The following is a list of 2004 titles which have garnered excellent reviews from critics, booksellers and library journals.
The purpose of the list is to make available to you, the reader, current information of what books are generally considered to be among the best of the year. If you are so inclined to vote for fan awards such as the Barry Awards, the Anthonys, the Agathas and the Macavitys, then this list will give you a head start.
If any of the following novels received a glowing review in Deadly Pleasures, or a starred review in Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist or Library Journal, it is indicated at the end of each entry with the abbreviations of the periodicals which gave such reviews.
Looking for good recommendations for paperback purchases? You may want to look at:
DP List 2003
DP List 2002
DP List 2001
DP List 2000
BEST U.S. CRIME NOVELS 2004
**WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARROTS by Donna Andrews (St. Martin's, $23.95) Fifth in the Meg Lanslow series. Meg is with her love Michael at a convention for fans of the TV series Porfiria, Queen of the Jungle. The "Queen Bee" or star of the show, Tamerlaine Wynncliffe-Jones, acts like the Diva of Queen Bees. When she is found murdered, the police may find it easier to find someone without a motive or reason to hate her than to find a person who liked her. DP
**THE LAST GOODBYE, Arvin, Reed (HarperCollins $23.95). When a down-on-his-luck attorney gets mixed up with a gorgeous singer with a secret past, it results in an absorbing tale of love, betrayal, and murder. PW & Booklist
**DEEP POCKETS, Barnes, Linda (St. Martin’sMinotaur $24.95). Barnes, one of today's most popular crime fiction writers, returns with another engaging novel featuring Boston P.I. Carlotta Carlyle. Carlotta's curiosity gets the better of her in this complicated, surprising mystery infused with the personality and suspense that have become the trademarks of one of mystery fiction's most beloved authors. Kirkus
**HIGH COUNTRY, Barr, Nevada (Putnam $24.95). It's fall in the Sierra Mountains, and Anna Pigeon is investigating the disappearance of four seasonal park employees in Yosemite National Park. She follows the scent of evil, taking a solo hike up a snowy trail to the high country, seeking answers. What waits for her is a nightmare of death and greed--and perhaps her final adventure. Booklist & DP
**RELATIVE DANGER, Benoit, Charles (Poisoned Pen $24.95). Picture a hotel room in 1948 Singapore where a dispute between black marketer/thief Russell Pearce and an associated ends up with a dead Russell Pearce. Fast forward to present-day Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Young Doug Pearce, just fired from his steady job in the brewery, has never strayed far from home. But he's always found stories of his Uncle Russ, the family black sheep, fascinating. In comes a letter from an old friend of his dead uncle inviting him up to Toronto. Doug, at loose ends accepts. On arrival, he learns that wealthy and glamorous Edna has assembled enough clues to solve the murder of Russell Booklist & PW
**HATE CRIME, Bernhart, William ( Ballantine, $25.95). An odious criminal defendant is foisted on Tulsa, Oklahoma defense attorney Ben Kincaid's practice: Johnny Christensen, a hate-filled frat boy accused of beating a gay man to death outside a singles bar in a Chicago suburb. DP
**THE BURGLER ON THE PROWL, Block, Lawrence (Morrow $24.95). In this long-awaited new installment of the popular series, burglar extraordinaire Bernie Rhodenbarr, "one of the slickest characters in crime" (the Houston Post), steals with style but never simplicity. PW
**THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS, Bruen, Ken (St. Martin’s Minotaur $22.95) When Jack Taylor blew town at the end of Bruen's dazzling novel The Guards, his alcoholism was a distant memory and his sober dreams of a new life in London were shining in his eyes. Now Jack's back in Galway a year later with a new leather jacket on his back and a pint of Guinness on his mind. So much for new beginnings. PW
**IN THE MOON OF RED PONIES, Burke, James Lee (Simon & Schuster $24.95). New York Times best-selling author James Lee Burke--"one of the best writers of our time" (The Denver Post)--returns with another tale of evil and redemption, featuring his beloved Texas lawyer, Billy Bob Holland. PW & Kirkus
**THE MURDER ARTIST, Case, John (Ballantine $25.95). A TV reporter