by Michael Dibdin.

Okay, I admit it. The last Harry Potter book was my most-anticipated-book-of-2007.

The Mysterious Benedict Society was my favorite new book of 2007.

Kare Kano and Fruits Basket are tied for tops in my “Manga that made me laugh out loud, manga that made me cry” category for 2007.

Ratking is my favorite mystery and probably my favorite overall book that I’ve read this year:

At times Zen felt that he was choking, and then his thoughts would turn to the house in Venice, empty now, the rooms full of nothing but pearly light, intimations of water, the cries of children and gulls. One day he would retire there, and in the meantime he was often so intensely there in spirit that he wouldn’t have been in the least surprised to learn that the place was believed to be haunted.

The main character is Aurelio Zen, a Police Commissioner who had his world yanked from under him when he investigated a kidnapping case a little too thoroughly. He’s now been thrown into a kidnapping case (after years of being relegated to inspecting offices) as a political sop to a nosy friend of the victim.

The title refers to a legend of ratcatchers in Europe in the 1800s, a nest of rats whose tails have been tangled together to the point where the rats can’t escape. The ratking is given various powers, including power to control rats and/or humans. In the book, it’s an analogy for the way people in power are interconnected and will defend each other, rather than let the whole ratking be destroyed.

The writing is consistently excellent; the plot, surprising–the reveal is okay, but it’s what happens afterwards that shows you the whole point of the book; the characters, as sadly human as anything out of a Dashiell Hammett novel*, but without all the violence. This book is too believable for that much violence–but what it shows about the human condition is more horrible than a bunch of gore splattered across the walls.


*Now that I think about it, I want to say Ratking is like Red Harvest from the POV of one of the people that lived in Poisonville.