I recently finished April Smith's Judas Horse and was blown away by her command of character and language. The book is rich and sophisticated and yet never overdone. There's not a sentence in there that's a stretch. She does something I admire very much; she can give us a perfect understanding of a character in a few paragraphs, while never resorting to stereotype. It's a fine line, and she walks it beautifully.
I also finished Marcus Sakey's The Blade Itself -- such an impressive novel, particularly for a debut. He really knows how to ratchet up the suspense, one step at a time. It's a very capable, tight, well-constructed thriller. He unafraid to locate flaws - and fault - within his protagonists, something a lot of writers shy away from. And that makes his protag so much more easy to identify with. We really feel his predicament. It's also such a lean book. Everything in the service of plot. And yet he still manages to cover his bases and get in enough character work to make it a compelling read. I can't remember the last time I read a book that quickly.
Finally, my boy Ross Macdonald's Black Money. And with him, it's best to let him speak for himself:
"They were innocent eyes, not youthful but innocent, as if they perceived only pre-selected facts."
"He was retreating angrily into bad grammar."
"The pictures on the wall were all religious, and there were so many of them that they suggested a line of defense against the world."
"It was a moral hardship for me to walk away from an unclosed case."