Books to Look Out For in 2019

Happy New Year to all Crimepieces readers. 2018 has been an excellent year for books and my selection of my six favourite crime novels of the year were published over at Crime Time with other reviewers’ choices. A really eclectic bunch and I was delighted to see Alex Reeve’s The House on Half Moon Street make it onto the Richard and Judy selection for their winter book club.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a sneak preview of some novels coming in 2019. I’ve already raved about the excellent Scrublands by Chris Hammer. I use the first chapter of this thriller with my students as an example of how to create tension early in the narrative. I’ve also got a couple of books sitting on my shelves that I can’t wait to read, notably William Shaw’s Deadland

Books are often advertised as containing a ‘killer twist you won’t see coming’ which is often untrue. The only book I can remember being genuinely shocked by the change in direction of the plot was Peter Swanson’s The Kind Worth KillingI’m now adding Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient to my list. Alicia, a well-known artist, shoots her husband dead and from then onwards refuses to speak. Psychotherapist Leo Faber becomes fascinated by Alicia’s case and obtains a job in her psychiatric hospital to try to unravel why Alicia refuses to talk about her crime. To say any more about the plot would be to give too much away but I found narrative utterly compelling. You can tell Michaelides has spent time working in a psychiatric unit given the level of detail involved and the ending took my breath away.

I read CJ Tudor’s The Taking of Annie Thorne just before Christmas and it’s an excellent creepy read. Joe Thorne has arrived back in his Nottinghamshire home town with a dodgy CV and an uncertain commitment to his teaching post. With a family tragedy in the past, he’s been sent an anonymous note saying that a horror he thought long forgotten has returned. I loved the regional setting and Tudor’s take on the familiar ‘pit’ theme in horror literature.

It can be hard to create a genuinely original character in a crime novel but  Ilaria Tuti has managed it with Inspector Teresa Battaglia in Flowers Over the Inferno. Despite inspiring awe in her team, Battaglia is suffering from occasional bouts of memory loss. In a village in the Italian Alps the body of a naked man is found with his eyes gouged out. It becomes clear that there are more victims and the children of the village may know more than they’re letting on. I’m delighted that this well-written crime novel is going to be the first book in a trilogy because I loved Teresa Battaglia who makes a compelling but vulnerable protagonist. The translation is by Ekin Oklap.

Those are my reads to look out for in early 2019. Are there any books you’re eagerly awaiting?

 

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: Peter Swanson – The Kind Worth Killing

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart was an excellent debut last year by US writer Peter Swanson. It’s always 23357092good to read standalone crime fiction that combines a thrillerish plot with good characterisation. So I was looking forward to Swanson’s followup book, The Kind Worth Killing. With this second novel, however, Swanson has excelled himself and it was a surprising and unusual read.

Ted Severson, delayed at Heathrow airport, confides to a complete stranger that his wife is having an affair. Lily asks him whether he has thought of killing his unfaithful spouse and together they arrange to meet again to discuss possible plots. Miranda, Ted’s wife, is an artist who may have married him for his wealth. However, she has a few dark secrets of her own which threaten to scupper Ted and Lily’s plans.

The first third of the book is classic thriller territory and we follow the machinations of Ted and Lily in alternate chapters. Swanson is particularly good at giving us the background to the characters so that their varying degrees of willingness to embrace murder is explained. However, there are some unexpected twists and the plot opens out to other characters’ points of view and it is the second half of the book where the real narrative deviousness takes place.

None of the characters are completely sympathetic but nor do they feel wholly bad. Without giving too much of the plot away, it does become something of a bloodfest which is actually very satisfying. The Kind Worth Killing has a great story at its heart and the deceptively simple narrative hides some excellent plot planning.

Thanks to Faber for my review copy. The book was also a hit with Crimepieces monthly reviewer, Rachel Hall. Her Goodreads review is here.