When reading mysteries (or maybe anything, for that matter), whether for fun or because it's part of the job (some job!), it's easy to fall into the fuzzy womb of familiarity, a comfort zone.
If the books one has enjoyed the most for the past few years are hard-boiled private eye stories, chances are the next book to be picked up will be another. Ditto espionage novels, romantic suspense, legal thrillers, police procedurals, cozies, or noir fiction.
And it's even worse than just that. I find that every time one of my favorite writers has a new book, it makes its way to the top of the pile, elbowing past all those that look like they'll be really good but about which I know little other than the dust jacket blurb, or maybe an advance review from Publishers Weekly.
Instead of broadening the horizon, I'll reach for the new Robert Crais, Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos, Thomas H. Cook, Charles Carry, Thomas Perry, Lee Child, James Crumley, Nelson DeMille, Stephen Hunter, John Harvey, Alan Furst, and so on for another dozen or more writers who always — I mean always — do a great job. Before I know it, the year has gone by, and the process repeats.
These thoughts were chasing each other around my brain when I selected the anthology "Killer Year" (St. Martin's Minotaur, 275 pages, $24.95) for the column. Okay, it caught my attention because Mr. Child, who is no pushover, is the editor, and I liked the premise: All the stories were by authors whose first novel was published in 2007, so these were mostly new to me, though I had read Marcus Sakey's wonderful "The Blade Itself," the prose of which glows like the glaze on Sung porcelain.