Tuesday, 24 December 2019

My favourite reads of 2019

So I finally managed to get round to drawing up my list of favourite reads for this year.  In no particular order they are as follows - 

Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson (Pan Macmillan) 
June, 1781. An unidentified body hangs upon a hook at Deptford Dock - horribly tortured and branded with a slaver's mark.  Some days later, Captain Harry Corsham - a war hero embarking upon a promising parliamentary career - is visited by the sister of an old friend. Her brother, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, had been about to expose a secret that he believed could cause irreparable damage to the British slaving industry. He'd said people were trying to kill him, and now he is missing . . .  To discover what happened to Tad, Harry is forced to pick up the threads of his friend's investigation, delving into the heart of the conspiracy Tad had unearthed. His investigation will threaten his political prospects, his family's happiness, and force a reckoning with his past, risking the revelation of secrets that have the power to destroy him.  And that is only if he can survive the mortal dangers awaiting him in Deptford.

Heaven my Home by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail/Profile Books)
Nine-year-old Levi King knew he should have left for home sooner; instead he found himself all alone, adrift on the vastness of Caddo Lake. A sudden noise - and all goes dark.  Ranger Darren Matthews is trying to emerge from another kind of darkness; his career and reputation lie in the hands of his mother, who's never exactly had his best interests at heart. Now she holds the key to his freedom, and she's not above a little blackmail to press her advantage. An unlikely possibility of rescue arrives in the form of a case down Highway 59, in a small lakeside town.  With Texas already suffering a new wave of racial violence in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, a black man is a suspect in the possible murder of a missing white boy: the son of an Aryan Brotherhood captain. In deep country where the rule of law only goes so far, Darren has to battle centuries-old prejudices as he races to save not only Levi King, but himself.

Conviction by Denise Mina (Vintage)
Everyone loves a true-crime podcast... until they have a starring role. Conviction stars a strong female protagonist who is obsessed by true-crime podcasts and decides, one day, to investigate one of the unsolved crimes herself. It's just a normal morning for Anna McDonald.  Gym kits, packed lunches, getting everyone up and ready. Until she opens the front door to her best friend, Estelle. Anna turns to see her own husband at the top of the stairs, suitcase in hand. They're leaving together and they're taking Anna's two daughters with them. Left alone in the big, dark house, Anna can't think, she can't take it in. With her safe, predictable world shattered, she distracts herself with a story: a true-crime podcast. There's a sunken yacht in the Mediterranean, multiple murders and a hint of power and corruption. Then Anna realises she knew one of the victims in another life. She is convinced she knows what happened. Her past, so carefully hidden until now, will no longer stay silent. This is a murder she can't ignore, and she throws herself into investigating the case. But little does she know, her past and present lives are about to collide, sending everything she has worked so hard to achieve into free fall.

New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke (Orion)
Detective Dave Robicheaux first met Desmond Cormier on the backstreets of New Orleans. He was a young pretender who dreamt of stardom whilst Robicheaux had his path all figured out.   Now, twenty-five years later, their roles have reversed. When Robicheaux knocks on Cormier's door, he sees a successful Hollywood director.   It seems dreams can come true. But so can nightmares.  A young woman has been crucified, wearing only a small chain on her ankle, and all the evidence points to Cormier. Robicheaux wants to believe his old friend wouldn't be capable of such a crime - but Cormier's silence is deafening.  And he isn't the only ghost from Robicheaux's past which comes back to haunt him.

