Saturday, October 11, 2003

Autumn 2003 Mystery Book Sense 76 Top Ten

It's not a mystery why these titles were chosen by independent booksellers as their top ten picks for the fall.

1. TO THE BONE, by Neil McMahon (HarperCollins, $23.95, 0060529164) "Dr. Carroll Monks, emergency room physician and part-time sleuth, is back and in fine form. Mystery lovers who haven't yet discovered author Neil McMahon and his Monks books are in for a real treat!" --Susan Wasson, Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM

2. THE DEATH YOU DESERVE, by David Bowker (Minotaur, $12.95, 0312311788) "The Death You Deserve is great. It's a title that I'll definitely recommend to thriller fans looking for a fresh voice." --Meredith Whiles, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY

3. LAST LESSONS OF SUMMER, by Margaret Maron (Mysterious Press, $23.95, 0892967803) "This multilayered novel is rich in surprises and fun, as well as murders, relatives, and puzzles. The heroine finds her backbone as she struggles to understand and deal with the past and present. It is delicious to see her blossom in the midst of mayhem." --June Applen, The Book Mark, Atlantic Beach, FL

4. STILL LIFE WITH CROWS, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Warner, $25.95, 0446531421) "Medicine Creek, Kansas, is slowly dying as its farming base erodes along with the land. Main Street is shuttered, and the nearest mall is 200 miles away. The few townsfolk, unused to change, are terrified when a body is found mutilated in a cornfield. What does the weird tableau symbolize? As more are unveiled, enigmatic FBI agent Pendergast arrives from New Orleans to take charge in another knockout from Preston and Child." --Barbara Peters, The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, AZ Also a Time Warner Audio (1586215043, Abridged Cassette)

5. THE SERPENT'S KISS: A Novel, by Mark T. Sullivan (Atria, $25, 0743439821) "A snake-bearing serial killer is on the loose in San Diego, and the more detective Seamus Moynihan and his crew find out about the case the more possible suspects they discover. Is it the internationally renowned reptile handler from the zoo? The drug dealer with a passion for 'hot herps'? Or someone with a connection to Lilith, mother of demons?" --Maryelizabeth Hart, Mysterious Galaxy Books, San Diego, CA

6. THE SMALL BOAT OF GREAT SORROWS, by Dan Fesperman (Knopf, $24, 037541472X) "Small Boat is a follow-up to Fesperman's 1999 Lie in the Dark, which featured Bosnian cop Vlado Petric. Set five years after Vlado's daring escape from Bosnia, Fesperman picks up the story in Berlin, where Vlado is enlisted by the Hague War Crimes Tribunal to find two WWII criminals from Bosnia. This is the best thriller/detective novel that I've read this year, a literary triumph from start to finish." --Barry Martin, Book'em Mysteries, South Pasadena, CA

7. EVERYONE DIES: A Kevin Kerney Novel, by Michael McGarrity (Dutton, $23.95, 0525947612) "Everyone Dies is by far the best police mystery I've read this year. Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney and his wife, Army MP Lieutenant Colonel Sara Brannon, have taken leave for the birth of their son -- a leave that turns into a nightmare as people from Kevin's professional past begin turning up dead. Will Kevin's wife and baby be the next victims?" --Bob Spear, The Book Barn, Leavenworth, KS Also a Brilliance Audio (1590867815, Abridged Cassette)

8. MORGUE MAMA: The Cross Kisses Back, by C.R. Corwin (Poisoned Pen, $24.95, 1590580745) "Morgue Mama is a real treat. The interaction between the older newspaper morgue librarian and the young, upstart crime reporter, Aubrey McGinty, was terrific. If you enjoy a chuckle or two with your mystery, you'll love this one!" --Linda Dewberry, Whodunit? Books, Olympia, WA

9. JUDGMENT CALLS, by Alafair Burke (Holt, $23, 0805073868) "Take an insider's look at Portland's Drug and Vice Division as Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid deals with courtrooms, criminal investigations, and her personal life. This may be Alafair Burke's first book, but she knows her way around the justice system, and her father, James Lee Burke, has every right to be proud!" --Barbara Theroux, Fact & Fiction, Missoula, MT

10. HARD AS NAILS: A Joe Kurtz Novel, by Dan Simmons (Minotaur, $24.95, 0312305281) "A relative newcomer to the hard-boiled crime genre, Simmons explodes onto the scene with his tough-guy antihero, Joe Kurtz. In this third novel in the series, ex-private eye, ex-con Kurtz hunts a serial killer who's targeting heroin addicts, while he's evading various hit men who are out for the bounty on his head. A serious, guilty pleasure awaits!" --David Thompson, Murder by the Book, Houston, TX

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