My books of the year – crime fiction

the confession jo spainHere are my favourite crime novels of 2018. Tap the book link to read my full review.

My first two picks drew me in with their original storytelling. Eva Dolan’s This Is How It Ends begins with a terrible event at a party for housing rights campaigners. Veteran activist Molly deals with the aftermath, while blogger Ella’s story is told backwards, showing how the two women got there. It has a great ending which totally surprised me.

Jo Spain’s The Confession gives three perspectives on an apparently random killing – that of the perpetrator, the victim’s wife and the police officer investigating it, while exploring the fallout from the Dublin financial crisis (although I didn’t find The Darkest Place, Jo Spain’s latest Inspector Tom Reynolds novel, also published this year, as interesting).

There have been some interesting cross-genre novels this year. Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the story of a thief turned agent in a near-future Nigeria where an alien presence is exerting its influence over the people. Manda Scott’s A Treachery of Spies combines historical fiction, spy fiction and police procedural as a present-day murder leads her protagonist to investigate the victim’s role in the French Resistance and finds her work hindered by political interference.

the quaker by liam mcilvanneyA couple of books were sheer fun. No Tomorrow by Luke Jennings, the second in the series that inspired Killing Eve, is stylish and funny and ends with a twist that makes me interested to see where the books will go next (in a different direction from the TV series, I suspect). The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey is the latest in the series featuring Serge Storms, environmental avenger, a spree killer with a social conscience and a passion for literature.

Joseph Knox’s The Smiling Man, with its darkly funny, visceral prose, took the police procedural ever deeper into noir territory. AJ Finn’s The Woman in the Window was an entertaining mix of domestic noir and cinematic suspense.

I felt a bit let down by some favourite authors this year. Val McDermid’s Broken Ground felt a bit insubstantial and In a House of Lies by Ian Rankin left me feeling that the supposedly retired Rebus should stay out of Police Scotland’s business (via a restraining order if necessary). I was also disappointed in Force of Nature by Jane Harper, having heard great things about The Dry (although I have yet to read it, perhaps put off by my bad experience with Force of Nature).

london rules mick herronOne book that has really stayed with me is The Quaker by Liam McIlvanney and not just, I think, because it won the McIlvanney Prize. It’s a haunting portrayal of sixties Glasgow, and a protagonist who is an outsider in a city where allegiances are everything.

My favourite crime novel of the year? It’s close but I’ve chosen London Rules by Mick Herron. I love the Jackson Lamb series, with its combination of twisty plots, dark humour and beautiful writing but this one excels itself in its takedown of Brexit Britain.

What were your favourite crime novels this year? Did any disappoint?

In my next post I’ll share my favourite literary novels of the year. To make sure you get all my posts, scroll down to follow the blog via email.

6 Comments

  1. I can’t say I read much crime this year, and most of them have been classics: Simenon’s ‘Maigret in Holland’, Conrad’s ‘The Secret Agent’ (can that be classed as crime fiction? Ditto for Ambler’s ‘The Mask of Dimitrios’?), Edmund Crispin’s ‘The Moving Toyshop’ for example. Jan Newton’s 2017 novel ‘Remember No More’ is I think the only conventional crime novel, being a police procedural, others I suppose are thrillers, like Kate Atkinson’s ‘Transcription’ which I’ve just finished.

    No way will I match your diligence! I recognised many of your reviews from these excellent thumbnail descriptions, by the way.

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  2. I finally got around to The Locked Room by Sjowall and Wahloo which I think is their best Martin Beck (although I still have one to read). Of new books, I absolutely loved Resin by Ane Riel and was unexpectedly impressed with Necessities by Boyd Taylor.

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