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!

Four translated crime novels: Fred Vargas, Steinar Bragi, Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Agnes Ravatn

With the launch of A Deadly Thaw, I’m falling a little behind with my reviews and I’ve read some great books recently. So for my next few reviews, I’ll cluster the books into groups  – translated crime novels, British crime fiction and some more ghostly tales.

51dWXz1LAoL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_First up, is A Climate of Fear by one of my favourite crime writers, Fred Vargas. I absolutely love her detective Adamsberg and also the way in which Vargas looks at the world. I find her output variable but still always look forward to her latest offering. A Climate of Fear  is set both in France and Iceland and, if not her best, it’s an excellent read and a well-plotted mystery. There’s less emphasis on Adamsberg’s personal life and more on the series of gruesome murders centred around a modern day cult devoted to Robespierre. In both style and subject matter this is classic Vargas. The translation is by Sian Reynolds.

41wQKF6SYYL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_On contrast to Vargas, Steinar Bragi is a completely new writer to me. The Ice Lands isn’t out until the 20th October but I was sent a very early review copy in July. Set in the wilds of Iceland, it narrates the disorientation of four friends on a camping trip whose car breaks down and who are forced to seek shelter in a nearby farmhouse. Butchered animals, shadows seen at night and merciless weather combine to make a dark horror-style read. Perfect for fans of Stephen King. The translation is by Lorenza Garcia.

9781473605053Yrsa Sigurdardottir is a consistently good writer whose books have a tinge of the supernatural about them. Why Did You Lie has three storylines, revolving around punishment for a lie that different characters have committed in the past. A journalist investigating an old case attempts suicide, a couple returning from a house swap discover that their guests are missing and four strangers are trapped on windswept rocks. You can’t go wrong in Yrsa’s hands and it’s a compelling tale.The translation is by Victoria Cribb.

9781910633359The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn is set on an isolated fjord where a former TV person presenter, Allis, seeks refuge with a recently widowed man. Isolated from other villagers the book explores the dynamic of the relationship as secrets are gradually revealed. The writing reminds me of that of Karen Fossum and it’s a joy to read. The translation is by Rosie Hedger.