My year in books: Benoit Lelievre

Today is the last guest post in the ‘my year in books’ series.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the selections that have featured on my site over the last few weeks as much as I have. There’s one more post to appear in the series, that’s my top reads for 2013, which I’ll be posting in the next day or so.

In the meantime, I’m going out on a strong note with Montreal-based blogger, Benoit Lelievre. Many Pulp Curry readers are probably familiar with Benoit’s cracker of a site, Dead End Follies. If not, check it out, it’s a great repository of writing on all things hard boiled crime and film.

Welcome Benoit.

2013 was a tough year. Tough but positive overall. I faced professional and personal turmoil, had to adapt to several tricky situations and flat out improve as a human being. On the downside, my creative input has dropped bear to nothingness. But thank god for good books. I read several great novels in 2013. Here are the five best books I have read this year, in no particular order:

The Subtle Art of Brutality, Ryan Sayles

Richard Dean Bucker, better known as RDB, is a creation half-way between Lawrence Block’s detective Matthew Scudder and Sons of Anarchy’s Jax Teller. The Subtle Art of Brutality is a complex, sophisticated and deceitful novel about a damaged woman that lights up fires she can’t put out wherever she goes. The combination of these two concepts make for an unforgettable experience.

The Last Whisper in the DarkTom Piccirilli

No author has grown on me as quickly as Tom Piccirilli did over the last two years and the Rand family has something to do with it. In the sequel to The Last Kind Words, the Rands are trying to get over the multiple losses they encountered in the first volume and there is nothing like more drama and more struggle to bind people together. The Terrier Rand novels are family novels before they are crime stories and it’s why they are so appealing to me.

One Lost Summer, Richard Godwin  

Godwin is a natural for creating rich and layered atmospheres in his novels. One Lost Summer is by far his greatest achievement in that regards. It is way more than a story about a creepy neighbor. It’s a study an beauty, identity and self-perception. The depth of the long dialogues between Rex and Evangeline is stunning. They carry an allegorical power that transcends the very novel they’re starring in, hence their terrific, staying power as characters.

Live By Night, Dennis Lehane

Given that I have a bias for Lehane, his prior novel The Given Day had been a bitter disappointment to me. Live By Night was kind of playful, compared to his earlier efforts, but Lehane has never really been interesting in gritty realism. Joe Coughlin is the ultimate outlaw adventurer and I haven’t felt this kind of elation since reading Alexandre Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo. It’s glorified swashbuckling with guns, I love swashbuckling and guns both, so I loved Live By Night..

Penance, Dan O’Shea 

The scope of Penance is absolutely ridiculous. Dan O’Shea has this absurd ability to zoom out and focus on several characters sprawled all over America and then zoom back in, and make you live through a sweet, intimate moment. Penance is also one of the most complex crime novels I’ve read since the days of James Ellroy’s L.A Quartet and god knows I love complex. There is nothing like a good book that treats you like you’re an adult, cognizant human being. Oh and that’s not the best part. There’s a SEQUEL coming out!!!

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