This year, I’m determined to only have a top ten. Choosing these ten books has been incredibly difficult. So I have to mention some of the other novels that almost made it onto my list. SJI Holliday has spoilt us this year with two incredible books – The Damselfly and The Deaths of December. Daniel Pembrey’s Night Market is a brilliant sequel to The Harbour Master. Marnie Riches’ new series set in Manchester looks to be as good as her The Girl Who books. Born Bad is the first. Sarah Hilary’s Marnie Rome series goes from strength to strength with Quieter Than Killing. I just hope she hasn’t predicted this winter’s weather. Block 46 from Johana Gustawsson sent shivers down my spine and Louise Beech had me in tears with Maria In The Moon. David Young’s Stasi Wolf transported me to East Germany and threw light on hidden history. I could write about even more but it’s time to focus on my top ten reads. I do have a top three but the other seven are in no particular order. Kicking off is a new kick-ass heroine.
Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb
Lori Anderson, Florida bounty hunter, kick-started the New Year into action. With mounting medical bills for her daughter, Dakota, Lori is forced to take a high risk bond capture. But this is not your average criminal – it’s Lori’s former mentor, JT. He taught her everything she knows. How on earth will she catch him?
You can buy Deep Down Dead here.
The Dry by Jane Harper
The Dry recently won the CWA Gold Dagger. Pretty impressive for a debut. Set in Australia during a devastating drought, police officer Aaron Falk returns to his hometown for a funeral, after leaving twenty years before. He has to confront secrets both past and present. The setting of a town gripped in a two year drought is compelling and adds to the tension of the story.
You can buy The Dry here.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I read this book on my summer holiday and absolutely loved it. Not exactly a crime book but a crime does take place. At first, I found Eleanor a little bit annoying, as does everyone in the novel. But it wasn’t long before she won me over. This is a book that made me howl with laughter one minute and then sob the next. It’s featuring on Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 this week.
You can buy Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine here.
Two O’clock Boy by Mark Hill
I do love my police procedurals and Mark Hill has created a rather special new officer in the form of DI Ray Drake. Set in two time periods, Hill twists the two stories together but just when you think you’ve worked out what’s going on, the story swings in another direction. A stunning debut.
You can buy Two O’clock Boy here.
Sealskin by Su Bristow
Again, this isn’t a crime book as such but starts with a man making a terrible mistake and he has to live with the consequences. Based on the Selkie legend from Scotland., Sealskin is packed full of atmosphere and is beautifully written.
You can buy Sealskin here.
The Lies Within by Jane Isaac
Another one of my favourite police procedurals is the DI Will Jackman series by Jane Isaac. In this novel, Jackman is on secondment to the Leicestershire Police Force and has to investigate the murder of a young woman. Jane Isaac often writes from two points of view and so we also see the story from the victim’s mother. I think this is Jane’s best book so far.
You can buy The Lies Within here.
Race to the Kill by Helen Cadbury
It’s bittersweet to include this novel in my top ten but it absolutely has to be here. Sean Denton has to be the most loveable police officer ever created. We’ve seen him move from being a PCSO to PC and now, in this final book, a DC. It’s terribly sad to think that this is the last book due to Helen’s death earlier this year. I’m sure she had far more Sean Denton stories to tell. Sean goes through quite a lot in this novel but it ends with hope.
You can buy Race to the Kill here.
And now, the top three. Coming third…
An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth
This is such a clever book. It starts with the murder of a young woman but quickly changes direction. It’s the story of Linda Moscow and her son Gabriel. Not only are there multiple viewpoints but there are also different time periods. Very skilfully, McBeth also shows the same scene but from two different views. But the thing that got me most with this book, was how real it felt. Dealing with historical abuse, this novel is disturbingly relevant. It’s a book that stays with you, long after you finish it.
You can buy An Act of Silence here.
Oh dear. Choosing between the last two was so difficult. There was one debut that came storming in at the beginning of the year and set the bar for everyone else. But like the last round of the high jump, another book just inched over that bar. So coming in second (but first in the debut stakes):
Rattle by Fiona Cummins
‘On still nights, when the curve of a winter moon is smudged in the flow of the River Quaggy, the dead clamour for him.’
This is the opening line to Rattle. It sets the tone and the atmosphere for the book. Fiona Cummins has created one of the creepiest serial killers – The Bone Collector. He’s no ordinary grave snatcher as he has specialised tastes. Told from multiple viewpoints, including those the Bone Collector seeks, I ‘rattled’ through this book last Christmas holidays. It was impossible to put down. I’ve had the opportunity to read the sequel, The Collector (due out next year) and I can tell you now, it’s already booked its place in next year’s top reads.
You can buy Rattle here.
So who is first, I hear you cry. Who sneaked over that bar? Well, this is the second book from this author. He recently won a prestigious award for his debut novel. His second book is even better.
My top read of 2017 is (drum roll please)…
All The Wicked Girls by Chris Whitaker
‘There was moments so pure and perfect I almost can’t bear them. Maybe a sunrise so stark that line between us and the heavens blurs to nothing but a smudge.’
If you’ve read Tall Oaks, then you probably think you know what to expect from Chris Whitaker. Tall Oaks was laced with dark humour. But All The Wicked Girls is something else entirely. Without the humour to fall back on, Chris Whitaker’s writing is laid bare and is not found wanting. Utterly beautiful. It has a similar setting of small town America. Grace, in Alabama, seems like a lovely little town on the face of it but dangerous undercurrents flow through Grace and the surrounding area. Teenage girls are going missing and there’s talk of a monster taking them. When Summer Ryan disappears, it’s up to her sister, Raine, to find her.
When I love a book, I normally race through it. Not this time. I slowed down to savour it, to drink it all in. It’s an extraordinary book and therefore, my top read for 2018. Brave and fierce, Chris, brave and fierce.
You can buy All the Wicked Girls here.
Well, that’s my top ten for this year. The more eagle-eyed of you may have noticed that there’s a book missing. One that I absolutely raved about. I chatted with the author and we agreed that maybe it should go into next year for a very good reason. Western Fringes by Amer Anwar would have been in this year’s list and he would have been giving those top three books a run for their money. However, something amazing has happened for Amer. He originally self-published Western Fringes but it’s now been picked up by Dialogue Books. It’s due to be published by them on 6th September 2018 and I can reveal that it’s new title will be Brothers in Blood.
In fact, next year is shaping up to be a fabulous year for books. Not only will we have the re-release of Amer’s book but there will be sequels coming from Fiona Cummins (The Collector), Steph Broadribb (Deep Blue Trouble) and Mark Hill (It Was Her). Add to that, Rod Reynolds third Charlie Yates story (Cold Desert Sky), Rhidian Brook’s new novel (The Killing of Butterfly Joe) and a sequel from Alex Caan (First to Die). So if I thought I had problems choosing my top ten this year, it’s looking almost impossible for 2018!
I have two more blog tours before Christmas but this is my last slightly more personal post. So I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you for reading my blog this year and I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!