‘Tis the season for lists of this sort. However, unlike most other Top 10 of the Year lists, not all of these books came out in 2007 (hell, some of them are almost as old as I am!)…I just happened to read them in 2007. So, in no particular order, here we go:
1. The Big Nowhere, by James Ellroy
The second book in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet. Like the first book, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere builds upon actual events: the Sleepy Lagoon murder case and the Zoot Suit Riots. A brutal string of sex murders is rocking L.A., but the Law is too busy hunting down Commies to give a damn. There are three separate storylines that all slowly come together. The best one? The story of Buzz Meeks–disgraced cop turned mob bag-man.
2. The Archer’s Tale, by Bernard Cornwell
Set during the Hundred Years’ War, this first book of Cornwell’s Grail Quest Trilogy, introduces readers to a young archer named Thomas of Hookton. The Archer’s Tale doesn’t try to sugarcoat history: the mid-14th Century was a pretty bad time not to be royalty, and Cornwell doesn’t hesitate covering his archers and infantrymen in blood, gore, mud, and shit. Oh, and for sheer entertainment value, Cornwell throws in a family secret, multiple sackings, revenge, and what may be the Holy Grail.
3. The Gun Seller, by Hugh Laurie
So, imagine that Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe found himself dropped into the middle of a Robert Ludlum novel. Now imagine that the entire thing is told to you by Bertie Wooster. That’s pretty much all you need to know about Laurie’s espionage pastiche about government conspiracies, arms-dealing, and being in the absolute worst place at the absolute worst time.
4. The Templar Legacy, by Steve Berry
Poor Steve Berry…he’s been unfortunate enough to get lumped together with dozens of post-DaVinci Code authors. I understand the comparison. Many of Berry’s books have cryptic historical puzzles that need to be decoded. There are frequently Church conspiracies and cover-ups. But, I’ll be honest, Berry is a much better writer than Dan Brown (and I enjoyed Brown’s two Robert Langdon books). The Templar Legacy begins when former U.S. government agent Cotton Malone, now a bookseller in Copenhagen, witnesses a purse-snatcher commit some kind of ritual suicide. From there, Malone is pulled into the search for the fabled archives of the Knights Templar, which reportedly contains information that would destroy modern Christianity.
5. IT, by Stephen King
After over 15 years, I decided to revisit King’s classic about an evil force that masquerades as an evil clown in a small Maine community. I had forgotten how truly fucked-up IT actually was–and if you’ve read the book, you understand why it’s so funny that I have forgotten details over time. It’s not scary, per se (although I’m the first to admit that I don’t scare easily), but it is quite disturbing in the “small-town conspiracy of silence” way, like another of King’s novels, ‘Salem’s Lot.
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
I feel like anyone who doesn’t know what the deal is with this book probably (a) doesn’t own a computer, or (b) has no idea what the internet is. What I will say about the final book in the epic story of “The Boy Who Lived” is this: despite a few hiccups, it really is an amazing book. I feel like Rowling kind of beats us over the head a bit with the “This is just what Nazi Germany was like and our society is heading there, too” metaphor, but I credit her with creating the kind of suspense that has you worried that some beloved character will die at any moment (she delivers, of course, but the near-misses are the ones that really get your heart racing).
7. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
Fans of Moore and O’Neill’s first two League volumes rejoice. It is now the 1950s, and Moore’s alternate Britain has finally emerged out from under the oppressive regime of Orwell’s 1984. Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain are on the run from British Intelligence–including a gadget-laden, thuggish lad named Jimmy–after stealing the titular Black Dossier. Once again, Moore shows that he’s not only read every book ever written, but he can also copy the writing styles of countless writers from numerous centuries (his “lost” Shakespeare play is a prime example). However, Moore doesn’t limit himself to literary characters, as this volume also includes references to characters from music, film, TV, and radio. Despite the total awesomeness of the book, I think I would have preferred a straight comic narrative with the excerpts from the Dossier in the beginning and the end, rather than having them inserted into the current storyline.
8. Proven Guilty, by Jim Butcher
In Butcher’s eighth Harry Dresden novel, Harry–the only professional wizard to advertise in Chicago’s Yellow Pages–is given the unfortunate task of bringing his best friend’s daughter before the wizard’s ruling body, The White Council, for breaking laws she didn’t know existed. To make matters worse, Harry has to deal with the seductive spirit of a Fallen Angel that’s taken up residence in his subconscious, as well as the on-going war between the Wizards and the Vampires. Luckily, Harry’s got friends on his side who’ll back him up when his do-gooder tendencies get him in over his head.
9. Black Order, by James Rollins
James Rollins grew up on adventures stories about Doc Savage, Flash Gordon, and Tarzan. He turned his love of adventure stories into a career as an author of techno-thriller adventure stories. Black Order is the third novel featuring Rollins’ Sigma Force–a top-secret unit of Special Forces soldiers who also happen to hold doctorates in various scientific disciplines. These “soldier scientists” are tasked with defending America’s technological superiority, and this time around that involves hunting down a device that fundamentally alters a creature’s DNA. Did I mention that this device was built in the 1940s by the Nazis and that Sigma Force has to outrace two factions of still-active Nazis with differing philosophies?
10. Hack/Slash: First Cut, by Tim Seeley, Stefan Caselli, and Federica Manfredi
Another comic book, this one about young Cassie Hack and her hulking, simple-minded sidekick, Vlad. Cassie was the sole survivor of the serial killer called the “Lunch Lady”, who also happened to be Cassie’s mom and a Slasher–a person who is filled with so much rage at the time of their deaths that they come back from the grave as an unstoppable killing machine. Cassie and Vlad travel the country, hunting down and dispatching Slashers wherever they find them–think a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural. This volume collects the first three Hack/Slash one-shots, which were followed by subsequent one-shots and an ongoing series in May of 2007.