Last year I didn’t do a “favourite books” post, the reason being I only started blogging in April 2014, so hadn’t done a full year of reviewing. I was even in two minds about doing one for 2015, as I – embarrassingly – haven’t actually get round to reviewing some of the books included here – I often find it harder to review really excellent books! I will rectify that in the next few weeks – just give me time to quickly re-read them, in between new books – and a few older ones too! I haven’t picked them out by the stars I’ve awarded on GoodReads, either, as I often feel I’m too generous immediately I put a book down…this list is probably best described as the books I still think about, even though it’s months, in many cases, since I’ve read them. I didn’t deliberately intend this, but it’s a Perfect 10 Of Wonderful Books. If I had – on pain of death – to pick a favourite it would be Without The Moon; and best debut author would be Rod Reynolds for The Dark Inside. And my New Year’s Resolution? I think that should be to review books faster, don’t you?!
Without The Moon – Cathi Unsworth
BLURB: Hush, hush, hush
Here comes the Bogeyman …
London during the long, dark days of the Blitz: a city outwardly in ruins, weakened by exhaustion and rationing. But behind the blackout, the old way of life continues: in the music halls, pubs and cafes, soldiers mix with petty crooks, stage magicians with lonely wives, scandal-hungry reporters with good-time girls – and DCI Edward Greenaway keeps a careful eye on everyone.
Out on the streets, something nastier is stirring: London’s prostitutes are being murdered, their bodies left mutilated to taunt the police. And in the shadows Greenaway’s old adversaries in organised crime are active again, lured in by rich pickings on the black market. As he follows a bloody trail through backstreets and boudoirs, Greenaway must use all his skill – and everything he knows about the city’s underworld – to stop the slaughter.
I’ve got to confess, I was gobsmacked not to see this book on a raft of “Best Of…” lists, but I don’t think I spotted it once. It is also the book with the highest average rating on GoodReads from my choices – 4.4, according to WordPress. It ticks lots of boxes for me personally – murders (natch), a determined policeman who appears to have no other life rather than solving crimes, some wonderful female characters who still work the night streets, even though there’s a blackout, for their own variety of reasons. Then there’s the Blitz-spirit, the slang, the slogans (“Be Like Dad – Keep Mum”), the streets with huge gaps in them from a bomb, like a missing tooth, and the rooms that look like they’ve been cut in half, with curtains and wallpaper still visible. There’s very little to eat, so everyone drinks tea and smokes incessantly to make them feel like their mouths are getting something inside them. While everyone else was putting Crooked Heart on their lists, both this year and last, and while it’s a novel I also adored, Without The Moon won my heart. I have Weirdo; the next Cathi Unsworth on my list to buy is Bad Penny Blues.
I will be reviewing this in the very near future.
The Abrupt Physics Of Dying – Paul E Hardisty
BLURB: Claymore Straker is trying to forget a violent past. Working as an oil company engineer in the wilds of Yemen, he is hijacked at gunpoint by Islamic terrorists. Clay has a choice: help uncover the cause of a mysterious sickness afflicting the village of Al Urush, close to the company’s oil-processing facility, or watch Abdulkader, his driver and close friend, die. As the country descends into civil war and village children start dying, Clay finds himself caught up in a ruthless struggle between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival terrorist factions. As Clay scrambles to keep his friend alive, he meets Rania, a troubled journalist. Together, they try to uncover the truth about Al Urush. But nothing in this ancient, unforgiving place is as it seems. Accused of a murder he did not commit, put on the CIA’s most-wanted list, Clay must come to terms with his past and confront the powerful forces that want him dead. A stunning debut eco-thriller, The Abrupt Physics of Dying is largely based on true events. Gritty, gripping and shocking, this book will not only open your eyes but keep them glued to the page until the final, stunning denouement is reached.
Another one I haven’t got round to reviewing, mainly because I spent so long reading, and then thinking about, this epic novel, but I will get to it. It’s an intelligent action eco-thriller, written by someone who clearly knows what he’s writing about, having done this job. Incredible prose from a debut novelist; it feels like he must have sweated blood over it. I cannot wait to read the next book in the trilogy, The Evolution Of Fear, which is out (at least in eBook) next week.
I will be reviewing this in the very near future.
The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson
BLURB: ‘Hello there.’
I looked at the pale, freckled hand on the back of the empty bar seat next to me in the business class lounge of Heathrow airport, then up into the stranger’s face.
‘Do I know you?’
Delayed in London, Ted Severson meets a woman at the airport bar. Over cocktails they tell each other rather more than they should, and a dark plan is hatched – but are either of them being serious, could they actually go through with it and, if they did, what would be their chances of getting away with it?
Back in Boston, Ted’s wife Miranda is busy site managing the construction of their dream home, a beautiful house out on the Maine coastline. But what secrets is she carrying and to what lengths might she go to protect the vision she has of her deserved future?
A sublimely plotted novel of trust and betrayal, The Kind Worth Killing will keep you gripped and guessing late into the night.