sets out on a coast-to-coast quest against time to save his twin sons in this novel by the Hammett Prize-nominated author of the Eighth Day. DP, Kirkus & PW
**THE ENEMY, Child, Lee (Delacorte, $25.00). This prequel finds Reacher still in the military working as a Major in the military police. He investigates two murders relating to his base despite all sorts of obstacles thrown in his way by his superior officer. LJ, Kirkus, Booklist, PW & DP
**JUST ONE LOOK, Coben, Harlan (Dutton, $25.95). When Grace Lawson finds a strange snapshot in among her film order, it sets off a chain of events starting with her husband’s disappearance. Booklist & DP
**THE NARROWS, Connelly, Michael (Little, Brown $25.95). Investigating what appears to have been the natural death of the husband of an old friend, LAPD detective Harry Bosch decides to dig deeper, given the man's ties to the hunt for the infamous serial killer, The Poet. What Harry discovers leads him into the most terrifying situation he has ever encountered. PW, Booklist & DP
**GARDEN OF BEASTS: A Novel of Berlin 1936, Deaver, Jeffrey (Simon & Schuster $24.95). Called the reigning "master of ticking-bomb suspense" (People), Deaver has written a gripping international thriller--with a range of real political figures and Olympic athletes--that introduces his most psychologically complex hero to date. PW & LJ
**NIGHT FALL, DeMille, Nelson (Warner, $26.95). Five years after the crash of Flight 800 two members of the Elite Anti-terrorist Task Force suspect it was no accident and they set out to recover the one piece of evidence to prove it: a videotape that shows a couple making love on the beach as the airliner crashes. Kirkus, LJ & DP
**THE WITCH'S TONGUE, Doss, James D. (Minotaur $24.95). Ute tribal investigator Charlie Moon tries to make sense of a string of seemingly unconnected incidents beginning with a museum burglary and ending with the murder of a police officer. PW & Kirkus
**RAIN STORM, Eisler, Barry (Putnam $ 24.95). In Eisler's third novel, his romantic, conscientious Japanese-American assassin, John Rain, has fled to Brazil to escape the killing business, but he becomes a reluctant player in an international game far deadlier and more insidious. PW & DP
**ALONE AT NIGHT, Erickson, K.J. (Minotaur $24.95). In 1987, Julie Iverson vanished from her job at a rural Minnesota gas station. Mars Barr gets interested in the old case when Julie’s best friend is murdered and the whereabouts of the case’s two primary witnesses are unknown. Kirkus & Booklist
**THE WARLORD'S SON, Fesperman, Dan (Knopf $23.00). In this electrifying thriller set in present-day Afghanistan, the fates of an American journalist and his Pakistani translator become dangerously intertwined with the fortunes of warlords, spies, and dubious corporate interests. DP & PW
**PARANOIA, Finder, Joseph (St Martins $24.95) From the critically acclaimed author of The Zero Hour and High Crimes comes an electrifying, original new novel. Adam Cassidy is a low level employee at a high-tech corporation who hates his job. When he manipulates the system to do something nice for a friend, he finds himself charged with a crime. LJ, PW & DP
**WAKING RAPHAEL, Forbes, Leslie (Bantam $ 25.00). The restoration of an enigmatic painting unlocks unspeakable secrets and drives a mute woman to commit a shocking act of violence--which sparks an investigation into a nearly forgotten war crime and a series of events that will shatter the silence gripping this community. PW & LJ
**RED TIDE, Ford, G.M. (Morrow $23.95). Ford's latest action-packed, highly suspenseful mystery finds Frank Corso on a case where an investigation into a gruesome murder unravels a massive terrorist conspiracy--but in an unexpected way. Kirkus & Booklist
**DARK VOYAGE, Furst, Alan (Random $24.95). Tangier, April 1941. In the tradition of The Polish Officer and Blood of Victory, Dark Voyage is Alan Furst at his best -- a superb adventure of historical espionage at sea and in the waterfron alleys of port cities, as a decent, good-hearted man becomes a fighting hero in an increasingly threatening world. Kirkus, PW & Booklist
**SOUTHWESTERLY WIND, Garcia-Roza, Luiz Alfredo (Holt $22.00). A young man predicts a murder and identifies the perpetrator--himself--in this third entry in the critically acclaimed Brazilian crime series. Garcia-Roza once again "breathes fresh air into the crime novel genre" (Los Angeles Times). LJ & DP
**BODY