While 2018 had its few ups and many downs like any other year, it was a very good one reading-wise as I averaged my higher number of books in nearly a decade. I won’t disclose it as there’s nothing to brag about – it’s more a testimony to how anemic the previous years were than a genuine achievement – but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. Another reason to rejoice is the ratio of terrific books, which was also unexpectedly high. Both factors allow me to issue a Top Ten for the first time in – well, a very long time.
Book of the Year:
Hilda Van Siller, The Widower
2. Jennie Melville, Nell Alone
3. René Reouven, Le Quidam et la Mort
4. Charlotte Jay, A Hank of Hair
5. Noël Vindry, La Fuite des Morts
6. John Dickson Carr, And So To Murder
7. Rex Stout, In The Best Families
8. Helen McCloy, Who’s Calling?
9. Edmund Crispin, The Moving Toyshop
10. Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, Miasma
L’Ombre sur le jardin (Gaston Boca), Le Gibet de Castérac (Jacques Thinus) The Woman in the Woods (Charity Blackstock) Murder Can Be Fun (Fredric Brown) Hours to Kill (Ursula Curtiss)
Dud of the Year: Professeur Lawrence, Embaumeur (H. de Marcley)
As usual with me, my Top Ten is a blend of the familiar and the more obscure, with the latter edging out the former for the top spots. I see many people scratching their heads over my Book of the Year as it is so obscure that I couldn’t even find a summary online. Since it thus falls upon me to provide one, let us say that it is a suburbian psychological suspense novel in the Charlotte Armstrong tradition that tells how gossip, sexual frustration, female malevolence and male cowardice combine to turn the so far peaceful and respectable life of an architect (the eponymous hero) into a nightmare. The final revelation was a shocker to me, although it was retrospectively inevitable and fairly clued. I had previously read two or three other books by Van Siller in the past and hadn’t been overly impressed, so this one came out as a complete surprise, and a good one needless to say.