My Top 10/12 Books of 2016

Ok, so it was meant to be my top ten but there were two books that just wouldn’t leave me alone. They kept bugging me and reminding me of how awesome they were so I relented and let them in. To be honest I could have a top 50, it’s been such a difficult choice, but no one has time to read that. So, as it’s nearly Christmas and we’re all busy, I’ll cut the preamble and get on with it!

In no particular order, here are the first nine books!




Willow Walk by SJI Holliday. This is the second book in a trilogy (look below for details of the third) based in the fictional Banktoun. A deliciously creepy read about (il)legal highs, sinister letters and Lego – yes, really! Read my full review here. You can buy the book here.



The Birdwatcher by William Shaw. Set in Dungeness, this book wins my award for best opening paragraph of the year. ‘There were two reasons why William South did not want to be on the murder team. The first was that it was October. The migrating birds had begun arriving on the coast. The second was that, though nobody knew, he was a murderer himself.’ Read my full review here. You can buy the book here.




In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings. Another great coastal setting for this psychological thriller, this time in Cornwall, as Bella discovers the truth about her life. To be adopted is one thing, to be abducted is something else entirely. Read my full review here. You can buy the book here.




My next three books are more than just police procedurals; all three detectives are far more complicated than that.


Beneath The Ashes by Jane Isaac. The second book in the series and we’re beginning to learn more about DI Will Jackman as he balances work, promotion prospects and caring for his ill wife. I adore DI Jackman, not least because I imagine Rufus Sewell playing him on TV. Read my full review here. You can buy the book here.





We move to the Continent (I’m tempted to write, while we still can), Amsterdam to be precise, for the next book – The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey.  Detective Henk van der Pol is close to retirement but he shows no sign of slowing down. He takes on anyone, no matter who they are – local gangs, corrupt officers or even politicians, much to the despair of his put upon wife, Petra.  Read my full review here. You can buy the book here.




Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary, is the third book in her DI Marnie Rome series. When you have a character called Harm, you know that things aren’t going to go well. The great thing about this book is that DS Noah Jake comes more to the fore. His partnership with DI Marnie Rome is set to run and run. Read my full review here. You can buy the book here.





And from one Marnie to another!  Marnie Riches third book in The Girl Who series is The Girl Who Walked In The Shadows and features my favourite kick ass heroine, George McKenzie. Set in the coldest winter across Europe for years, George has to face a serial killer known only as Jack Frost. Read my full review here. You can buy the book here.





My last two books in this group of nine, are both debuts and shared a blog post in the summer, titled Two Dazzling Debuts. You can read it here.

Cut to the Bone Cover Art[804868]

Alex Caan’s Cut To The Bone, was my book of the summer for Sainsbury’s Entertainment. Introducing DCI Kate Riley and DS Zain Harris, this is an impressive thriller exploring the seedier side of vlogging and fame. You can buy the book here.





Saving Sophie by Sam Carrington just makes it into my 2016 list as it’s released in paperback this Thursday 15th December. Karen knows that her daughter, Sophie, is in grave danger. But how is she going to protect her daughter when agoraphobia keeps her confined to her house? You can buy the book here.




So, we’re down to my final three books and they are my top three reads of 2016, and are in order.

BNF Hi res [216819]

Coming in third, is Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds. This is the sequel to The Dark Inside and features journalist Charlie Yates. Set in 1940s USA, this is a fantastic American Noir novel. William Shaw has won the best opening paragraph but Rod wins the best closing. And as it’s Christmas, and it’s not a spoiler, here it is. ‘She looked at me. Her pupils were shrunken and hard from the light in a way I’d never seen before. Half her face was in shadow. A reminder that even the brightest sunset was only the herald of night falling.’ Stunning. Read my full review here. You can buy the book here.



Second, is The Constant Soldier by William Ryan. Set in Germany towards the end of WW2, this book simply took my breath away – utterly beautiful, incredibly moving and cinematic in description. Even thinking about it now, I’m still aware of all the emotions I felt when reading it. Based on photographs of a SS Rest Hut, Ryan has created an authentic storyline that balances tension and love. Read my full review here. You can buy the book here.




