Best Books of 2016: Geoffrey R. Hamlin

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1. The Wrong Side of Goodbye – Michael Connelly
Connelly once again demonstrates that he is one of the finest crime fiction writers of our time. In this book, Harry Bosch has been retired from the Los Angeles Police Department and is trying his hand at being a private investigator. He is retained by an 85 year-old, dying billionaire, Whitney Vance, to find out if Vance had a child as a result of his relationship with an Hispanic women over 60 years earlier. The story of Bosch’s investigation is full of twists and turns, as well as danger, and the end is thoroughly satisfying.

2. A Great Reckoning – Louise Penny
Just like Harry Bosch, Inspector Gamache cannot stop investigating after his retirement for the Surete de Quebec. In this story, he looks into the murder of a professor at the Surete Academy. And in the process, he learns why the village of Three Pines, where he has made his retirement home, does not appear on any maps.

3. Last Days of Night – Graham Moore
A gripping account of the struggles between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse in the 1880’s, to determine exactly how the US will be electrified. The story is told by Westinghouse’s lawyer, a young Paul Cravath. Who subsequently founded the estimable Wall Street firm of Cravath, Swaine and Moore. Everybody wanted to interview with them when I was in law school.

4. Razor Girl – Carl Hiassen
Typical Hiassen, which means very Florida and very funny. You will not be able to stop laughing when you discover what the title is all about. A must for anyone who lives in Florida and a should read for everyone else.

5. In Sunlight or In Shadows – Lawrence Block
Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper
A collection of short stories, each of which relates to a specific painting by Edward Hopper, probably the perfect artist for lovers of noir. Contributors include Michael Connelly, Stephen King, Jeffery Deaver and Lawrence Block himself.

6. Charcoal Joe – Walter Mosely
Set in late 1960’s Los Angeles, Easy Rawlins has now formed his own detective agency. In this case, Easy is attempting to prove that a Black physics PhD did not murder two white men even though he was found standing over them. The description of the times rings true and the story is first-rate.

7. Surrender, New York – Caleb Carr
Carr uses every page of this lengthy tale to bolster his argument that the use of profiling and scientific evidence, both on television and in real life, is misused to convict those already determined to be guilty rather than as a pure search for the truth. An interesting argument and persuasively made as his protagonists try to determine the cause of youths disappearing from their community only to be found dead some time later.

8. IQ – Joe Ide
Ide’s hero, Isaiah Quintabe, is a super-intelligent, undereducated Sherlock Holmes of the ghetto. In this first book (I hope many more will follow), he is trying to thwart an equally unconventional assassin (murder by dog?) who is attempting to kill a very successful rap star. But the larger question remains, who hired the assassin?

9. Willnot – James Sallis
Dr. Lamar Hale is a small-town physician and a keen observer of people and small town life. He is thrust into the mystery of strangely appearing bodies when his partner, Richard, is shot by a bullet meant for him.

10. Listen, Liberal – Thomas Frank
Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?
Frank argues that the Democratic party has ceased being the party of working people as its leaders have become enamored of successful businessmen, techies, and a well-educated professional class.  He appears prescient, given the results of this year’s presidential election.  For those political junkies like myself, I also recommend an older book, Rebels in White Gloves by Miriam Horn, the story of the class of 1969 at Wellesley (Hillary’s class).

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