filipino and Filipino-American experiences little represented in American literature; settings include San Francisco’s Manilatown in the 1930s, a Philippine leper colony in the 60s, and the Manila film scene of the 70s. What makes the stories truly enjoyable though, is Tenorio’s ability to cut to the quick of deep emotions with control and with humor.

Book cover for Redshirts
Scalzi, John
Call Number: SF

When Ensign Andrew Dahl is assigned to his new posting on Universal Union's flagship Intrepid, he is thrilled. But then he finds out that every landing party to a new/alien world results in a hostile confrontation of some sort and the death of at least one low-ranking crew member. Why is this being allowed to happen? And how can he avoid the inevitable? Playing off the old "redshirt" joke about the original Star Trek television series, John Scalzi has written a wry and knowing novel about sci-fi media for fans and non-fans alike.

Book cover for The rook : a novel
The rook : a novel
O'Malley, Daniel.

Myfanwy is a member of a secret spy organization dedicated to protecting Britain from supernatural threats, and she’s developed a nasty case of amnesia. That can be really inconvenient, especially when one of your fellow agents (but which one?) is trying to kill you. A lively mix of comedy, horror, and spy thriller that reads as if Douglas Adams and H.P. Lovecraft had collaborated on a James Bond novel.

Book cover for Spy mom  : the adventures of Sally Sin
Spy mom : the adventures of Sally Sin
McMullen, Beth.

Action, sass, and adventure are what this new series is all about with an energetic, driven, retired female spy as the protagonist. You can take the agent out of the agency, maybe, but not the agency out of the agent. Sally Sin aka Lucy Hamilton aka ???. This book is two volumes in one, and at the end the reader never learns the real name of our heroine. It really does not matter because there is suspense, several love interests, heartache, and so much action that these two books could fill up several graphic novels. Mrs. Pollifax is gone, but hello to her great granddaughter, Sally Sin!

Book cover for Tell the wolves I'm home : a novel
Tell the wolves I'm home : a novel
Brunt, Carol Rifka
Call Number: F

After her beloved uncle dies of AIDS-related complications, fourteen-year-old June Elbus strikes up a secret friendship with his boyfriend in this heartbreaking coming of age story, set during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

Book cover for This book is full of spiders : seriously, dude, don't touch it
This book is full of spiders : seriously, dude, don't touch it
Wong, David, 1975 Jan. 10-

This is a funny, creepy sequel to John Dies at the End, full of slacker humor, legitimately scary monsters, tense action, and gleefully gross moments. That’s what we signed up for; but then this book upped the ante by making us cry - and think.

Book cover for This is how you lose her
This is how you lose her
Díaz, Junot, 1968-

Junot Diaz, known for two other books: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Drown continues the story of Yunior in this candid, funny, poignant set of short stories about the heartache between men and women as the result of the love/lust that fuels but rarely sustains relationships. Several stories are told in the first-person narrative, in Diaz's unique raw and chilling style which hits at the bone-marrow truth of people's lives.

Book cover for Timeless
Carriger, Gail.

In this, the final book of the Parasol Protectorate series, our fearless Alexia travels to Egypt to answer a cryptic summons from the Queen of the Alexandria hive with her husband, their ever precocious child, and a troupe of British thespians in tow. At the end of the journey our characters may not yet be in perfect situations but we know that they will, eventually, all have their own versions of happy endings and what more could you really want...well, except more books, a parasol, and of course, for Lord Akeldama to be real?