And finally, in at no.1 is Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus. I made this decision back in June when I first read the book and though I’ve read some amazing books since then, nothing has dislodged this book from the top slot. Dealing with almost unspeakable topics, Grothaus’ range and depth of writing is astonishing. I could tell you more but this picture that Michael created after my review in June, says it all. Read the full review here. You can buy the book here.



2016 may have been one of the worst years in living memory but in literary terms, it’s been wonderful. This is my final blog of the year as Christmas is coming and I have so much to do! But I can’t go without giving a little shout out to three books being published in the New Year.

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb – pre-order paperback here

Rattle by Fiona Cummins – pre-order hardback here

The Damselfly by SJI Holliday – pre-order paperback here


Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



First Monday Crime – A Christmas Special

Festive goody bags provided by No Exit Press

Christmas had come slightly early to First Monday Crime last night with not one, but two fabulous panels in the very festive Brown’s Courtroom. Kicking off was Mark Billingham, Paula Daly and debut author, Corrie Jackson talking to Barry Forshaw.

Barry asked the authors to describe their current books and give us some recommended reads.

Mark Billingham’s current book is Die of Shame. He described it as a locked room mystery within the close circle of an addiction therapy group. It’s difficult to solve because the group is bound by confidentiality and they’re all liars. Mark said that everything we think we know about addiction is wrong. It has nothing to do with chemical dependence but the trauma that triggered the need in the first place. Mark’s recommended reads are Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb (a fantastic book, you can read my review here) and Mick Herron’s Jackson Lamb series.

Paula Daly’s book is The Mistake I Made. How do professional people get out of debt? If you were offered enough money to get yourself out of trouble in return for spending a night with your benefactor, would you do it? Her character, Roz, has a decision to make. Her next novel, The Trophy Child is out next year and focuses on pushy parents. Her recommended reads are This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell and Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant.

Corrie Jackson’s debut book is Breaking Dead, set in the fashion industry. Sophie Kent is a journalist who investigates the brutal murder of a young model. As a former fashion journalist herself, Corrie felt free to write in her book what she couldn’t write in magazines. Breaking Dead shows the darker side of the industry. Her recommended reads are Tall Oaks by Chris Whittaker and The Hidden Legacy by G.J. Minett.


A question from the audience was, do you get stressed about details or do you let it go and then come back to it later?

For Corrie, she was obsessed about getting it right with book one but with her second book she just wanted to get the first draft down and then sort out any issues.

Paula has a different approach. She writes 700 words a day and makes sure that they’re right before moving on.

A question for Mark – do you like writing standalones?

Yes! It helps to not get too bored and sometimes your story doesn’t fit your usual main character.


The second panel had Alex Marwood, Daniel Pembrey and Yrsa Sigurdottir.


Daniel’s debut novel, The Harbour Master, is set in Amsterdam (you can read my review here) and Barry’s first question – how many times have you been to the Red Light District? Daniel first went with the Dutch National Crime Squad on an investigation which helped to spark ideas for his Dutch police detective, Henk van der Pol. The sequel, Night Market, is out next year.

Alex Marwood’s latest book is The Darkest Secret, the dark tale of a missing 3 year old. Alex writes standalone novels and is currently writing a story about cults. She feels that this is a huge thing at the moment and that the internet is feeding into this. It’s now much easier to find large groups of people who agree with you and create echo chambers.

Yrsa Sigurdottir is known as the queen of Icelandic crime writers. Her latest book is Why Did You Lie?, a standalone novel. It’s a story with three interlocking plots but has one thing in common – lying. Her series protagonist is Thóra Guðmundsdóttir and although she didn’t set out to create a version of herself, there are some similarities. As well as a writer, Yrsa is also an engineer. She said it’s not uncommon for people to have two jobs in Iceland as they have such a small population but still have a country to run.

Final quick question – pet hates?

For Barry Forshaw – pictures of cats that are sent to him on social media.

Alex Marwood – people who don’t like pictures of cats.

