I went through a tall stack of books this year, and there were many standouts. Finders Keepers, by Stephen King, was fantastic—and the ending actually gave me chills. The Zig Zag Girl, by Elly Griffiths came out of left field and was a complete surprise. I’ve never been to Brighton, and I was not alive in the 1950s, but this book took me by the hand and showed me. Then, like gritty bookends on my reading year, were The Whites, by Richard Price (writing as Harry Brandt) and Perfidia, by James Ellroy. Pick up either of these novels and you’ll see a master at work.
But of everything I read in 2015, the one that sticks with me—the one I’d recommend to my friends, or buy as a gift—is The Long and Faraway Gone, by Lou Berney. It’s a literary rumination on loss and grief, and it’s also the best piece of noir writing since Ross Macdonald put down his pen. In the summer of 1986, a botched robbery in an Oklahoma City movie theater left every employee dead except for a teenaged Wyatt. Afterward, a teenage girl vanishes from the Oklahoma State fair, leaving behind her younger sister, Julianna. Neither crime is solved. Twenty five years later, Wyatt is a Las Vegas private investigator, and returns to Oklahoma City on a case. The theater murders are still clinging to him, and Juliana has never stopped searching for her sister. Their stories reach upwards, running parallel to each other, intersecting without ever quite touching. Berney is writing a mystery, but he’s digging up bigger things. There’s a tenderness to his characters; they shelter their memories and keep them fresh. And there’s grace here, too, in many forms as Berney and his characters grasp at the essential unknowability of life. You want the answers, but you also want the book and its characters to stay true. Lou Berney walks a delicate path, and does it extremely well. I’d recommend this to anyone.
Jonathan Moore is the debut author of the acclaimed The Poison Artist, described by Justin Cronin as ‘a magnificent, thoroughly unnerving psychological thriller’. Follow Jonathan on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website for more information.