My Top Five Crime Reads of 2013

It’s that time again when we reflect on what we’ve read over the past year. I’ve been looking at some other bloggers’ lists and it’s impressive how much diversity there is in the recommendations. Crime fiction is clearly still a vibrant force with plenty for everyone.

That said, my overriding feeling is that, with a few notable exceptions, out of the 74 books that I reviewed on crime pieces, it wasn’t as successful a reading year as my previous one. There are a lot of good crime novels out there and these are a pleasure to read. But occasionally you want to read something that blows you away. It’s this feeling that makes us passionate about books and reading in general and we all need to be wowed sometimes. So, below are the exceptions. Five books that I would unhesitatingly recommend to anyone. If you didn’t like them then that’s fair enough. I loved them all.

5. Leif G W Persson – Linda, As in the Linda Murder


This is a book with a great title whose meaning only becomes clear on the final pages. I’d struggled through Persson’s previous book, Another Time, Another Life so I was surprised how much I loved this one. Part of the credit is due to Neil Smith’s excellent translation. I suspect you either love or hate the tone of this tongue-in-cheek look at a misogynist cop.

4. Mark Oldfield – The Sentinel


Another memorable protagonist has been created in the form of Commandante Guzman, an amoral and brutal member of Franco’s secret police. I preferred the 1950s narrative to the present day parallel story but the book was a memorable read for me and I’m already looking forward to the next installment.

3. Fred Vargas – The Ghost Riders of Ordebec

Ghost Riders

I’m huge Vargas fan and new translations of her books are a must-read for me. She’s another writer whose books divide readers; her slightly off-beat view of the world isn’t for everyone. But, in my opinion, her cast of characters are unrivalled in their eccentricities. The Ghost Riders.. is particularly good as it delves once more into France profonde.

2.  Terry Hayes – I Am Pilgrim

I am pilgrim

Anyone who read my review of this book can’t have helped noticing how enthusiastic I was about it. It helped that it was a spy novel: Le Carre is one of my favourite writers and this is one of the best modern spy stories that I’ve read. It’s a long book, around 700 pages, which may put some readers off which is a shame because once you get into the narrative it’s completely addictive.

1. Leif G W Persson – He Who Kills the Dragon


Ok, this is my second inclusion of a Backstrom book but I can’t help the fact that two great novels from the same author were published this year. This is as good a book as Linda…, and also funnier. I do look at other bloggers’ reviews of this book and I find Backstrom fans in the unlikeliest quarters.

So those are my top five recommendation of this year. What books were your outstanding reads?

31 thoughts on “My Top Five Crime Reads of 2013

  1. I’m sure they’re great choices Sarah but I haven’t ready any of them – I guess that shows there is lots of crime fiction about AND I have been out of things somewhat for the latter part of this year. I’m looking forward to Linda… though I wonder how I’ll go as I didn’t struggle with Another Time, Another Life. I have picked up I am Pilgrim at least a half-dozen times in the local library but never bring it home…partly the size and partly the whole spy thing that puts me off – I never was a huge spy novel fan.


  2. I read I Am Pilgrim based solely on your review – you were so enthusiastic that I ordered it straight away. And it did not disappoint, I thought it was very clever and compelling and justified its length. So thanks for the tipoff – I doubt it would have hit my radar otherwise.


  3. I read I Am Pilgrim too thanks to your review, although I hesitated about the length – but it actually flew by in a cracking action adventure way. I found the chronological jumping narrative – something that can lose me at times – really worked too. Have a great Christmas, Sarah, and a Happy New Year!


  4. Margot Kinberg

    Those are great choices, Sarah! And you’ve reminded me that I very much want to read I am Pilgrim. You’re right; part of the beauty of crime fiction is its variety. There’s something in it for everyone…


  5. Interesting list Sarah, and all books I’d like to check out in the coming year. (I’ve only read the Vargas.) I haven’t come up with my list yet, and I’m not sure if it will be 5 or 10, but it’s something I look forward to doing soon. In the meantime, merry Christmas and happy new year!


  6. My first New Year’s Resolution: to read more Vargas. I read one two years ago and meant then to work my way through her output but got sidetracked somehow. Not next Year.


  7. All of these sound good, and I hope to get to all of them someday. I Am Pilgrim is a definite this year, as soon as it is available here (in paper). My husband and I are both looking forward to that, and preparing ourselves to include more longer books this year. I am glad I gave Vargas another chance and I will be continuing that series this year (I hope). I don’t have the next one yet although I have more in the series on hand.

    I have not read a lot of books that have blown me away this year, but I have read a LOT of books that are very, very good and I am pleased with my reading year. But it will be hard to come up with top picks. I have not even thought about it yet.


  8. Kathy D.

    i have only read the Vargas of this list. Loved it. Don’t have patience with sexist and bigoted cops, and spies aren’t my thing. But reading bloggers; book reviews is a pleasure.


  9. Helen Douglas

    I agree with you. Loved Linda as in the Linda murder. I feel guilty when I am amused at some of the exploits of Backstrom. he is terrible. I also liked Falling Freely as if in a dream. As you can tell I am a big G.W. Leif Persson fan. I also loved Fred Vargas.


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