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RAIN GODS By James Lee Burke, Simon & Schuster

Hack Holland returns in a novel incidentally about crime. This meditation on age, death and love is one of a remarkably romantic, elegiac and touching story by one of America's finest novelists.

MIDNIGHT FUGUE By Reginald Hill, HarperCollins

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Music and mystery make a perfect combination in this wonderful addition to the long-running Dalziel and Pascoe series. One of the best by one of the best authors writing today.

SNOW JOB By William Deverell, McClelland & Stewart

Smart, beautifully written, and really, really funny satire featuring Arthur Beauchamp, one of Canadian crime fiction's truly original characters. The best novel by Deverell ever.

STARDUST By Joseph Kanon, Atria Books

Hollywood glamour, post-Second World War noir atmosphere, lies, betrayal, HUAC and the Holocaust. This novel is far more than an ordinary crime novel. There's a delightful walk-on by Paulette Goddard, the ex-Mrs. Charlie Chaplin, as an aperitif.

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE By Stieg Larsson, Viking Canada

An utterly unforgettable central character around whom Larsson built a brilliant narrative. This harrowing tale of survival and transcendence has everything one wants in a great novel.

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BLOOD SAFARI By Deon Meyer, Random House Canada

A fictional trip into the riven heart of modern South Africa. Meyer is a gorgeous stylist, whose lush prose takes readers right into a spectacular setting at odds with the evil men bring to it.

RED APRIL By Santiago Roncagliolo, translated by Edith Grossman, Pantheon

A dazzling English-language debut by the Peruvian novelist. Marvellous character study/murder investigation set in rural Peru against the backdrop of the Senderista Movement uprising.

LIFE SENTENCES By Laura Lippman, Morrow

The best novel thus far from one of the finest U.S. crime writers. A riveting tale of how the truth, while it may set you free, may also trap you forever.

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THE WATER'S EDGE By Karin Fossum, translated by Charlotte Barslund, Random House

She's being compared favourably to Britain's Ruth Rendell. This gripping, atmospheric story of a murdered child is a trip right into the mind of a terrified and driven killer.

WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS? By Kate Atkinson, Anchor Canada

A woman with a terrifying history is missing and the only person who seems to care is a teenaged girl. This novel can't be put down once you start reading.

DARKNESS AT THE STROKE OF NOON By Dennis Richard Murphy, HarperCollins

A brilliant debut set in the high Arctic by a gifted Canadian author, who, regrettably, didn't live to see it published.

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