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!

Some crime fiction favourites for autumn

Crime fiction can sometimes feel all about the new: the latest debut, the next bestseller. I try to balance this with reading books from the Golden Age era and also fiction in translation, in particular Nordic Noir. If I was going to be completely honest though, my favourite type of crime fiction comes from none of those categories. What I read and re-read over and over again are crime novels from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. PD James, Ruth Rendell, Marcia Muller, Sue Grafton, Jonathan Kellerman, Colin Dexter.  Is there a term for this period in crime fiction? I’m not sure but there should be because it produced some stand-out authors, many of whom are still writing.

27152-books-origjpgThere will be no more Adam Dalgliesh books but Faber have released a small collection of PD James’s short stories entitled The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories. The book has  an introduction by Val McDermid and although all the stories have appeared in publication before, they were completely new to me. James’s writing is a delight. She gives us plenty of intrigue but never forgets the human element in her writing. The second story, A Very Commonplace Murder, reminds us how much she had in common with Ruth Rendell whereas The Boxdale Inheritance is a classic Dalgliesh mystery. The book would make a gorgeous Christmas present for any crime fiction fan.

51putr9qilSusan Moody is a writer I first met at Iceland Noir and I remember her asking a helpful question at the first ever panel I spoke at. She’s the author of 34 novels which is an impressive output and I was keen to try one of her books. Penny Black  has just been reissued by new publisher, Williams and Whiting and it was the perfect opportunity to give one of Susan’s books a go.

Penny Wanawake is a tall, black, elegant part time sleuth who investigates the murder of her friend, Marfa, a model. Although based in England, she travels to Marfa’s home in the States and with the help of Kimbell, an American detective goes on the hunt for the killer. First published in 1984, the style took me back to the Jackie Collins books I used to devour as a teenager. Great fun.

51sswggqeel-_sy344_bo1204203200_I met Kate Charles at an event in Ludlow and, by complete coincidence, I was in the middle of reading her first book, A Drink of Deadly Wine.  Father Gabriel Neville is  priest of the prestigious St Anne’s Church in Kensington Gardens. When he receives a letter threatening to reveal an incident from his past, he calls on his old friend David Middleton-Brown who he hasn’t seen for then years. It’s a great page-turner with an interesting cast of suspects familiar to those involved in parish life. First published in 1991, the story feels fresh and I’ve got a whole series to discover.