DOUBLE, Gerritsen, Tess (Ballantine $24.95). Boston medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles literally meets her match--and must face a savage serial killer and shattering personal revelations. Kirkus & PW
**AN ANTIC DISPOSITION, Gordon, Alan (St. Martin’s Minotaur $23.95) In 1204 A.D., The Fool's Guild, on the run from an enraged Innocent III and the Papal troops, has established a secret guildhall in the Black Forest. While laying low, one of the great stories of the Guild's history is revealed--how in 1157 A.D., the Guild intervened in a complicated, soon to be bloody dispute over the crown of Denmark. PW
**DEAD WATER, Hambly, Barbara (Bantam $25.00). The stunning, much-beloved January mystery series continues with a suspenseful installment that sets a free man of color on a perilous steamboat ride that becomes an inescapable passage to death and murder. PW & DP
**ICE RUN Hamilton, Steve (St. Martin’s Minotaur $21.95). P.I. Alex McKnight's romantic weekend with Natalie Reynaud turns into an investigation of a mysterious note and a terrible family secret. Kirkus, PW & DP
**HAVANA ROOM, Harrison, Colin (FSG $24.00). In his gripping new thriller, Harrison tells the story of a man who falls from the heights of power and wealth in New York, and finds himself in a dangerous and potentially lethal state of affairs. Kirkus & PW
**FLESH AND BLOOD, Harvey, John (Carroll & Graf $25.00). Retired Detective Inspector Elder is drawn back into the unsolved disappearance of a young girl when his prime suspects are released from prison and another girl dies. An increasingly desperate Elder battles his own demons as he and his family are drawn into the very heart of the crime. BL
**LUCIFER'S SHADOW, Hewson, David (Delacorte $21.95). When Daniel Forster, a young Englishman, arrives in Venice, he is soon drawn into a treacherous game of deception spanning three centuries, from the Venice of Vivaldi and Rousseau to the violence of the present day. Booklist & DP
**GOOD MORNING, MIDNIGHT, Hill, Reginald (HarperCollins $24.95). The "sorcerer of style" (New York Times Book Review) is at the top of his form in this suspenseful story of a mysterious death that echoes one in the past. DP, LJ, Kirkus & PW
**SKELETON MAN, Hillerman, Tony (HarperCollins $25.95). Tony Hillerman is back with another blockbuster novel featuring the legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee. Booklist & PW
**FIRE BABY, Kelly, Jim (Minotaur $24.95). Reporter Philip Dryson hopes to blow open a murder story with the help of a dying woman and his own comatose wife. This is the follow-up to Kelly's debut, The Water Clock, which was short-listed for Britain's John Creasey Award. DP & PW
**THE MURDER EXCHANGE, Kernick, Simon (St. Martin’s Minotaur $24.95). Next from critically acclaimed author Kernick, ex-mercenary Max Iversson accompanies a nightclub owner to an ill-fated rendezvous in a deserted North London industrial estate. Kirkus & DP
**SHADOW MEN, King, Jonathan (Dutton $23.95). It begins with an 80-year-old mystery. Three men--a father and his two sons--vanished while working as laborers on a dangerous project to build the first road through the Florida Everglades. Now, years later, a series of letters are unexpectedly discovered by a descendant of these men. Booklist, PW & DP
**THE GAME, King, Laurie R. (Bantam $23.95). From the award-winning author of Justice Hall and Folly comes a new novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. Booklist & DP
**CUTTING ROOM, Klavan, Laurence (Ballantine $23.95). This tale of the long-lost complete version of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons launches a mystery series about cinemaniacs--people who literally would kill to see, or own, a movie. PW
**ABSOLUTE FRIENDS, Le Carre, John (Little, Brown $26.95) This epic tale of loyalty and betrayal spans the lives of two friends from the riot-torn West Berlin of the 1960s to the grimy looking-glass of Cold War Europe to the present day of terrorism and new alliances. This is the novel le Carr fans have been waiting for, a brilliant, ferocious, heartbreaking work for the ages. PW & Booklist
**DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER, Lindsey, Jeff (Doubleday $22.95). Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a new kind of mystery novel starring a lovable serial killer, one Dexter Morgan, who only kills bad people and who cringes at the sight of blood. PW, LJ, Booklist & DP