Yrsa Sigurdottir – no women on the board of OPEC

Daniel Pembrey – 1* reviews (although Alex Marwood secretly enjoys them – hers not Daniel’s!)

So with the panels finished, the Christmas party continued over at the pub. And for me it really was my Christmas party! I’ll have been writing this blog for a year in January and I’ve loved every minute. But it is done in relative isolation so it’s always great to meet up with friends and have a chat over a drink and a cookie! First Monday Crime will be taking a well deserved break in January and will be back in February.

And I’ll be back with my final blog of the year next week, with my top ten crime reads of 2016!


If you’re still looking for presents to buy then maybe you’d like to buy some of the books by the authors

For Mark Billingham please click here

For Paula Daly please click here

For Corrie Jackson please click here

For Alex Marwood please click here

For Daniel Pembrey please click here

For Yrsa Sigurdottir please click here





First Monday Crime – Die of Shame by Mark Billingham

Tonight is the final First Monday Crime of the year and it’s a Christmas special – not just one panel but two! Mark Billingham, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Alex  Marwood, Paula Daly, Daniel Pembrey and Corrie Jackson will all be talking to Barry Forshaw. I will do my best to take as many notes as I can (I think I have a few pages left in my trusty notebook) and will report back!

But in the meantime, I’ve had the chance to read Die of Shame by Mark Billingham. I’d like to thank Little, Brown for a review copy.


The Review


I know it’s said that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but… this is a gorgeous one! Not just because of how it looks but how it feels. It’s very tactile and my daughter said it felt wet. But as we all know, a great cover is not enough. Thankfully, this novel is packed with great characters and a very intriguing plot line. It also has a giant killer cheese and a brief mention of my favourite band, Mumford and Sons. Really, what’s not to like?

Tony is a therapist. He has lots of different clients but his Monday night session is a recovery group for addicts with varying addictions – drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating etc. Although all appear to be doing ok on the surface, Tony wants to get to the real root of the problem – the shame that drove them to addiction in the first place. As the group begins to reveal their secrets, it becomes clear that someone’s shame will be the motive for their death.

Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner takes on the murder case. Faced with a group of people bound by confidentiality, she’s sure that the answer lies with them. If she can discover the secret shame of the victim, then maybe she can find the killer.

As I said earlier, this book is packed full of great characters, each with distinct voices. Billingham has written this in two time periods, cunningly known as Now and Then. This means we see the characters both before and after the murder. I was desperately searching for clues but as to be expected, Billingham is a master at hiding them. But the cleverest thing about the two time periods, is how they’ve been written. Now is written in the past tense but Then is written in the present tense. The latter creates tension as we, the readers, walk with the main characters towards the night in question.

Although Die of Shame is primarily a crime book, Billingham has written with great sensitivity about addictions and the problems that addicts face. He cites the professionals that have helped him and the depth of research is evident in the authenticity of the therapy sessions.

Obviously, Mark Billingham is known more for his Tom Thorne series but this is a standalone novel featuring DI Nicola Tanner who is considerably different to Thorne. Without wanting to give too much away, there is some resolution in Die of Shame but Billingham has left an opportunity for the story to continue. I really hope this happens, albeit in a different guise.

But wait, I hear you cry! You promised us a giant killer cheese! Indeed, I did. Sometimes, crime and thriller books are so full of tension that there is no room for a laugh. Not so with Mark Billingham. I could paraphrase but then you would lose the genius that made me laugh out loud.

‘She [Tanner] didn’t read much now, and certainly not crime. There was a time when she and Susan might have watched an occasional crime drama on TV, but Susan’s tastes were distinctly cosy and Tanner had finally called a halt to the nonsense after seeing a victim of Midsomer Murders dispatched by a giant cheese.’


If you want to find out more about Mark Billingham and buy Die of Shame then click here


First Monday Crime is a sell out for tonight. If you have bought tickets but are now unable to go, please get in touch with Goldsboro Books as there is a waiting list. Hope to see some of you there tonight at Browns – The Judges Court, 82-84 St Martins Lane, London, WC2n 4AG at 6.30.