- Sue Miller - The Senator's Wife. A galley of Sue (The Good Mother) Miller's new novel arrived a few months ago with a note bound in from her editor, Jordan Pavlin, about how this book "has a great deal to say to women of all ages." Huh? Are men not allowed to read her books? (That reminds me of this morning at my local ski shop when I picked up a pair of gloves I liked and the salesguy said, "Those are women's." I replied with a straight face, "I like to wear women's gloves. You got a problem with that?") Anyway, no, reading Sue Miller's remarkable novels won't make a man grow breasts (unlike smoking Virginia Slims, say). I don't think there's any novelist any better at parsing marriages and home life than Miller. She's got a wonderfully terse style and incredibly sharp perceptions. She's better than Anne Tyler or Ann Beattie (and all the other Ann/e's except Ann Patchett, who does sort of different stuff). The Senator's Wife concerns a young married couple that moves into a house next door to the wife of a famous liberal senator, a womanizer -- think Gary Hart or Ted Kennedy, but with the gravitas of Henry Cabot Lodge. It's a story about secrets and marriage, love and morality. Really terrific stuff. Womanly, yes, but I liked it too.
- Ian McEwan - On Chesil Beach. OK, granted, this is really just a long short story (208 pages, lots of white space, small format) -- not a novel; maybe a novellini? -- but it's beautifully constructed, elegantly written, and devastating. It's a bleak fable about a newlywed couple on their wedding night -- virgins facing sexual intercourse for the first time -- and the far-reaching consequences that spiral out of a disastrous misunderstanding. I don't love all of McEwan's work -- he tends to be a bit too chilly for my tastes -- but this one he nailed.
- Peter Abrahams - Nerve Damage. Why is this guy not a major bestseller? I don't get it. He's Stephen King's favorite suspense novelist, and mine too. He makes the stuff all the rest of us do look amateurish. Now that the great Ira Levin has died, Peter Abrahams is easily the finest thriller writer alive. Nerve Damage is about a sculptor in Vermont with only a few months to live who gets a sneak peek at his New York Times obituary (through a hacker friend) and thereby discovers a strange fact about his late wife. The investigation leads him into a conspiratorial maze. But since this is Peter Abrahams, nothing turns out the way you predict. And along the way you're treated to some terrifically stylish, elliptical -- and powerful -- storytelling.
Dick Adler, former crime fiction reviewer for the Chicago Tribune, now blogger
- Elise Blackwell - Grub. Superb, biting modern homage to Gissing's New Grub Street.
- Richard Aleas (aka Charles Ardai) - Songs of Innocence. Much shame on the MWA for not nominating this.
- T.J. MacGregor - Kill Time. Has the icing on the cake of one of my favorite subjects: time travel.
It seems to me 2007 was a stellar year. In fiction, I read a lot more that was terrific than the other kind. As luck would have it, three stood out for me.
- Anne Argula - Walla Walla Suite (A Room With No View)
- Alafair Burke - Dead Connection
- Laura Lippman - What the Dead Know
- David Morrell - Scavenger. Morrell, the best and most influential thriller writer ever, has never been better. A manipulative madman enlists two unwilling players in what is essentially a human video game. Blisteringly paced, brilliantly structured, and compulsively readable, Scavenger establishes a new benchmark for both originality and execution.
- Lee Child - Bad Luck and Trouble. Child's nomadic, loner hero Jack Reacher reunites with some members of his former military investigation team to find out why others have been murdered. This is Child's best book yet, and Reacher rivals James Bond as the best series hero ever.
- James Lee Burke - The Tin Roof Blowdown. Burke's latest, set against the tragic retelling of the Katrina disaster, solidifies his status as America's preeminent novelist as well mystery writer. Ever-tortured Dave Robicheaux's efforts to solve a pair of murders are dwarfed by the much larger crime perpetuated on the people of New Orleans. A visual and visceral masterpiece.