The following is a list of 2006 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 or good all-around recommended reading lists? You may want to look at:
DP List 2005
DP List 2004
DP List 2003
DP List 2002
DP List 2001
DP List 2000
**THE PALE BLUE EYE, Bayard, Louis (HarperCollins, $24.95). In this ingenious tale of murder and revenge at West Point, a retired New York City detective recruits a young cadet named Edgar Allan Poe to help him narrow down the suspects, even as they deal with their own personal demons. PW & Kirkus
**HARD WAY, Child, Lee (Delacorte $25.00, May, 2006; in the U.K., £14.99, July, 2006). While at a sidewalk restaurant, Jack Reacher watches a man cross the street to a parked Mercedes and drive it away. He later finds out that the car contained one million dollars in ransom money. And Edward Lane, the man who paid it, will pay even more to get his family back. Booklist, LJ & DP
**SEE DELPHI AND DIE, Davis, Lindsey (St Martin’s Minotaur, $24.95). Humor, surprises, and domestic irony await Roman sleuth Falco as he attempts to solve the disappearance of two newlyweds on their honeymoon trip to Ancient Greece. Kirkus, Booklist & LJ
**FOOLISH UNDERTAKING, De Castrique, Mark (Poisoned Pen $24.95). The night before a funeral that will thrust the mountain town of Gainesboro, North Carolina, into the national spotlight, the body is stolen from the embalming room and funeral director Barry Clayton is knocked unconscious. LJ & Booklist
**THE LAST ASSASSIN, Eisler, Barry (Putnam, $24.95). When Japanese/American contract killer John Rain learns that his former lover, Midori, has been raising their child in New York, he senses a chance for reconciliation, perhaps even for redemption. But Midori is being watched by Rain's enemies, and his sudden appearance puts mother and child in terrible danger. To save them, Rain is forced to use the same deadly talents he had been hoping to leave behind. DP
**DEATH DANCE, Fairstein, Linda A. (Scribner $26.00). The author of Entombed goes behind the scenes of New York City's theater world--from Broadway to Lincoln Center--in this riveting Alexandra Cooper thriller rich with authenticity, history, and suspense. Booklist & LJ
**THE SADDLEMAKER'S WIFE, Fowler, Earlene (Berkley $23.95). After the death of her husband, Ruby McGavin is shocked to learn she's inherited part of a cattle ranch in California. She's even more shocked to learn the family he claimed died years ago is very much alive. Driven to discover the whole story, Ruby discovers a legacy of pain and denial. PW & Kirkus
**THE FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, Furst, Alan (Random House, $24.95). "The greatest living writer of espionage fiction" ("Houston Chronicle") returns with his most suspenseful and stylish novel yet, in which an international news correspondent's secret life leads him to become a target for assassination. PW & Kirkus
**MATTO'S REALM, Glauser, Friedrich (Bitter Lemon $13.95). A child-murderer escapes from a Swiss insane asylum. The stakes get higher when Detective Sergeant Studer discovers the director's body, neck broken, in the boiler room of the madhouse. The intuitive Studer is drawn into the workings of an institution that darkly mirrors the world outside. Even he cannot escape the pull of the no man's land between reason and madness where Matto, the spirit of insanity, reigns. PW & Booklist
**GENTLEMEN AND PLAYERS, Harris, Joanne (Morrow $24.95). Friendship, murder, revenge, and class conflict collide in an upper-crust English school. As a new term gets under way, a number of annoying incidents befall students and faculty, escalating to murder. PW, Booklist & LJ
**ASH & BONE, Harvey, John (Harcourt $25.00). Detective Sergeant Maddy Birch and retired Detective Inspector Frank reconnect when a phone call persuades the unsettled, unhappy Elder out of retirement--to find that a cold case has a devastating present-day impact. LJ & Booklist
**SACRED CUT, Hewson, David (Delacorte $22.00). When Detective Nic Costa arrives on a murder scene, he isn't prepared for what he finds--nor for the ambush that sends his only witness vanishing into the night. As the first murder leads to more grisly slayings, he uncovers a trail of deception that might