My Top Reads of 2015

It’s been quite a year for me as my own debut novel was published in July. Its meant that I’ve had to carve out dedicated time and space for reading books that might otherwise have become lost in my gargantuan TBR pile. Bloggers have been publishing their ‘best of’ lists all December and I’ve enjoyed reading them to see how our thoughts compare. And In Bitter Chill has been lucky enough to feature on some of the choices. However, now is my turn and, although I tried to keep it to five as in previous years, I cheated and made it six top choices for 2015.

233570921. The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Here’s a book that’s featured on a number of  highlights of 2015 and rightly so. There’s a Hitchcockian devilry in the plot’s construction and the book’s premise – two people who meet on a plane and hatch a murder plot – has lots of scope for mishap and criminality. A book I read in one sitting it was so good.

2. Satellite People by Han Olav Lahlumsatellite-people-978023076953301

We were treated to two books by Lahlum this year and I slightly preferred the plot of Satellite People. A clear homage to Agatha Christie (he dedicates the book to her), for us fans of the queen of crime it was enjoyable to spot the references to her books. But an enjoyable read in its own right too.

237030503. The Abrupt Physics of Dying by Paul Hardisty

An intriguing title that seemed to unsettle my fellow passenger on the plane to the States. But it is a great book that demonstrates how thrillers can be both well written and engrossing. Hardisty is a writer with a promising future ahead of him.

4. Sleeping Dogs by Thomas Mogford.sleepingdogs

Mogford made it into my top reads of 2014 and he’s done it again this year. His book featuring Gibraltar detective Spike Sanguinetti is written to a consistently high quality and Sleeping Dogs was set in a country I know well, Greece.

51KZmDXMg9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_5. The Undesired by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Yrsa won the Petrona Award for translated Scandinavian crime fiction for her previous book, Silence of the Sea. The Undesired is a standalone thriller that managed to chill me to the denouement. Her endings, without giving any spoilers, can be brutal and she never flinches from exposing the worst of the human psyche.

6. Untouchable by Ava MarshUntouchable

A great debut by another writer who shows plenty of promise. Untouchable is the story of a London call girl who takes on the investigation of one of her fellow workers. A tightly written story that I’ve been telling all my friends to read.

So those are my highlights of 2015. I’ve got plenty to read over Christmas and New Year and I’m looking forward to bringing you more reviews in 2016. And if you want to find out which of these books was my outright favourite, sign up for my newsletter with the button on the right. All will be revealed next week.

Review: Hans Olav Lahlum – Satellite People

satellite-people-978023076953301I was a big fan of Lahlum’s first book to be translated into English. The Human Flies is a crime novel set in the late sixties which provides an interesting takes on the locked room mystery. It’s on the shortlist for the 2015 Petrona Award and was one of my top five reads of last year. I was sent a copy of Lahlum’s second book Satellite People in January but I’d been saving it until we’d finished judging the Petrona. It was worth the wait. If anything, Satellite People is an even better book. It’s a perfect blend of classic crime motifs and modern narrative structure.

In Oslo, in 1968, a wealthy businessman dies during a dinner party. He had only the day before contacted Inspector Kolbjorn Kristiansen claiming his life was in danger. Kristiansen, known as K2, takes charge of the case and discovers that only one of the ten dinner guests could have carried out the murder. But when other family members begin to die, K2 seeks the help of the brilliant Patricia who, from her wheelchair, guides the course of the investigation.

Lahlum dedicates Satellite People to Agatha Christie, ‘the queen of classic crime’. It’s a nice touch, especially given the plot influences contained within the book. I won’t go into detail which of Christie’s novels or their plots are referenced here. Suffice to say that fans will see echoes of Cards on the Table, And Then There were None and Three Act Tragedy and plenty more besides. But while Christie’s devious narratives are mined, Lahlum provides a substance to his characters that are sometimes missing from the crime queen’s books. Kristiansen is once more portrayed as a diligent and enthusiastic detective with a strong sense of justice. His sexual attraction to a possible suspect gives him a more human dimension than in the previous novel. Patricia is the pivotal figure in solving the case and we see her developing from a brilliant child to a perceptive and driven woman.

The effects of the Second World War are examined again in the book. As it is the late sixties, events are in the near past and provide plenty of possibilities for instances of secrets and betrayal. There are lots of twists and turns until we reach the conclusion and Lahlum, for one final time, uses a plot device from Christie for the denouement.

Lahlum has delivered an excellent book and it is easily the best crime novel I’ve read this year so far. We’re being tempted by the news that the third book in the series is currently being translated by the excellent Kari Dickson. I can’t wait.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan for my review copy.