Sorry to be so late with this, but here’s one of those year-end lists that I missed. In fact, there are several lists here, broken down by subject matter. There are readers’ favorites as well as editors’ picks included, so you can get a feel for what books other ordinary readers (not just editors or critics) liked best from last year.
Jonathan Hayes, a New York City forensic pathologist, describes how a BBC broadcast of Dorothy Sayers’s novel The Nine Tailors made him appreciate Sayers’s influence on the mystery genre:
In Nine Tailors, the violence is not bloodless, but brutal, and the characters are made of flesh and blood — even Whimsey, the hero, is struggling with the emotional aftermath of the Great War. Sayers helped nudge the English mystery novel out of the drawing room and into the real world, particularly in her later novels. Of course, in the 1930s, the real world in crime fiction was increasingly a modern American world, with hard-boiled writers like Chandler and Hammet rising to prominence, but I think Sayers does deserve real credit for toughening up and broadening the reach of the British detective story.
Hayes says that Sayers transformed the traditional “cozy” mystery, sometimes referred to as an English drawing-room mystery, in which the murder happens quickly and off stage; the rest of the mystery covers the detective’s investigation and thought processes in determining who the murderer is. As Hayes puts it, in a British cozy “The crime is reduced to a trite riddle, self-contained and without broader implication.” His experience as a forensic pathologist has taught him that murder is anything but cozy; it is brutal, not bloodless. This is a reality that Sayers was willing to face, and her work has had a lasting influence on the mystery genre.