lead to the U.S. government. Booklist
**DEATH WITHOUT COMPANY, Johnson, Craig (Viking, $23.95). This riveting tale of the unspeakable viciousness that can lurk in the most unlikely of places is a new Sheriff Walt Longmire mystery from the author of the acclaimed The Cold Dish. Kirkus & Booklist
**HAVE YOUR CAKE AND KILL HIM TOO by Nancy Martin (NAL, $19.95). Heiress-go-lightly Nora Blackbird and her two sisters-desperate housewife and nudist-yoga enthusiast Libby and fiercely independent Emma-are back in this rollicking mystery about a sports bar with hot wings and hotter waitresses, explosive political secrets, former rock stars, a dangerous fame-and-fortune-hungry aristo-brat, and, of course, a case of blue-blooded murder that only Nora can solve. DP
**BLUE SHOES AND HAPPINESS, McCall Smith, Alexander (Pantheon, $21.95). This newest entry in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series continues the adventures of Precious Ramotswe, Botswana's leading, and only, female private detective. Her personal life, busy agency, and unusual cases are always fascinating--and highly entertaining. Kirkus & Booklist
**DEAD BEFORE DYING by Deon Meyer (Little Brown, $24.95). Captain Mat Joubert of Capetown, South Africa, has several problems he must solve. First of all, there is a polite bandit holding up the Premier Banks. He always compliments the bank clerks as he is robs them. Second, and more pressing, is the seemingly random murders of various men in town -- all killed by an old German handgun. LJ & DP
**DAYS OF RAGE, Nelscott, Kris (St. Martin’s Minotaur $22.95). As racial tensions mount during the 1969 celebrity trial of the Chicago Eight, African American PI Smokey Dalton is keeping a low profile with his son, Jimmy, who knows a dark secret about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. When Smokey finds a group of skeletons hidden in the wall of a building he’s inspecting for investor Lara Hathaway, his investigation leads him into Chicago’s racist past and implicates some of the nation’s most powerful people in a deadly 1919 riot. PW & Kirkus
**THE FALLEN, Parker, T. Jefferson (Morrow $24.95). Parker plumbs the depths of the human heart in this electrifying new novel of suspense. Kirkus, BL & PW
**BRANDENBURG GATE, Porter, Henry (Atlantic, $24.00). In this "accomplished retro thriller" ("The Sunday Telegraph"), Porter captures the tense final moments of the Berlin Wall in the multilayered story of a former foreign agent faced with unbearable choices. PW & LJ
**MOURNERS: Nameless, Pronzini, Bill (Forge $24.95). Pronzini's series continues, as Nameless tails a man who has been attending the funerals for women who had died violently. Was he responsible for their deaths? One woman thinks the man killed her sister, and her insistence is becoming a problem. Kirkus, Booklist & DP
**CRIPPLE CREEK, Sallis, James (Walker, $23.00). In the sequel to Cypress Grove, deputy sheriff Turner returns to Memphis, the city that formed him, and confronts his ghosts and sets in motion a tempest that threatens to destroy his newfound sanctuary. PW, Kirkus, Booklist & LJ
**UNACCEPTABLE DEATH, Seranella, Barbara (Minotaur $23.95). Munch Mancini had to fight her devils to get a decent life. Now she swears revenge on those who would wreck it. Refusing to believe the explanation that her fiance’ was killed by fellow cops in a drug bust gone wrong, Munch goes on a dangerous mission, first for knowledge, and then for revenge. Booklist, PW & DP
**STONE KILLER, Spencer, Sally (Severn $27.95). Prove my wife is innocent or the hostages die! Never before has DCI Woodend had to work under such terrible and terrifying pressure. He has just a few days, at the most, to find a flaw in the weighty evidence which led to Judith Maitland's conviction as a stone-cold killer Booklist & Kirkus
**A LONG SHADOW, Todd, Charles (Morrow $23.95). Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge begins to find engraved brass cartridges that seem to point to unfinished business involving the war. A man with a dark secret, Rutledge already walks on the edge of sanity. Now, someone is hunting him, but who? PW & DP
**BEAUTIFUL LIES, Unger, Lisa (Crown, $23.00). In this sexy, fast-paced literary thriller, Unger takes readers on a breathtaking ride in which a young New York writer's good deed has terrible consequences and leaves her running for her life. PW & Booklist
**MERCY SEAT, Waites, Martyn (Pegasus, $25.00). His heart broken by the disappearance of his six-year-old son two years earlier--a case that remains unsolved--former investigative journalist Joe Donovan is wrested from seclusion in Newcastle and finds his destiny entwined with that of a streetwise but vulnerable and frightened teenager. PW, LJ & DP
**KILL ME, White, Stephen (Dutton $25.95). In this "thinking person's thriller" (Jeffery Deaver), Stephen White throws out everything readers think they know about twists, turns, and surprises as he introduces the Death Angels. LJ & DP
Best First Novels
**THE MARK OF THE LION, Arruda, Suzanne (NAL $23.95). Still suffering lingering trauma from the Great War, Jade del Cameron sets off for Africa, determined to fulfill a man's dying a wish . . . and never expecting to become involved in murder. LJ & DP
**CARVED IN BONE, Bass, Jefferon (Morrow, $24.95, pseudonym of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson). A woman's corpse lies hidden in a cave in the mountains of East Tennessee. Undiscovered for thirty years, her body has been transformed by the cave's chemistry into a near-perfect mummy -- one that discloses an explosive secret to renowned anthropologist Bill Brockton. Dr. Brockton has spent his career surrounded by death and decay at the Body Farm, but even he is baffled by this case unfolding in a unique environment where nothing is quite what it seems. DP
**THE FAITHFUL SPY,Berenson, Alex (Random House, $24.95). A New York Times reporter has drawn upon his experience covering the occupation in Iraq to write the most gripping and chillingly plausible thriller of the post-9/11 era. Alex Berenson's debut novel of suspense, The Faithful Spy, is a sharp, explosive story that takes readers inside the war on terror as fiction has never done before. Kirkus, Booklist & DP
**CRIPPEN, Boyne, John (St. Martin’s Minotaur $24.95). This beautifully drawn novel re-creates the amazing escape attempt of one of history's most notorious killers PW & LJ
**THE PRINCESS OF BURUNDI, Eriksson, Kjell (St. Martin’s Minotaur $23.95). The novel begins, benignly enough, with a morning jog. The run turns deadly when the jogger finds a mutilated body in the snow. The victim is soon identified as the town+s reformed troublemaker and an expert on tropical fish. Inspector Ann Lindell, despite being on maternity leave, is determined to find the brutal killer. PW & LJ
**HARDSCRABBLE ROAD, Haddam, Jane (St Martin’s Minotaur $24.95). When a right-wing radio show host is arrested for illegal possession of prescription drugs, the incident sets into motion a deadly series of events. Leading the investigation is Gregor Demarkian, a retired FBI agent hired to stop a killer from striking again. Kirkus, LJ & PW
**THE KING OF LIES, Hart, John (St. Martin’s Minotaur, $22.95). When North Carolina lawyer Work Pickens finds his father murdered, the investigation pushes a repressed family history to the surface and he sees his own carefully constructed façade begin to crack.
Work’s troubled sister, her combative girlfriend, his gold-digging socialite wife, and an unrequited lifelong love join a cast of small town characters that create no shortage of drama. LJ, BL, PW & DP
**HOLMES ON THE RANGE, Hockensmith, Steve (St. Martin’s Minotaur $22.95). Somewhere due west of Deadwood, a pair of unlikely cowboy sleuths investigate murder just like their hero, Sherlock Holmes, who they come to know by scouring Harper's Weekly for the detective stories. LJ, BL & PW
**THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD, Hughes, Declan (Morrow, $23.95). After more than two decades away, private detective Ed Loy returns from L.A. to his hometown of Dublin for his mother's funeral. But his grieving soon takes an unexpected turn when his old classmate Linda Dawson pleads with him to find her missing husband, Peter. As if a worried wife with a seductive persona weren't enough to keep Loy occupied, his childhood pal turned small-time criminal, Tommy Owens, shows up on Loy's doorstep with a hard-luck story and a recently fired gun.
