Like most of you, I read a lot of novels — some with private investigators, some without — in 2014. Here are some I enjoyed most. They're in no particular order.
A Little Yellow Dog by Walter Mosley — The cadence and language of the narrative is as pitch-perfect as everything else in this story of a polished, street-wise janitor who turns private eye to save himself from a murder charge after a teacher persuades him to keep her dog. Unfortunately, she disappears, leaving a couple of bodies behind.
The Sekhmet Bed (The She-King) by L. M. Ironside and Libbie Hawker — Set in Egypt in 1500 BC, this story delivers a bang-up story along with a splendid sense of time and place. It tells the story of pharaoh's daughter Ahmose, who rules in her husband's absence and is an ancestor of King Tut.
China Trade by S.J. Rozan — This first novel in the author's wonderful series about Chinese-American private eye Lydia Chin is rich with the atmosphere of NYC, especially Chinatown and its culture. Lydia is a tough and resilient gal, even if she does live with her mama, and the mystery is first-rate.
Push Not the River by James Conroyd Martin — The author of this dazzling novel of Poland's struggle to survive in the age of Napoleon paints scenes and scenery with words. Though it verges on historical romance, it's much, much more.
The Wedding Shroud by Elisabeth Storrs — This book, first in a four-book series set in ancient Rome, will be re-released April 28. Compelling in its well drawn setting and its depiction of different cultures of the time, it also raises interesting questions about religious differences.
Sleeping Dog by Dick Lochte — A jaded, past-his-prime P.I. turns down a 14-year-old girl who wants to hire him to find her kidnapped dog. His office partner takes the case and ends up dead — and the P.I. and the girl form an unlikely team to extricate themselves from the mess that results. Smart, fun and thoroughly enjoyable with its alternating viewpoints (and views of events).
Vestal Virgin by Suzanne Tyrpak — Set in ancient Rome, this novel paints a fascinating picture of the vestal virgins, their rituals, elevated status and restrictions. Emperor Nero is in his heyday. Would it be a spoiler to say there's a fire?
The Miler by Hap Cawood — This coming-of-age novel captures the world of the 1950s and small towns. It tells the story of J.J., a high school runner in a Kentucky mountain town that doesn't have a track team, and the dancing teacher who becomes his coach. It has the sort of gentle magic more novels used to have when they were written for love instead of money.
M. Ruth Myers writes the Maggie Sullivan mysteries, featuring a female private eye in the years 1938-1947.