Addison, Katherine. The Goblin Emperor.

NY: Tor, 2014.

I’ve been an avid fan of all sorts of science fiction all my life but I’ve always been much pickier about fantasy. There’s a tendency to posit non-human semi-supernatural races of beings for their own sake, and to just wave a wand and say “Magic!” as a cop-out when you don’t want to have to explain something that would be counter to natural law. Tolkien has a lot to answer for in my book. I am a fan, though, of authors like Joe Abercrombie, whose fantasy worlds are more “real.” Addison (who is really Sarah Monette, and has published a number of horror and weird fantasy novels under that name) is closer to that style, and this politics-heavy yarn has a lot to recommend it.

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Mullen, Thomas. The Revisionists.

NY: Little, Brown, 2011.

I’ve always read a lot of science fiction and I have a particular thing for time travel stories, perhaps because all my academic background is in history. There are certain themes and tropes you’re almost certain to come across in those books, one of which is the “time patrol” — a body of travelers whose job it is to make sure visitors to the past don’t screw up their own future. That’s sort of the conceit here, but Mullen takes it much farther than I have ever encountered before.

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Connelly, Michael. The Burning Room.

NY: Little, Brown, 2014.

Harry Bosch has been a cop with the LAPD for almost four decades, but he’s now on the last year of his last deferred retirement contract and he’s beginning to panic a little. What is he going to do when he no longer has the badge and the gun? He’s a homicide detective of vast experience and he’s been working cold cases for a few years now, where all those years of catching killers can be put to best use reworking unsolved murders in the light of new forensic technology.

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King, Stephen. 11/22/63.

NY: Scribner, 2011.

Like practically everyone else who reads a lot, I’ve read a number of Stephen King novels. None of them were bad but some appealed to me a good deal more than others. And there have been a few that really got to me, like The Stand. His longer work is capable of approaching the epic in subject and breadth, and this is one of those books. The title alone tells you what it’s all about: The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a traumatic and era-dividing event in recent U.S. history that also largely defined my own generation. Because this is a fascinating book for a reader of my age.

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Kuhn, Shane. The Intern’s Handbook.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2014.

As novels about hit men go, this one is pretty original. John Lago is preparing to retire at twenty-five, having been a highly trained and very successful employee of Human Resources, Inc. since he was twelve. At age eighteen, “Bob,” who runs the show, began sending him out as an intern to law firms and big corporations, tasked with eliminating one or another bent executive (often on behalf of his career competition).

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Gischler, Victor. Shotgun Opera.

NY: Bantam, 2006.

A few years ago, there began to appear a new variation on the classic hard-boiled noir shoot-‘em-up, heavy on violence (and frequently profanity, because mafia enforcers and vigorish-collectors aren’t especially intellectual in their discourse) and with emphasis on characters who can seldom be called the Good Guys.

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Rankin, Ian. The Impossible Dead.

NY: Little, Brown, 2011.

Since finally retiring the irascible DI John Rebus a while back, Rankin had to find a new character upon whom to build a new series. He discovered him in the very different Inspector Malcolm Fox of the Edinburgh “Complaints,” which American cops would know as “Internal Affairs.” There’s just him, his boss (forever tied up in reorganization meetings), his long-time friend and colleague, Sgt. Tony Kaye, and young Constable Joe Naysmith, their electronics and computer expert.

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