**RABBIT FACTORY, Karp, Marshall (Macadam Cage, $25.00). Rambunctious Rabbit--Rambo to his fans--is an American icon and a theme park's biggest draw. When the actor inside the Rambo costume and two other theme park employees are murdered, LAPD detectives must catch the madman before he brings the family entertainment giant to its knees. Booklist & PW
**SUNSTROKE, Kellerman, Jesse (Putnam $24.95). When her boss of 10 years disappears in Mexico, Gloria Mendez travels the twisted road into his backstory, discovering that Carl Perriera was not who she thought he was--nor was he anything she could have imagined--and she ends up fighting for her own life. Kirkus
**A FIELD OF DARKNESS, Read, Cornelia (Mysterious Press, $22.95). Madeline Dare isn't your average detective. Born into a blue-blood family, she followed her heart to marry Dean, a farmboy-genius inventor who's as far from high society as humanly possible. Now Maddie's stuck in the post-industrial wasteland of Syracuse, New York, while her husband spends weeks on the road perfecting the railway equipment. When a set of long-buried dog tags link her favorite cousin to the scene of a vicious double homicide, Maddie uncovers a startling web of intrigue and family secrets that could prove even more deadly. BL, LJ & Kirkus
**THE SULTAN’S SEAL, White, Jenny (Norton, $24.95). The naked body of a young Englishwoman washes up in Istanbul wearing a pendant inscribed with the seal of the deposed sultan. The death resembles the murder by strangulation of another English governess, a crime that was never solved. Kamil Pasha, a magistrate in the new secular courts, sets out to find the killer. Booklist
Best British Novels
**THE CHEMISTRY OF DEATH, Beckett, Simon (Bantam Press, £10.00). Widower Dr. David Hunter came to the small village of Manham in the Norfolk fens some three years ago. Because of personal tragedy, he left the bustle of London and a very successful occupation to become a small-town doctor with a family practice. But when decomposing bodies of young ladies are discovered in remote woodlands, he finds it difficult to deny the police the benefit of his training as an expert in the decaying of dead bodies.
**THE PRIEST, Bruen, Ken (Bantam Press, £16.99). After suffering what used to be called a nervous breakdown, Jack Taylor slowly starts putting the pieces of his abjectly sad life back together again. He finds that he is the beneficiary of an unexpected inheritance, which affords him some leeway to snoop into two matters that come his way. One is that an old friend, Ridge, a lesbian member of the Guards, is being stalked and threatened. And the other is that Father Malachy, an old ally of his mother, and hated by Jack (the feeling appears mutual) has asked Jack to look into the unsolved murder of a local priest who was accused of being a pedophile.
**A CHILD’S GAME, Connor, John (Orion, £9.99). The opening is brutal – A man is beaten, doused in petrol and thrown from a luxury penthouse apartment by two psychopaths in the gentrified and exclusive end of Leeds [a Northern British City]. The body is identified as Nicholas Hanley a property developer but he could be far, far more. Investigating the murder is DS Pete Bains, still hollow inside after Karen Sharpe left him and his world.
**SCAR TISSUE, Cutler, Judith (Allison & Busby, 2005, in U.S. $9.95). Caffy Taylor, former prostitute and drug addict, is in the process of making a new life for herself. Now sober and high on responsibility and learning and working as a house painter in an all-woman firm, she spies a dead body through a window. Despite all her previous bad experiences, she reports this to the police. When they investigate, the body has disappeared, and they accuse her of wasting police time.
**DARKNESS & LIGHT, Harvey, John (£12.99; in U.S. July, 2006 from Harcourt). Former cop Frank Elder is drawn out of retirement by a request from his ex-wife to look into the disappearance of Claire, her friend's older, widowed sister. When Claire is found dead at home--unmarked and carefully dressed--Elder is surprised by the similarities to an old case. Booklist
**RELENTLESS, Kernick, Simon (Bantam Press, £12.99, June, 2006). Tom gets a phone call from an old friend who is in danger. While he hears his friend being killed, he also hears his address as the last words spoken before the connection is broken. He doesn’t know why, but knows with total certainty that the killers will arrive at his house in a matter of minutes. Fantastic roller-coaster ride.