This one appeared on a lot of bloggers’ favourites lists, and it’s no surprise. Take Highsmith’s Strangers On A Train, but update it to an airport in the 21st century, and have a millionaire vent about his wife, who’s cheating on him with the builder, to the gorgeous redhead, Lily, who just happens to have sat next to him at the bar. Her theory is that some people are The Kind Worth Killing, because they don’t deserve to live. She even arranges to meet and thrash out the plan step-by-step. It all seems utterly plausible to Ted after a couple of martinis at the bar – but why would a perfect stranger risk life imprisonment to help someone she doesn’t even know who’s got a cheating wife?
My review can be found at https://crimeworm.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/the-kind-worth-killing-peter-swanson/
Gun Street Girl – Adrian McKinty
BLURB: Book 4 in the Detective Sean Duffy series.
Belfast, 1985. Gunrunners on the borders, riots in the cities, The Power of Love on the radio. And somehow, hanging on, is Detective Inspector Sean Duffy, a Catholic policeman in the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The usual rounds of riot duty and sectarian murders are interrupted when a wealthy couple are shot dead while watching TV. Their son jumps to his death, leaving a note claiming responsibility. But something doesn’t add up, and people keep dying.
Soon Sean Duffy, Belfast’s most roguish detective, is on the trail of a mystery that will pit him against shadowy US national security forces, and take him into the white-hot heart of the biggest political scandal of the decade.
My review can be found at https://crimeworm.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/gun-street-girl-adrian-mckinty/
The Dark Inside – Rod Reynolds
BLURB: 1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close.
But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job…
Loosely based on true events, The Dark Inside is a compelling and pacy thriller that heralds a new voice in the genre. It will appeal to fans of RJ Ellory, Tom Franklin, Daniel Woodrell and True Detective.
My review can be found at https://crimeworm.wordpress.com/2015
Joe Cinque’s Consolation – Helen Garner
BLURB: A TRUE STORY OF DEATH, GRIEF AND THE LAW. In October 1997 a clever young law student at ANU made a bizarre plan to murder her devoted boyfriend after a dinner party at their house. Some of the dinner guests-most of them university students-had heard rumours of the plan. Nobody warned Joe Cinque. He died one Sunday, in his own bed, of a massive dose of rohypnol and heroin. His girlfriend and her best friend were charged with murder.
Helen Garner followed the trials in the ACT Supreme Court. Compassionate but unflinching, this is a book about how and why Joe Cinque died. It probes the gap between ethics and the law; examines the helplessness of the courts in the face of what we think of as ‘evil’; and explores conscience, culpability, and the battered ideal of duty of care.
It is a masterwork from one of Australia’s greatest writers.
Winner of New Kelly Award for Best True Crime 2005
Winner of ABA Book of the Year 2004
I will be reviewing this in the very near future.
Europa Blues – Arne Dahl
BLURB: A Greek gangster arrives in Stockholm, only to be murdered in a macabre fashion at Skansen zoo, his body consumed by animals.
As the Intercrime Unit – a team dedicated to solving international violent crime – investigate what brought him to Sweden, eight Eastern European women vanish from a refugee centre outside the city while an elderly professor, the tattooed numbers on his arm hinting at his terrible past, is executed at the Jewish cemetery.
Three cases, one team of detectives and an investigation that will take them across Europe and back through history as they desperately search for answers, and the identities of the killers.
This was my first Arne Dahl novel, and it certainly won’t be the last. Witty, complex, with a great cast of characters (even their relationships with each other are complex!), I found myself never wanting it to end. I’ve since got myself two more, so I’m hoping I’ll enjoy them just as much.
I’ll be reviewing this in the very near future.
Falling – Emma Kavanagh
BLURB: A brilliant debut psychological thriller by a former police psychologist. Perfect for fans of Nicci French, Tana French and S. J. Watson.
A plane falls out of the sky. A woman is murdered. Four people all have something to hide.
Jim is a retired police officer, and worried father. His beloved daughter has disappeared and he knows something is wrong.
Tom has woken up to discover that his wife was on the plane and must break the news to their only son.
Cecilia had packed up and left her family. Now she has survived a tragedy, and sees no way out.
Freya is struggling to cope with the loss of her father. But as she delves into his past, she may not like what she finds.
‘Before the plane crash, after the plane crash, such a short amount of time for the world to turn on its head… ‘
My review can be found at https://crimeworm.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/blog-tour-falling-uk-title-after-we-fall-us-title/
Broken Harbour – Tana French
BLURB: In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin – half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned – two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.
Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .
My review can be found at https://crimeworm.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/broken-harbour-tana-french/
The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters
BLURB: It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa — a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants — life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodge It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa — a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants — life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.
With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life — or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.
My review can be found at https://crimeworm.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/the-paying-guests-sarah-waters/
So, what do you think of my selection? I’d LOVE to hear all your opinions of what should (and shouldn’t) be here!