Technically, we're a little more than halfway through the year, but I didn't remember to do this until now. For the last couple years, thanks to my friend, Jen Forbus, I've been writing a post about my favorite books from the first half of the year. It's always a difficult task to narrow the books down to ten. And, this post doesn't mean these books will be on my Favorites of 2018. I haven't finished Hank Phillippi Ryan's Trust Me or started Linda Castillo's A Gathering of Secrets. Depth of Winter by Craig Johnson isn't out yet. Louise Penny's Kingdom of the Blind isn't due out until November. All of those are possibilities for my favorites column. Then, there are the surprise books. I love to discover a new author or a title I didn't expect to make the list. Possibilities! There are all kinds of possibilities for the last half of 2018.
I did struggle with this list. I had to take three titles off so I only had ten. It's an arbitrary number, I know. But, here are my favorite books of the first half of 2018, in the order in which I read them.
A.J. Devlin's debut, Cobra Clutch, isn't the type of book that would usually appeal to me. But, I enjoyed the character of "Hammerhead" Jed Ounstead, pro wrestler turned amateur sleuth. I'm a sucker for debut novels with unusual sleuths. Cobra Clutch is a fast-paced, action-packed, debut. The violence is graphic. There are traces of humor. It's the angry, flawed sleuth, though, who jumped out at me. He's bold and competitive in this gritty original story. I still think people who like Glen Erik Hamilton's Van Shaw novels should give this one a try.
Cora Harrison's first Reverend Mother mystery, A Shameful Murder, hooked me with the time period and setting. The books in this series are historical mysteries set in the 1920s in Cork, Ireland. Some of the bit characters were actual people. Ireland's Civil War is over, but the Republican Party is not happy with the state of politics, and there's still gunshots and murder in the streets. But, it's Reverend Mother, caught up in the problems of Cork, that is the most intriguing character. After Reverend Mother finds the body of a young girl, two of her former students become involved. One is now an officer with the civic guards while the other is a journalist and a member of the Republican Party. The compelling story combines history and mystery.
V.M. Burns brings a community and characters to life in her first RJ Franklin mystery, Travellin' Shoes. Franklin, a police detective on leave from the St. Joseph, Indiana, police department, agrees to help with the investigation when the choir director of the First Baptist Church dies in a house fire. RJ's beloved godmother, Mama B is a force in that church and the African-American community. Travellin' Shoes combines the best of a cozy mystery with a police procedural. It has a wonderful cast of spirited characters, with RJ and Mama B as the standouts.
Sheila Connolly rounds out the list with her first Victorian Village mystery, Murder at the Mansion. Katherine Hamilton returns to her hometown of Asheboro, Maryland, to help the town recover. They don't have the money to restore businesses after a storm or to repair their asset, the historic Barton house. She and a history professor team up in an attempt to save the town while they investigate the murder of Kate's old nemesis, a member of the town council who was disliked by many residents. There's a strong sense of place in Murder at the Mansion, and I can already tell it will only grow more atmospheric as the series goes on. The historical elements are fascinating. And, Connolly avoids the irritating tropes that are common in the first books in so many series.
If you missed my earlier reviews, or just need a reminder of some of the outstanding books that have been published in 2018, this list may work. I hope you find a book or two that you enjoy. I enjoyed all ten of these.