**BY A SPIDER’S THREAD, Lippman, Laura (Morrow, $24.95).
**THE SPECTACLE OF CORRUPTION, Liss, David (Random $24.95) Benjamin Weaver, the quick-witted pugilist-turned-private-investigator, returns in Liss's sequel to the Edgar Award-winning novel, A Conspiracy of Paper. Kirkus, Booklist & DP
**THE COIL, Lynds, Gayle (St. Martin's, $24.95). A former CIA field agent as well as the daughter of perhaps the most notorious Cold War assassin, the man known to the world only as The Carnivore, Liz Sansborough is now a university professor in Southern California specializing in the psychology of violence. But her dead father’s legacy has come back to overtake Liz. DP
**HIGH COUNTRY FALL, Maron, Margaret (Mysterious $24). With friends and family over-reacting to her announcement that she plans to marry Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant, Judge Deborah Knott gratefully seizes the opportunity to work a week on the bench at Cedar Gap. But Deborah's peaceful break is interrupted by murder. PW, Booklist & DP
**THE SURROGATE THIEF, Mayor, Archer (Mysterious $24.95). The latest installment in the classic Joe Gunther series finds the Vermont detective on his most personal and dangerous case yet. Kirkus & PW
**HARK!: A NOVEL OF THE 87TH PRECINCT, McBain, Ed (Simon & Schuster $24.95).
With the same electric style that continues to garner raves, McBain again fuses gritty crime narrative, dead-on comic timing, and rich characterization to deliver one of his most satisfying capers to date. The detectives of the 87th Precinct must scramble to foil the Deaf Man's ingeniously meticulous scheme and stop him from committing the perfect crime. Booklist & PW
**OLD BOYS, McCarry, Charles (Overlook $25.95). When crack intelligence agent Paul Christopher disappears, his ex-agent cousin enlists the support of four other retired colleagues to find him. Harassed by American intelligence and hunted by terrorists, they travel the globe in search of the unspeakably dangerous truth. LJ, Kirkus & Booklist
**HEART OF THE HUNTER, Meyer, Deon (Little Brown $23.95). In his stunning American debut, the South African thriller writer delivers the story of a kidnapping and of a man refusing to reclaim the ruthless methods he mastered in the darkest days of South Africa's battle for survival. LJ, Kirkus, BL & DP
**DECEPTIONS, Mina, Denise (Little Brown $ 23.95). Scotland's most exciting up-and-coming mystery novelist offers the story of a man's desperate search for evidence to overturn his wife's murder conviction. As Lachlan searches the forbidden sanctuary of Susie's home office for proof of her innocence, he uncovers evidence of her secret life.(British title: Sanctum) Kirkus & PW
**RUMPOLE AND THE PENGE BUNGALOW MURDERS, Mortimer, John (Viking, $24.95). The author tells the story of Rumpole's very first case which began to shape him into the eccentric and cantankerous defender of justice and reciter of poetry that readers know and love. Booklist & DP
**LITTLE SCARLET, Mosley, Walter (Little Brown $24.95). An irresistible story of love and death, this latest Easy Rawlins mystery takes place during the devastating 1965 Watts riots. Easy's hunt for a killer reveals a new city emerging from the ashes--and a new life for Easy and his friends. Booklist, PW, Kirkus, LJ & DP
**STONE CRIBS, Nelscott, Kris (St. Martin’s Minotaur $24.95) Edgar-finalist Nelscott once again delivers a heart-stopping novel that is part thriller and part chronicle of one of the country's most turbulent times. It's 1969 in Chicago. Smokey Dalton saves the life of a young woman after a botched illegal abortion, and this act of charity blooms into a more complicated situation when Smokey learns that the woman had been raped. Kirkus & PW
**CALIFORNIA GIRL, Parker, T. Jefferson (Morrow $24.95). A different world then, a different world now . . . California in the 1960s. For the Becker brothers, the past is always present and it comes crashing back when the body of the lovely and mysterious Janelle Vonn is discovered in an abandoned orange packing house. Kirkus & LJ
**HARD REVOLUTION, Pelecanos, George P. (Little Brown $24.95) In this epic showdown from "one of the best crime novelists alive" (Dennis Lehane), police officer Derek Strange hunts his brother's killer through a city erupting with