In making up my list of best books of 2020, I noticed that most of them were on the scary side, which really defines the overall mood of this whole year there.
Nonetheless, there was joy to be found even in the terror filled pages that I quickly turned and fortunately, I was not alone in enjoying these amazing reads during our national downtime:
OLD SCHOOL FEAR FEST:
Having been recommended her works by others, watching Moreno-Garcia's writing taking so many next level steps has been enchanting. While praise for her prior novel,Gods of Jade and Shadow, gave her a literary spotlight, this homage to the Gothic genre has turned that wattage up considerably.
This particular novel has quite a classic heroine, Noemi Taboada, a 1950s socialite who is tasked to check in on her newly married cousin Catalina at the remote estate known as High Place.
Upon meeting the Doyle family that her cousin has now joined, Noemi's sense of danger is switched on yet finding any sort of help for Catalina's declining condition, not to mention the toxic nature of the house itself, grows more futile and deadly with every action. However, she is not one to give up and give in but the price for that persistence could be rather costly indeed.
A blend of Hammer films and Daphne Du Maurier, Mexican Gothic is a rich concoction of the old and new with a touch of heart:
As a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood, I was instantly drawn to The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, which satisfied my bookish blood thirst quite nicely.
The story is set between the later end of the 1980s into the early half of the nineties as true crime reader Patricia develops a sneaking suspicion that new neighbor James Harris is not just a charming good old boy.
Instead, he's a blood drinking monster who intends to make their quiet little suburb his own nesting place and the other side of town his personal feeding grounds. Getting anyone, from her obnoxious husband to her best book club gal pals, to believe her is a challenge but one that Patricia feels she has to take on for the sake of the children.
Yet, as everyone around is determined to convince her otherwise, Patricia seems to give in yet she never really surrenders to the enemy in their midst. As time goes on, she gathers up enough allies to face down the threat from within but not without making a bit of a mess along the way.
Hendrix doesn't just serve up nostalgia on a plate; he also adds humor, heart and the power of friendship to make this suburban sanguine meal simmer to page turning perfection:
JANE AUSTEN COUNTRY CLUB
Set in post WWII, we are introduced to a delightful ensemble of character in the village of Chawton, where Jane Austen spend a good part of her writing time. At this point in time, this fact is known mainly to locals but with the passing of one of Austen's descendants, the fate of the author's home is in jeopardy of being cast aside for more modern concerns.
The title group is lead by Adam, a farmer still mourning the loss of his loved ones and with assistance from folks like Mimi, an American actress, Evie, a housemaid who has taken to cataloging all of the books within the Austen family library and Adeline, a widowed school teacher seeking a new life and love, band together to keep this literary legacy alive.
Yes, this will appeal mostly to the Austen initiated but I do believe that this lovingly told story of people using a common interest to get through the tough times can spread it's wings among the non-Austen readers. Perhaps it will inspire them to see what the fuss is all about(and they will not be disappointed!):
SOME WELCOME SINISTER SURPRISES:
Our leading lady is Anna, who regularly picks up freelance work from agencies that specialize in hiring supervillian help. While her latest gig isn't the best, she gets more than she bargained for when a superhero gives her a major injury during the scene of a crime.
The financial toll on her life is bad enough yet what Anna really resents is the full on denial that this caped crusader casually gave her permanent damage with no consequences. Once she's able to work, Anna signs up to work for his arch nemesis and uses her intense data analysis skills to take down their now mutual enemy.
This book is a smart and savvy look at office politics, superhero tropes and seeing just far you're willing to go long to get along. Things are far from being simply good guys vs. bad guys here and I hope that more great stories like this hit bookshelves and comic book stands alike:
While Hench was a debut, Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson is the latest in a long line of books from this author yet this was my first time reading his work. I doubt it will be my last
When bookseller Malcolm Kershaw is questioned by an investigator from the FBI about an old blog post, he finds it hard to take seriously.
His list of mystery novels that are examples of the "perfect murder" is a mix of well known classics like Strangers on a Train and lesser known title such as The Drowner yet someone seems to be taking his reading suggestions more as guides to committing the ultimate crime without punishment.
As Malcolm gets deeper into this case, there are twists and turns that change more than one life forever. I refuse to say anything more about the plot because it is just that good to not spoil for future readers.
I honestly had one of those "stay up all night" experiences while reading this book and the sleep I did get was well earned. Swanson weaves a tangled tale that is worth following to the bitter end and if Hitchcock was around today, worthy of his cinematic touch:
2020 has certainly been a bumpy ride yet thankfully we had plenty of great books to keep us company along the way. Granted, there is still a ways to go yet, however having a faithful companion of literature by our side will help get us through the last of this calendar year with hope for better things to come in 2021: