How about that for a topic that absolutely no one will agree on? Yes, I know, it’s all a matter of personal taste. Or not ALL, because some aspects of quality are just objective and an author who lacks a feel for language need not apply for best-of lists, but *basically*, yeah, personal taste.
I mean, for me, in mysteries? The actual mystery and plot are not as important as the characterization and setting. Obviously that’s just me. And I’ve read A LOT more fantasy than, say, contemporary romances.
In fact, I should probably mention that I have read uncountable novels in the fantasy, SF, historical, and mystery categories, but much more lightly in some of the other categories below. But why should I let that stop me from tossing out a highly opinionated list, right?
So, forging ahead:
1. Very best historical novels: Gillian Bradshaw
2. Very best romances: Laura Florand
3. Very best fantasy: Patricia McKillip
4. Very best magical realism: Sarah Addison Allen
5. Very best mysteries: Barbara Hambly / Barbara “Hamilton”
6. Very best SF: Um, there I skid to a halt. Um. Yeah, here I want a top-five list, minimum. OKAY FINE how about CJ Cherryh
7. Very best horror: Dean Koontz, but I admit I like horror-lite, not real horror
8. Very best satire: Terry Pratchett
9. Very best middle-grade/young adult: Diana Wynne Jones
10. Very best classic novelist: Jane Austen