**WINGS OVER THE WATCHER, Masters, Priscilla (Allison & Busby, £18.99, in the U.S, $25.95). When Arthur Pennington enters DI Joanna Piercy’s office to report his missing wife, Joanna isn’t very concerned. She is sure there is a logical answer for the frumpy Beatrice’s absence. But days pass and Joanna is forced to change her mind and look into the matter with some depth.
**THE GRAVE TATTOO, McDermid, Val (HarperCollins, £17.99). A psychological thriller in which present-day murder has its roots in the eighteenth century and the mutiny on the Bounty.
**STONE KILLER, Spencer, Sally (Severn House, £18.99, in the U.S. $27.95). DCI Woodend is called into a bank hostage situation when the robbers say they will only negotiate with him. Here’s the terms for release of the hostages: find evidence that will prove that Judith Maitland is not guilty of the murder she is serving time for. Woodend and his staff have to investigate the matter quickly because there are forces who want to storm the bank and rescue the hostages which could prove disastrous.
**MR. CLARINET, Stone, Nick (Penguin/Michael Joseph, £12.99). Set in Miami and Haiti ex-cop, ex-con, now P.I Max Mingus is hired to find the missing grandson of the mega-rich Carver family in voodoo-dominated Haiti, where children have been disappearing for decades, but is it the mythical pied-piper like figure Mr Clarinet luring them away from their families or is the truth far, far more shocking.
**RED SKY LAMENT, Wright, Edward (Orion, £18.99). Third John Ray Horn mystery involving the House Un-American Activities Committee and the Red Scare. Published only in the U.K. so far.
Best Paperback Originals
**SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT, Cabot, Meg (Avon, $12.95). Meg Cabot strikes gold once more with a new series featuring a pop star-turned-girl detective in a mystery that rocks. PW & LJ
**THE LAST QUARRY, Collins, Max Allan (HardCaseCrime, $6.99, August, 2006). Former hit man Quarry comes out of retirement to save the lives of a pair of sisters.
**RAIN DOGS, Doolittle, Sean (Dell, $6.99). Chicago newspaperman Tom Coleman is drinking his way out of a broken marriage, grieving for his deceased daughter, when he inherits a backwater canoe-rental business near Valentine, Nebraska. He returns to his home state to start anew, but it seems more like a dead end. Coleman confronts family issues, small-town politics, a crooked cop, his first sweetheart, and the challenge of running a business while passed out drunk on the lawn.
**SHOTGUN OPERA, Gischler, Victor (Dell, $6.99). Mike Foley can never forget the night he tagged along with his brother on a job for the mob that ended in a hail of bullets. Now his brother is dead, Mike’s making wine in Oklahoma, and life is almost as good as it gets when you’ve been hiding out for forty years. Until Mike’s nephew Andrew needs to disappear, and he needs to do it yesterday. Hanging with the wrong kind of friends, he’s seen something he shouldn’t have, and now he’s running for his life with an assassin on his trail.
**THE PROP, Hautman, Pete (Simon & Schuster $14.00). A National Book Award winner pens a fast-paced mystery featuring a professional poker player who ups the ante in a deadly game of winner-take-all. Booklist
**ABOVE SUSPICION, LaPlante, Lynda (Touchstone Trade, $14.00). From the creator of the Prime Suspect TV series starring Helen Mirren. Anna Travis is a rookie detective assigned to her first murder investigation. She is the daughter of a legendary copper (now deceased) and she is cut some slack (but not a lot) because of respect for her father. The team is searching for a killer of prostitutes who has a very specific m.o. Then a young girl, obviously not a prostitute, is found murdered by the same methods of the team’s killer.
