5 The Thirteenth Tale
Following in the footsteps of such classic ghost stories as Henry James’ The Turn of The Screw, we hear the chilling ghost story as it is being told to the person who will eventually become the narrator. We start with Margaret Lea, a booklover and amateur biography. She is invited to be the exclusive biographer of dying novelist Vida Winter, who has kept her life story a carefully guarded secret for decades. We’re given all the best of a good ghost story, including base desires, abandoned children and ancient mansions in the English countryside. This is author Diane Setterfield’s debut novel, which makes its surprisingly high chill-factor even more impressive.
4 The End
If you have read the first twelve books in the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, then you’ve been warned time and again that no matter how many of these you read the story will end badly for the Baudelaire children. Turns out, he wasn’t lying. Although we did finally find out who Beatrice is (but we’re not telling) there are plenty of other questions that never get answered. As much as we loved the series we desperately hope that this is not in the expectation that the stories will be continued. The beauty of the tale was the unending creativity and the insistence that good things will not happen despite every other kid’s book you’ve read. Snicket (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) seems to have been struggling for that creativity as the books neared their end and we hope he’s not going to cave and give us the happy ending we all secretly wish for.
3 For One More Day
Mitch Albom just keeps trying to recreate his originally success of Tuesdays with Morrie and as evidenced by the fact that he’s on this list, he seems to be succeeding. In this year’s message of recognition of mortality and the important things in life, a man is given one more day to spend with his mother who died eight years earlier. She helps him redeem himself, bringing his life from the point of despair and helping him put himself back together again. If you’re looking for unpredictable, this isn’t it. In fact, it doesn’t even hold attention as well as Albom’s last novel, The Five People You Meet In Heaven. But if you’re not too cynical and like having your heartstrings tugged this can do the trick if you can ignore the clichés along the way.
2 Twelve Sharp
Janet Evanovich churns out the saga of Stephanie Plum pretty quickly so you may have to work hard to keep up. Stephanie is a quirky girl-next-door type who just happens to be a bounty hunter. As usual it’s the perfect combination of chick-lit, humor and mystery. This one is pretty dark as they go, including murder, explosions identity theft and kidnapped children. On the other hand, it has cupcakes and slapstick in a funeral parlor. Fair warning: If you’ve been waiting for Stephanie to finally choose between the two guys in her life, it’s not going to happen just yet. It looks like she might be one step closer but we doubt it’s going to stick.
Whether this is part of the growing zombie trend or a social commentary about the pervasive use of public cell phone use is unclear but it’s probably both. Stephen King returns to his roots with some pure gruesome horror. An electronic pulse sent out through cell phones has infected everyone who was using their phone at 3:03pm on October 1st. They are now crazed killers and telepathically connected to a hive mind. Clayton Riddle, a graphic-novel artist who happened to be in Boston at the time now has to make his way north to Maine to find out if his son has been infected. Along the way he’s joined by a variety of people to fight past the zombies. But things get more complicated when they are marked for death by whomever it is controlling the hive mind. We’ll give you a bit of a spoiler here: A lot of people die. What’s really impressive about King is that despite his ability to craft suspenseful and truly shiver-worthy creepiness he has also created dynamic characters that we come to care about. That of course only makes the suspense more delightfully tortuous.
Did we miss your favorite of 2006? Let’s hear it!