rage. Booklist, PW & DP
**QUEEN OF THE SOUTH, Perez-Reverte, Arturo (Putnam $25.95). When Teresa Mendoza's drug smuggling boyfriend is killed, she must find inside herself a woman who is tough enough to inhabit a world as ugly and dangerous as that of the narcos--a woman she never before knew existed. PW & Booklist
**A QUESTION OF BLOOD, Rankin, Ian (Little Brown $ 22.95). When a former soldier and recluse murders two 17-year-old students at a posh Edinburgh boarding school, Rebus immediately suspects there is more to the case than meets the eye. PW & DP
**SHANTARAM, Roberts, Gregory (St Martins $24.95). Based directly upon the experiences of its author, Shantaram is the story of a man who escapes from a maximum security in Australia to arrive in Bombay, the crossroads of the underworld, where he works in a first-aid station and smuggles drugs and guns. Kirkus & PW
**PLAYING WITH FIRE, Robinson, Peter (Morrow $23.95) Multiple-prize-winning and international bestselling author Robinson returns with a new novel of burning suspense, as a deadly case of arson leads Inspector Banks into his most dangerous case yet. Booklist & DP
**ABSENT FRIENDS, Rozan, S.J. (Delacorte $24.00). The secrets of a group of childhood friends unravel in this haunting thriller by Edgar Award winner S.J. Rozan. Set in New York in the unforgettable aftermath of September 11, ABSENT FRIENDS brilliantly captures a time and place unlike any other. PW, Booklist, LJ & DP
**JUDGMENT OF CAESAR, Saylor, Steven (St. Martin’s Minotaur $24.95). In the late days of the Roman civil war, Gordianus the Finder is caught in Egypt in the midst of the last struggle between Pompeii and Julius Caesar, and between Ptolemy and Cleopatra while he searches for his missing wife. Kirkus, Booklist & PW
**THE MONGOL REPLY, Schutz, Benjamin M. (Five Star $25.95)."THE MONGOL REPLY isn't just a solid thriller, it's also a fascinating insider's account of how the wheels of divorce court "justice" can grind an innocent party into dust . . . his hero, child psychologist Morgan Reece, is the reader's perfect searchlight into this dark and heart-rending world." - Jeremiah Healey Booklist, PW & DP
**UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE, Seranella, Barbara (Scribner $ 24.00). Best-selling author Seranella pits her charismatic heroine against a puzzling organized crime ring involving exploited children, burglary and murder in this seventh installment of the Munch Mancini series. PW, Booklist & DP
**WOLVES EAT DOGS, Smith, Martin Cruz (Simon & Schuster $25.95). With Arkady Renko, Smith created one of the iconic sleuths of contemporary fiction. Renko returns to investigate international plots that drive one of Russia's billionaire businessmen to jump to his death. Booklist, LJ & PW
**OUT OF THE DEEP I CRY Spencer-Fleming, Julia (St. Martin’s Minotaur $ 23.95). Julia Spencer-Fleming does it again in this third mystery series featuring Episcopal priest (and retired Army chopper pilot) Clare Fergusson and Police Chief Russ van Alstyne in the quiet town of Millers Kill, New York. PW & DP
**THE CONFESSION, Steinhauer, Olen (St. Martin’s Minotaur $24.95) Eastern Europe 1956: Comrade Inpector Ferenc Kolyeszar, homicide detective and aspiring writer, is watching his life unravel. Estranged from his wife, frustrated by writer's block and tracking a murderer through the shadowy capital. By the author of Bridge of Sighs. Kirkus, LJ, BL, PW & DP
**LOADED DICE, Swain, James (Ballantine $22.95). When his son goes missing in Las Vegas, ex-cop Tony Valentine jets after him and lands inside a treacherous game with higher stakes than he has ever encountered before. Kirkus & DP
**WILEY'S SHUFFLE, Waiwaiole, Lono (St. Martin’s Minotaur $23.95). In Wiley's world, violence runs deep and loyalty runs even deeper. So when a prostitute named Miriam gets attached to the wrong guy, Wiley leaves the poker table, grabs his best friend Leon and starts looking for a way to shake her loose. Trouble is, the guy is a sociopathic pimp named Dookie who's on the lucky streak of a lifetime and who is starting to feel invincible. Kirkus
**BIRDS OF A FEATHER, Winspear, Jacqueline (Soho $25.00). Maisie Dobbs is back and this time she has been hired to find a wealthy grocery magnate's missing daughter. The case is complicated by the