I tried to whittle this list down to ten, but I had to stretch it to eleven. I'm listing only novels here, not collections or anthologies. That would have stretched the list out much further. In no particular order:
NO SLEEP TILL WONDERLAND by Paul Tremblay. Tremblay turns what seems like a gimick (a narcoleptic PI) into lyrical and evocative reading.
PRINT THE LEGEND by Craig McDonald. It's no secret how much I love the Hector Lassiter series. I can't even think about this book without wanting to re-read it.
WAKE UP DEAD by Roger Smith. Brutal and brilliant, and better still: revelatory.
MEMORY by Donald Westlake. Some Westlake fans found this very serious bit of literature not to their taste. I thought it was heartbreaking and bleak and a significant work from a master.
THE WOLVES OF FAIRMOUNT PARK by Dennis Tafoya. Powerful and provocative, with passages so beautiful and moving it's hard to believe this is only Tafoya's second novel.
BUCKET NUT by Liza Cody. Sharp, funny, and altogether original.
THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD by Dave Zeltserman. A classic, and that's all there is to it.
SAVAGES by Don Winslow. Ultra-cool. Witty, sophisticated writing.
THE GLASS RAINBOW by James Lee Burke. One of Burke's best. Highly charged and beautifully written.
BURY ME DEEP by Megan Abbott. Genuine noir. Accept no substitutes. Exquisite prose.
EVERY BITTER THING by Leighton Gage. Quick, entertaining procedural that turns the tables on the reader in the final chapter.
Oh, and I haven't finished Benjamin Whitmer's PIKE yet, but I won't be surprised if by book's end this one makes the list, too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Naomi Johnson is a fitful writer whose work can occasionally be found at A Twist of Noir. She has also had work published at Crime Factory and in Encounters Magazine. She writes the occasional review at The Drowning Machine.