My Top Ten Crime Books of 2016

Top ten books of the year have been appearing since the beginning of December but I’ve held off posting mine just in case of a last minute brilliant read. However, I’ve spent most of the festive period reading classic crime, a review of which I’ll post later.

2016 has been a bit of a mixed bag in terms of reading. I have found the submissions for this year’s Petrona to be uneven. Some long running series are feeling a bit tired and Scandi tropes which once felt fresh are increasingly being recycled to the extent that I feel I’ve already read the book. Having said that, the Nordic Noir books that do make it onto the list were a joy to read.

So, here are my top ten books of 2016 in no particular order. If you want to know which one was my favourite, I’ll reveal all in my new year newsletter.

dying-detectiveLeif G W Persson – The Dying Detective (translated by Neil Smith)

Persson is a writer with a sure touch but in this standalone he excels in both plotting and characterisation. It’s a substantial read with plenty to think about and written with Persson’s sly humour.

27152-books-origjpgPD James – The Mistletoe Murder and other stories

There will be no more Dalgliesh novels from James but Faber have provided us fans of the erudite detective with two short stories in this collection. Although they have previously appeared in publications, every story was new to me and the sumptuous cover made the book a  delight to read.

51dWXz1LAoL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Fred Vargas – A Climate of Fear (translated by Sian Reynolds)

Another writer who delights in wry humour, this is Vargas back on form. Adamsberg is without doubt my favourite detective at the moment and the Icelandic setting for part of the story was an added bonus.

30840877-_uy200_David Mitchell – Slade House

I appear to have neglected to review this book. I think I was saving the post for a round-up of supernatural stories that I read over the year. It’s a great mix of crime and spooky events and I greatly enjoyed the way it unsettled the reader.

9781843446408Barry Forshaw – Brit Noir

This is a useful guide to British crime fiction divided by geographic region. The reviews of the merits of each writers books are perceptive and includes lesser known authors for aficionados to discover.

9781784292379Elly Griffiths – The Woman in Blue

One of my favourite crime series, I love the characters and the romantic tension between Nelson and Ruth. Here, the atmospheric setting of Walsingham provided the backdrop to a great plot.

 

9781910633359Agnes Ravatn – The Bird Tribunal (translated by Rosie Hedger)

Fans of Karin Fossum will love this story where the tension is slowly ratched up. It’s an example of how crime fiction can also be literary without the writing interfering with the story.

 

The-Crow-Girl-by-Erik-Axl-Sund-665x1024Erik Axl Sund – The Crow Girl

Violent and uncompromising, I loved how it pushes the reader to confront their prejudices in relation to perpetrators of brutality. It’s long but never dull.

 

A-Dying-Breed-lightPeter Hanington – A Dying Breed

A crime novel with a difference. The Afghanistan setting works equally as well as the world of news reporting in London. It gives an insight into the clashes between old and new style journalism. Peter Hannington is a writer to watch.

 

9781509809486chameleon-peopleHans Olav Lahlum – Chameleon People (translated by Kari Dickson)

The review for this excellent book will  be coming in my next Scandi round-up. It has all of Lahlum’s usual themes but his writing never tires. I found the character of the wheelchair-bound Patricia much more sympathetic in this book and there is clearly plenty of mileage left in the series.

So that’s my top ten. Next week I’ll be posting a list of books to watch for Spring 2017. I’ve already read some excellent novels and there’s plenty to look forward to.

Wishing all readers of Crimepieces a happy new year!

Review: Peter Hanington – A Dying Breed

A-Dying-Breed-lightThere are quite a few novels written by current and former journalists but I’d be hard pressed to think of a crime book that has brought alive so vividly the passion and politics that goes into producing a radio news programme. Peter Hanington has worked on BBC Radio 4’s Today for fourteen years and has used his experience to interweave the intricacies of putting a news story together with a crime plot set in Afghanistan.

William Carver is a veteran journalist that the BBC is trying to make redundant. He goes to Afghanistan and is sleeping off a hangover when a bomb goes off which kills a prominent local official. Back in England Rob Mariscal, the editor of Today strikes fear into all who work for him, including young producer, Patrick Reid, who is desperate to make his mark in his job. Patrick is sent to Afghanistan to keep an eye on Carver but runs into a conspiracy involving influential stakeholders who don’t want Carver to run his story.

A Dying Breed is a fascinating book. It’s extremely well written and, unusually for me, I enjoyed the incidentals about news production as much as the crime story itself. Bureaucracy within the BBC is shown as demoralising and stifling creativity and egos abound amongst its personnel. Hanington is much warmer towards the people of Afghanistan and the daily struggle they endure while under the scrutiny of politicians and the media worldwide. Particularly well drawn is Karim, Carver’s fixer in Afghanistan who is invaluable to win in his work.

There are some amusing moments for speculation for those of us familiar with BBC news, even on the outside. Who is news presenter and face of the Ten O’Clock news  John Brandon based on, for example? I’m sure this is the start of a bright new career for Peter Hanington. A Dying Breed is an excellent read and distinguished by bright, clean prose that never gets in the way of the story.  It’s a little bit different from other crime novels out there and I’d highly recommend it.