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

Linda

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

TSentinel

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

HWKtDragon

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?

The Best of June’s Reading

A 032late post to round up my reading in June. The month started with the excellent Crimefest and I came away with lots of new authors that I want to read and not enough time to try them. A new teaching job is taking up a lot of precious reading time but at least a decentish train journey is helping me keep on top  of things. I read one book for the Petrona Awards, a slightly disappointing The Devil’s Sanctuary by Marie Hermanson.  There were some nice new discoveries though, and worth a mention is Gordon Ferris’s series set in post-war Glasgow which I will certainly be reading more of.

My book of the month, though, was the outstanding I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. I really do hope this book gets the attention it deserves. Anyone who loves a good spy story will love this one.

The seven books that I read for crimepieces were:

1. Pilgrim Soul by Gordon Ferris

2. The Good Suicides by Antonio Hill

3. The Devil’s Sanctuary by Marie Hermanson

4.  Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand

5. World Noir: A Tribute to International Crime Fiction

6.  A Taste for Malice by Michael J Malone

7.  I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Review: Terry Hayes – I Am Pilgrim

I am pilgrimOh dear, I’m going to struggle to write an objective review about this book because…….I absolutely loved it. It’s got to be a contender for my book of the year. One of the most exciting things about I Am Pilgrim was the fact that my review copy came without a blurb. This meant that I had absolutely no idea what it was about. I’d picked up some ‘chat’ on twitter that it was a spy novel, and this whetted my appetite, but other than that I had no idea what to expect. But what a treat was in store for me.

The question is, how much do I reveal in my review? I’ve decided to break my blogging habit and tell you nothing about the content. Why? Well first of all, I’d love you to read the book, as I read it, without any preconceptions of what the novel is about. The book has a strong opening so I’m pretty sure that you’ll be hooked from the first page. Secondly, the plot is fairly complex and to summarise it would run the risk of spoiling the action as it unfolds. Part of the enjoyment for me were the twists and turns as the plot got going. There is a reasonably discreet summary on the Amazon website if you’re desperate for some more information.

Of course, I run a risk with this approach. First of all, I may be hyping a book that won’t be to everyone’s taste. However, if I say that the quotes at the front of the book are from Le Carré and Chandler, it will give you a flavour of the type of reader it will appeal to. The other problem with my approach is that it leaves me with precious little to write in a review. Without seeming too much of a tease, the central character is both intriguing and evokes empathy in the reader. There’s no romance in the book and yet much of the story is about family and love and conflict. And the plot is intricate, carefully drawn out and, towards the end, completely compelling.

At 700 pages long, I didn’t want the story to finish and I’d love to read more from this writer.

Thanks to Transworld for the copy of my book which is published on the 18th of this month.