So 2021 is over, or will be in a few hours, and it is thus time for me to tell you about my favourite books of the year, something you’ve undoubtedly been feverishly waiting for all those twelve months. Who will succeed Lawrence G. Blochman? Will it be a major or reasonably well known writer or – a specialty of mine – some obscure wordsmith no one else has ever heard of? Those pressing questions will be answered in time, but please allow me some digression.
While it was obviously quite perfectible otherwise, 2021 was a very good year reading-wise, with slightly less books read than in 2020 (I barely won my Goodreads challenge) but with no loss of quality overall. What’s more, some of my finest reading experiences were not in the mystery field and a more inclusive Top Ten would have to include Adolfo Bioy Casares’ The Invention of Morel, Wilson Tucker’s The Year of the Quiet Sun or Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Ebb-Tide. These are wonderful books and for the first two not devoid of mystery elements, the Tucker book in particular offering a major and shocking final twist that jaded me didn’t see coming at all.
And now it’s time for the Big Reveal.
The Book of the Year is…
2. A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs by Ellis Peters
3. The Player on the Other Side by Ellery Queen
4. The Double Alibi by Noël Vindry
6. The Red Thumb Mark by R. Austin Freeman
7. The Prisoner in the Opal by A.E.W. Mason
8. A Nineteenth Century Miracle by Louis Zangwill
9. Dead Man’s Gift by Zelda Popkin
10. The Darkening Door by Bill S. Ballinger
The Silence of Herondale (Joan Aiken) Night of the Letter (Dorothy Eden) Hanged Man’s House (Elizabeth Ferrars) The Dark Tunnel (Kenneth Millar)
While Jean Potts’ book hardly qualifies as a traditional mystery, this list otherwise continues last year’s pattern – my tastes are becoming more and more orthodox and mainstream though hopefully not entirely predictable. This is not to say that I’m not open to any new Albert Harding or F. Addington Symonds coming my way but my wild years seem to be over.
I also realized as I compiled that list how « feminine » my reading has been this year. Adding the Top 10 and the Distinguished Mentions you find that female writers tie male ones. I have always been a huge and vocal supporter of female crime writing but I don’t recall it featuring as strongly in my year’s favourites. I didn’t do it on purpose – I’m not the kind who applies quotas to their reading – but I’m rather proud of it.
Will both those trends persist in 2022? See you next year.