Traditionally, the last few days of the old year are the days when writers and other listmakers try to come up with their "top ten lists," or "best 10" or "worst 10" - certainly you've seen them.
This year, as every year for the past five or so, I've offered you a new podcast review of a classic or traditionally-oriented mystery every week, usually with a blog post about the featured book as well.
So, in that list of 52 classics read and reviewed this year, is there a "Top Ten List" waiting to be published? A list of ten books that I particularly enjoyed this year and want to call to your attention again?
Why, yes. Yes there is.
So here goes my "sort of Top Ten List of books read in 2012." The books are more or less listed in inverse order of my own enjoyment of the book. (Title links are to the book listing at Amazon.com; "full review" will play the podcast for you; "blog post" will take you to one of my posts about that book. Many are available as ebooks as well, for Kindle and in other formats.)
10. "Uncle Abner: Master of Mysteries," by Melville Davisson Post. Brilliant short stories, first appearing in 1918, about Uncle Abner, a nineteenth century pioneer living in the hard mountain country of Western Virginia. Clever plots, memorable characters, beautiful settings. Full review, blog post
9. "Murder in the Maze," by J. J. Connington. A marvelously nightmarish "English country house" story, with murder taking place inside a giant hedge maze - and the killer apparently on the loose inside the maze with you. Full review, blog post
8. "The Chinese Parrot," by Earl Derr Biggers. The second of six novels written by Biggers to feature Chinese-American detective Charlie Chan., in pursuit of thieves and murderers in the American southwest. Full review, blog post
7. "The Lacquer Screen," by Robert van Gulik.Set in seventh century China, it features Judge Dee, one of my favorite detective characters, as he solves a very tricky murder case. Full review, blog post
6. "The Fourth Door: The Houdini Murders," by Paul Halter, a contemporary French author whose work is being compared - quite justifiably - to John Dickson Carr at his best. This one is a marvelous locked room/impossible crime situation, with plenty of unexpected twists. Full review, blog post
5. "Death of a Swagman," by Arthur Upfield. This author is, I think, shamefully under-appreciated for his Australian mysteries, written during the first half of the 20th century, featuring Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte, whose inherited brilliance from his Aborigine mother and his Caucasian father make him one of the ablest detectives at solving cases where other police officers have failed. Full review, blog post
4. "Any Shape or Form," by Elizabeth Daly. She was said to be Agatha Christie's favorite American author, and this book may help you understand why. Her detective, Henry Gamadge, is on hand for a murder at an American country estate, and the sudden twists and turns of the story may leave you breathless. Full review, blog post
3. "Dead Men Don't Ski," by Patricia Moyes. Inspector Tibbett is on the scene when a man who was certainly alive when he got on the ski lift at the top arrives at the bottom dead from a gunshot wound. I hope this is the first of many Moyes novels to be re-issued. Full review, blog post
2. "Murder on Wheels," by Stuart Palmer. A strong entry in the series featuring schoolteacher Hildegarde Withers. An impossible crime, great characters (including a foul-mouthed parrot), even an entire rodeo. Lots of fun. Full review, blog post
1. "Murder by the Book," by Rex Stout. One of the strongest plots of any book featuring Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, and the characters are particularly well done, especially a couple of the victims. Read about a book so dangerous that anybody who might have read it is murdered. Full review, blog post
So there you have it. Some of the authors on that list may be new to you; I encourage you to make them all your friends in the new year.