The January Corpse. Best 100 Mysteries of All Time

   The January CorpseNeil Albert – 1991-used

When I started doing the 100 mysteries, I thought I had an airtight lineup–the books I remembered as being my favorites were arranged, rearranged, thought about, changed , eliminated, returned, and finalized. Yeah, right. Then out of the blue, I remember a book I thought was fantastic, and I must include it–not at number 15 or even number 69, but somewhere–and here is the best spot, because it is good enough to be on the list and at this point.

However, when refreshing my memory, I realize that not all reviewers and readers feel as I do about the book. All seem to agree that there is a very nice conclusion, which I will say no more about. But that’s where the opinions split. Publisher’s Weekly when the book was first released, loved it, thought Albert was a promising new writer–Kirkus trashed it. Now in fairness, Kirkus usually trashed everything at that point in time–maybe still does–I don’t know, as I paid little or no attention to reviews because they invariably give away too much plot, and they are nasty. I’m only speaking of those reviews that must take a side–Mystery Scene’s reviews are always of a positive nature, if the book isn’t liked, it just isn’t reviewed–I think this is a swell policy–let the readers know what was liked, and they can make up their own mind if they want to venture buying something not reviewed. And, Marilyn Stastio of the NY Times always did a great job of fairness in her work.

But, I digress. So, to be open, I’m letting you all know that maybe you won’t think this is such a hot book as I do–heck, that can be said about any of the books I choose, because when it comes right down to it, ‘best’ is in the eye of the reader.

Neil Albert’s first book features a disbarred lawyer, (the best kind) who has turned to private detection. Dave Garrett, a Pennsy native, has the weekend to prove a dead man really is dead. Seven years before a newly minted lawyer, Daniel Wilson, disappeared leaving behind a car with bullet holes and blood. His sister and mother want him officially declared dead so they can finally collect insurance money. Turns out that this is no ordinary case, another more prestigious detecting firm withdrew after some encouragement from the mob, and Garrett himself is target practice at a couple of points in the story. The case is further hindered by deceit from the victim’s law partner, mother, and sister, Lisa, whom Garrett finds attractive.

If all this sounds pedestrian, it’s not. Garrett is a well-formed character, with flaws and history that is layered throughout the book, the setting is realistic–maybe I am inclined to enjoy the area because I’m familiar with it–and the mystery and solution is top-notch, as Publisher’s Weekly put it “it comes to a startling conclusion worthy of a Scott Turow,”

I admit I like recommending the unlikely or less traveled pages, as it were, to an audience who may never have fallen over some of these titles otherwise. That’s not to say, naturally, that you the reader may have strongly differing opinions. If so, I really would love to hear them, or even if you agree with every lovely sentence I write, I’d like to know. I hate recommending in a vacuum. LOL.


Don’t forget to check out the Best 100 Mysteries of All Time list!