**THE DEEP BLUE ALIBI, Paul Levine (Bantam, $6.99). What do you get when you mix beautiful people, family secrets, and a yacht washed up on Sunset Key with a hundred grand in cash and a dying man? If you’re Steve Solomon, you see a case that can get Solomon & Lord off the ground. If you’re Victoria Lord, you see a golden opportunity to go out on your own. With her uncle a murder suspect and her hunky ex-boyfriend back in the picture, Victoria is pushing to take control as Solomon struggles to keep from losing it.
**LIVE WIRE, MacLarty, Jay (Pocket, $7.99). Faced with the dire news that North Korea intends to sell its nuclear weapons indiscriminately on the black market, the American President must resort to the unthinkable: he secretly offers to support a North Korean faction intent on overthrowing the government of Kim Jong-il. To facilitate this deadly covert operation, professional courier Simon Leonidovich is recruited to deliver vital CIA documents to the North Korean dissidents. But when Simon finds himself trapped behind enemy lines with a briefcase full of incriminating evidence, he discovers the true nature of the threat: an elaborate conspiracy by someone within the administration -- to take down the American President.
**DEADMAN’S POKER, Swain, Jim (Ballantine, $6.99). A poker tournament in Las Vegas, brings Tony Valentine and his son to investigate. Many elements of the plot are wrapped up by the end, but the mystery of how the poker tournament is continued in DEADMAN’S BLUFF.
**DEADMAN’S BLUFF, Swain, Jim (Ballantine, $6.99). Sequel to DEADMAN’S POKER.
**HARD WAY, Child, Lee (Delacorte $25.00, May, 2006; in the U.K., £14.99, July, 2006). See listing under Best Novels.
**KILLER INSTINCT by Joseph Finder (St. Martin’s Press, $24.95). Jason Steadman, successful salesman at an multi-national electronics company, drives into a ditch near his office outside Boston while talking to his wife on his cellphone. Jason befriends the tow-truck driver who comes to his rescue, Kurt Semko, an ex–Special Forces soldier, and recommends him for a position at Entronics. In gratitude, Kurt begins performing fiendish little jobs for Jason that boost his sales and fortunes with the company. But Kurt eventually gets carried away, and people begin to die.
**THE BERLIN CONSPIRACY by Tom Gabbay (Morrow, $24.95). The year is 1963. Jack Teller, an ex-CIA agent, is called out of retirement to meet with a Stasi officer who claims to have vital information which he will only pass on to Jack and no one else. After much subterfuge, the two finally manage to meet and the message is passed on. It simply states that there is a plot to assassinate President Kennedy in Berlin.
**THE HOSTAGE, Griffin, W.E.B. (Putnam $26.95). An American diplomat's wife is kidnapped, and her husband murdered before her eyes. Her children will be next, if she doesn't tell the kidnappers where her brother is--a brother who may know quite a bit about the burgeoning UN/Iraq oil-for-food scandal. There is an awful lot of money flying around, an awful lot of hands reaching out to grab it--and some of those hands don't mind shedding as much blood as it takes. PW
**RELENTLESS, Kernick, Simon (Bantam Press, £12.99, June, 2006). See listing under Best British Novels
**7 DEADLY WONDERS, Reilly, Matthew (Simon & Schuster $23.00). The "pedal-to-the-medal action novelist" ("Publishers Weekly") is back in high gear on the greatest treasure hunt of all time--a headlong race to find the seven wonders of the ancient world. Booklist
**BLINDFOLD GAME, Stabenow, Dana (Minotaur $23.95.). A CIA analyst traces the sale of black market plutonium, realizing that a terrorist attack is under way on a valuable American target. He also sees that the Coast Guard cutter his estranged wife serves on is sailing right into the attack and the heart of an international crisis. PW & DP
**CONTACT ZERO By David Wolstencroft (Hodder & Stoughton, £10.00; in U.S., Dutton, $24.95). CONTACT ZERO opens with disaster for four first year probationary British Intelligence agents whose operations are compromised in different parts of the world. Suddenly they are cut adrift by their controls and left to defend for themselves. Their only hope seems to lie in joining forces and searching for the rumoured Contact Zero, the mythical last hope for betrayed British agents. DP