violent deaths of three of the heiress' friends. Maisie discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of The Great War. PW & DP
**WHILE I DISAPPEAR, Wright, Edward (Putnam $24.95). This stunning crime novel takes readers into Hollywood's underbelly during a time when the studio system was crumbling yet memories of the glory days were all too familiar. PW, Booklist & DP
**TELLING LIES TO ALICE, Wilson, Laura (Delta $22.95) Hailed as "a subtle mind reader" by The New York Times, Wilson is a master at combining psychological suspense with mesmerizing story lines. Now she explores the haunting world of a woman whose psyche has been shaken by fate. Previously published in England as Hello Bunny Alice. Kirkus & DP
BEST FIRST MYSTERY NOVELS 2004
**BAD MOVE, Barclay, Linwood (Bantam $22.00). In one day, Zack Walter turns his model life into a model disaster--so, he's got to do some serious damage control before his wife gets home from work. Whoever said the 'burbs were boring will think again after laughing through this hilarious page-turner. PW & DP
**WALKING MONEY, Born, James O. (Putnam $23.95). Filled with a rich array of characters, a constantly twisting plot, and an astonishing authenticity, this novel is indeed proof that "Jim Born is the real thing" (Elmore Leonard). BL & DP
**THE RULE OF FOUR, Caldwell, Ian & Dustin Thomason (Dial $24.00). When a long-lost diary surfaces, it seems Tom Sullivan and Paul Harris have found the key to a secret labyrinth. However, when a fellow researcher is murdered only hours after their find, the friends suddenly realize that they are caught in a web of great danger. Kirkus & PW
**37TH HOUR, Compton, Jodi (Delacorte $21.95). Compton introduces Detective Sarah Pribek, a successful missing persons specialist facing the most disturbing case of her career when her husband, another officer, simply vanishes into thin air. Kirkus & DP
**CORONER'S LUNCH, Cotterill, Colin (Soho $ 23.00). When an elderly doctor takes over as state coroner of newly formed Communist Laos in the late 1970s, he unexpectedly stirs the bureaucratic pot and unravels three complicated and intertwined murder plots his superiors want to sweep under the carpet. Kirkus, Booklist & DP
**THE GRENADILLO BOX, Gleeson, Janet (Simon & Schuster $25.00) The debut novel transports readers to 18th-century Georgian England for an intricate, romantic tale of murder and intrigue. Booklist & DP
**RIFT ZONE, Hillhouse, Raelynn (Forge $24.95). Raelynn J. Hillhouse has constructed an engrossing novel of espionage, action, and heart-pounding danger. Told with knowledge and authenticity, Rift Zone takes you inside the workings of communist East Germany and the Soviet Union. DP & LJ
**RETRIBUTION, Hoffman, Jilliane P.(Putnam $24.95) An elite prosecutor faces the most lethal predator she's ever encountered, in this debut novel inspired by the author's own experiences as an Assistant State Attorney in Florida. LJ
**I DREAMED I MARRIED PERRY MASON, Kandel, Susan (Morrow $23.95). Susan Kandel has written an adventurous, humorous debut novel that takes us on a well-researched romp through California's past and present, complete with turn-of-the-century robber barons and the haute couture of the '40s."--Barbara Seranella Kirkus & DP
**THE HUNDREDTH MAN, Kerley, Jack (Dutton, $23.95). Recalling Michael Connelly's taut storytelling and James Patterson's searing narrative twists, Kerley creates a world where heroes can't succeed without madmen, and the dead are the most dangerous of all. Kirkus, LJ & Booklist
**TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE, Koryta, Michael (Minotaur $21.95). A remarkable crime novel from the winner of the 2003 SMP/PWA Prize for Best First PI Novel, this debut finds two private investigators searching for a young girl and her mother after the child's father is found dead of an apparent suicide. DP & LJ
**DATING DEAD MEN, Kozak, Harley Jane (Doubleday $22.95) Kozak's debut novel is a smart, funny, fast-paced mystery in the tradition of Janet Evanovich featuring greeting card artist and small business owner Wollie Shelley, a woman who's looking for love--and job satisfaction--in all the wrong places when she literally stumbles across a murder that irrevocably changes her life (in some ways, for the better). Kirkus, LJ, PW & DP
**THE DEAD SIT ROUND IN A RING, Lawrence, David (St. Martin’s Minotaur $24.95). "Four people sitting in a ring. Two men and two women. All of them dead." Thus begins a case that will take DS Stella Mooney from the fabulous flats of Notting Hill to the decidedly tougher side of town. Kirkus, PW, Booklist & DP
**BOYOS, Marinick, Richard (Justin Charles $24.95). Marinick grew up running with the Southie gangs during the Whitey Bulger era, and learned to write during a ten-year prison stretch. He writes what he knows, and his shattering, utterly authentic first novel, Boyos is the result. Kirkus
**SKIN RIVER, Sidor, Steven (St. Martin’s Minotaur $23.95). In this incredible debut, Buddy Bayes, a man with a past, finds his life shattered when he finds the severed hand of a missing young woman. "Steven Sidor must have sold his soul to the devil to write this well."--Steve Hamilton, author of Ice Run. Kirkus
**SOME DANGER INVOLVED, Thomas, Will (Touchstone, $22.95). Hardly has Llewelyn settled into his new quarters in his employer's residence when he is called upon to assist Cyrus Barker in an investigation of the crucifixion death of a young Jewish scholar. Set in 19th Century London. DP
**THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, Zafon, Carlos Ruiz (Penguin Press, $24.95). The time is the 1950s; the place, Barcelona. Daniel Sempere, the son of a widowed bookstore owner, is 10 when he discovers a novel, The Shadow of the Wind, by Julián Carax. The novel is rare, the author obscure, and rumors tell of a horribly disfigured man who has been burning every copy he can find of Carax's novels. The man calls himself Laín Coubert – the name of the devil in one of Carax's novels. As he grows up, Daniel's fascination with the mysterious Carax links him to a blind femme fatale with a "porcelain gaze," Clara Barceló; another fan, a leftist jack-of-all-trades, Fermín Romero de Torres; his best friend's sister, the delectable Beatriz Aguilar; and, as he begins investigating the life and death of Carax, a cast of characters with secrets to hide. DP
BEST BRITISH CRIME NOVELS 2004
**A CRY FROM THE DARK by Robert Barnard (Allison & Busby, £17.99; Scribner, Feb, 2004, $24.95). The renowned and wealthy author, Bettina Whitelaw is in her eighties as the story opens and she is dictating her memoirs of her early life in Australia. So we get glimpses of her present and past lives (the past one being somewhat more interesting). We go quite a ways into the book before any crime is committed and it is one from her teenage years, which comes to have bearing on her golden ones.
**PHOENIX by John Connor (Orion, £9.99). On a morning when DC Karen Sharpe has the worst hangover of her life, she's dragged into a murder investigation -- her boss has been shot, along with a female informant. First novel.
**CHINESE WHISPERS by Peter May (Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99; £6.99). Li Yan, the head of Beijing's crime squad, is charged with providing a quick result on the case of the Beiijing Ripper. The results of an autopsy on one of the victims sends shockwaves through the investigation, and then Li begins to receive personal letters from the killer
**LIMESTONE COWBOY by Stuart Pawson (Allison & Busby, £17.99; in U.S., $25.95). Yorkshire DI Charlie Priest is a very nice man but one who has been unlucky in love. But things are looking up as his attendance at an adult education geology class leads to a friendship with his attractive teacher. But when she finds out he is a policeman, she turns noticeably cold and Charlie is puzzled until he finds out about a dark episode in her past.
**FIRST DROP by Zoe Sharp (Piatkus, £18.99). Charlie and Sean’s trip to Florida should have been a working holiday -- and a chance to build on the fresh start they promised to make when they last worked together. All Charlie has to do is to baby-sit Trey Pelzner, the gawky fifteen-year-old son of a rich computer programmer in Fort Lauderdale. The last thing anyone expected was a determined attempt to snatch the boy, or that Trey's father and their entire close protection team -- including Sean -- would disappear off the face of the earth at the same time. Now somebody out there wants the boy badly and they're prepared to kill anyone who gets in their way.
