Booklist has announced its top 10 mystery books for the year ending approximately right now, which means this roundup contains some 2009 and some 2010 titles.
It makes no sense to me, but forgive them, because the task of winnowing the massive yearly mystery output down to a mere 10 is not for the faint of heart. Plus, they’ve chosen Minnesota author Erin Hart for her “False Mermaid,” noting that “Hart does the subtlety, lyrical language, and melancholy of literary fiction with the pulse-pounding suspense of the best thrillers.” Right on.
“False Mermaid” is the third in Hart’s Nora Gavin series, and Gavin’s sleuthing weaves the long-ago murder of a young Irish mother thought to be a selkie with the brutal murder of Gavin’s wild, beautiful sister in St. Paul. Accusations of a secret and bizarre sex life are reminiscent of the infamous Hans Reiser murder trial, and Hart’s portrayal of the urban wilds along the Mississippi River as a playground for anonymous sex is hard to buy — since when have women flocked to the woods for one-night stands with strangers?
But that misstep aside, forensics and melancholic old folktales smartly adorn this engrossing tale. Hart’s sympathetic attention to the heart-rending grief of the families of these dead women expands the story beyond the details of the case. Even if the body count is fictional, caring about them a nice touch, and one too often left out.
• Saturday, May 1, 1-3:30 p.m. Bookin’ It Bookstore, Author Tea Retreat, 608 Highland Ave., Little Falls, 320-632-1848 / 1-800-809-1848.
• Tuesday, May 4, 7 p.m. Northern Lights Books and Gifts, 307 Canal Park Drive , Duluth, 218-722-5267.