The cream of the crime fiction crop this year runs the gamut from the expected to the eclectic, the dark to the light, the work of stars to that of writers on the verge of making a name for themselves.
Two standout novels don't even qualify as crime fiction exactly, although each revolves around the ramifications of criminal acts. "Black & White" (Subterranean), the first novel in a decade from Lewis Shiner, offers up a fence-swinging array of viewpoints and time periods that merge into a murky shade of contemporary gray. The novel incorporates urban planning, long-buried family secrets and race riots in the black North Carolina enclave of Hayti.
Stewart O'Nan's "Song From the Missing" (Viking), meanwhile, is predicated on the disappearance of a teenage girl, but it steers clear of tabloid lures to delve into the small details; the story rings with quiet emotional truth.
For a strong brew of noir, "The Finder" (Sarah Crichton/FSG) is a pungent, high-octane New York story by Colin Harrison, one of the sleekest crime novelists around. Don Winslow drops pitch-perfect sentences to brilliant effect in "The Dawn Patrol" (Alfred A. Knopf), recoding the traditional private-eye novel through a surfer community lens.