**PECKING ORDER by Chris Simms (Hutchinson, £12.99). Rubble lives in a caravan and works on a battery farm. One day a mysterious visitor arrives and soon Rubble is employed on a sinister project. Rubble's only chance of realizing how he's being used lies with the one person he confides in - a fortune-teller working on a premium-rate telephone line.
**THE WITCH MAKER by Sally Spencer (Severn House, £18.99, in U.S. $28.95). When DCI Charlie Woodend and DS Monika Paniatowski are sent to the village of Hallerton to investigate a brutal murder, they walk into a nightmare. Hallerton is the home of the gruesome Witch Burning, which occurs every 20 years and re-enacts the death of suspected witch Meg Ramsden, burned at the stake in 1604. Hallerton even has its own Witch Maker, whose responsibility is to make Meg's effigy. The murder victim, Witch Maker Harry Dimdyke, has been garrotted and tied to the burning stake just days before the ceremony.
**DISORDERED MINDS by Minette Walters (Macmillan, ^16.99). The story centres on the case of Howard Stamp, a retarded twenty-year-old, who was convicted on disputed evidence, and a retracted confession, of having killed his grandmother in her Dorset home in 1970. Three years after his conviction Stamp committed suicide whilst in prison, apparently bringing to an end a tragic episode. Thirty years later, however, anthropologist and author Jonathan Hughes throws doubt on Stamp’s conviction when he re-examines the case as part of a book on legal injustices.
BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINALS 2004
**DEATH OF A TART by Kate Borden, pseudonym of Kate Grilley (Berkley, $5.99) series debut. Peggy Jean Turner is a widow who finds herself as Mayor of the small New England village of Cobb's Landing. As with many towns and cities, Cobb’s Landing has many financial worries, Max’s idea is to turn the village into a colonial tourist attraction. When a local woman with easy virtue is found murdered, P.J. starts taking an active role in the investigation.
**COLD CASE, Burcell, Robin (Avon, $6.99). Three years ago SFPD Homicide Investigator Kate Gillespie was in pursuit of a suspect who murdered a hooker in a sleazy motel, and she nearly lost her own life in the process. The shooter escaped into the San Francisco shadows and the trail went colder than the grave. Now Kate's appearance on a Bay Area "crime stoppers" TV show produces new leads that carry her back into the sordid world of drugs and prostitution.
**BAGMAN, MacLarty, Jay (Pocket $6.99). Professional courier Simon Leonidovich delivers the ransom payment for the release of Kyra Ryerson, daughter of Las Vegas billionaire Big Jake Ryerson. But she isn’t released. PW & DP
**THE UPRIGHT MAN, Marshall, Michael (Jove, $6.99). Ward Hopkins is afraid. He's seen something dreadful in the high plains of the Columbia River. It's sent him fleeing cross country, forever running. And in his wake, one by one, people are dying. Something's following Ward Hopkins.
**ISLAND OF BONES, Parrish, P.J. (Pinnacle $6.99) The New York Times best-selling author brings back detective Louis Kincaid for a fast-paced, fascinating thriller about a mysterious private island which harbors a dark--and deadly--family secret. PW & DP
**TWISTED CITY, Starr, Jason (Vintage, $12.00). After fumbling a casual pickup in a bar, financial journalist David Miller realizes his wallet has been lifted, and he quickly descends into Manhattan's underbelly to retrieve it. Life has been rough lately: deeply depressed after the death of his beloved sister, David lost his job with the Wall Street Journal. He hates his new job and despises his younger live-in girlfriend, who seems more and more psychotic every day. But that was yesterday—today he's negotiating in a sweltering closed-in room in an Alphabet City tenement with a junkie hooker who claims she "found" his wallet. David knows she must be in on the sting, and the wallet isn't that important except for his favorite picture of his sister he keeps in it. But from facing mere extortion, it takes only a few hours for the reporter to find himself plunged into murder and blackmail.
**THE SHADOW OF VENUS by Judith Van Gieson (Signet $5.99) Library archivist and rare book expert Claire Reynier returns in another compelling and intriguing mystery. A homeless woman is found dead in a library storeroom with a page cut from a valuable book from the rare book collection.
**THIEVES DOZEN, Westlake, Donald E. (Mysterious Press, $12.95). All the usual Westlake suspects are back in another fine mess, or in this case in a delightful collection of 11 Dortmunder stories. Booklist & DP