The Hooded Gunman: An Illustrated History of Collins Crime Club by John Curran (Harper Collins Publisher)
A lavish full-colour celebration of the 2000 books by more than 250 authors published by the iconic Crime Club between 1930 and 1994.  The Hooded Gunman was the sinister figure who, having appeared in various guises on the covers of Collins' various series of Mystery and Detective books in the 1920s, finally gained recognition with the launch of Collins' Crime Club, becoming the definitive imprint stamp on more than 2,000 books published by that august imprint between 1930 and 1994. From Agatha Christie to Reginald Hill, the Hooded Gunman was a guarantee of a first-class crime novel for almost 65 years, and those books are now as sought after and collectable and almost any other book series, with many commanding high prices and almost impossible to find.  In the year that Collins - the publisher founded by William Collins in Glasgow in 1819 - is enjoying its 200th birthday, this book celebrates probably its most famous publishing imprint. Written and researched by Agatha Christie writer, expert and archivist Dr John Curran, this sumptuous coffee table book looks back at the history of the Crime Club and its authors, showing the jackets of every book published by the imprint over seven decades, and the descriptive 'blurbs' of every book, running to more than 350,000 words.  With facts, figures and lists, and drawing on rare archival photos, correspondence and marketing materials, it is the first time that anyone has attempted to chronicle the publishing of the Crime Club - the ultimate book for fans of crime fiction and also of twentieth century book jacket design.

Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz. (Penguin Books)
THE PRESIDENT - Leader of the free world, the most powerful man on earth, and the greatest threat to his country.   He's hiding something dark and sinister, and if the truth got out it would bury him. He will not let that happen. THE ASSASSIN - Codename: Orphan X. Evan Smoak was taken from his foster home and inducted into a top-secret Cold War programme. Trained to become a lethal weapon, he was forced to do whatever it takes to keep his country safe.   But then he discovered the mission was corrupt, and escaped. Now he helps those who can't help themselves.   THE RECKONING - Evan knows the President's secret. And that's very dangerous knowledge indeed. To save himself and his country, he must ask himself one simple question . . .  How do you kill the most well-protected man on earth?

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippmann (Faber & Faber)
Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn't hard to understand why: it's 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.  Maddie Schwartz - recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun- wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that's been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she is about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can't imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.

A Book of Bones by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton)
He is our best hope.  He is our last hope.  On a lonely moor in the northeast of England, the body of a young woman is discovered near the site of a vanished church. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull.  Each is a sacrifice, a summons.  And something in the shadows has heard the call.  But another is coming: Parker the hunter, the avenger. Parker's mission takes him from Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border; from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London - he will track those who would cast this world into darkness.  Parker fears no evil.  But evil fears him . . .

The Whisper Man by Alex North (Penguin Books)
If you leave a door half-open, soon you'll hear the whispers spoken . . .   Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy and his young son Jake move to the sleepy village of Featherbank, looking for a much-needed fresh start.  But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago, a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys.  Until he was finally caught, the killer was known as 'The Whisper Man'.  Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new home.  Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.  He says he hears a whispering at his window . . .

The Mobster’s Lament by Ray Celestin (Pan Macmillan)
New York, 1947:  The city that never sleeps.   A killer who'll never stop.  The Mobster's Lament is both a gripping crime novel and a vivid, panoramic portrait of 1940s New York as the mob rises to the height of its powers… Fall, 1947.  Private Investigator Ida Davis has been called to New York by her old partner, Michael Talbot, to investigate a brutal killing spree in a Harlem flophouse that has left four people dead. But as they delve deeper into the case, Ida and Michael realize the murders are part of a larger conspiracy that stretches further than they ever could have imagined.  Meanwhile, Ida's childhood friend, Louis Armstrong, is at his lowest ebb. His big band is bankrupt, he's playing to empty venues, and he's in danger of becoming a has-been, until a promoter approaches him with a strange offer to reignite his career . . .  And across the city, nightclub manager and mob fixer Gabriel Leveson's plans to flee New York are upset when he's called in for a meeting with the `boss of all bosses', Frank Costello. Tasked with tracking down stolen mob money, Gabriel must embark on a journey through New York's seedy underbelly, forcing him to confront demons from his own past, all while the clock is ticking on his evermore precarious escape plans.  From its tenements to its luxury hotels, from its bebop clubs to the bustling wharves of the Brooklyn waterfront, Ray Celestin masterfully 

Crime Fiction: A Readers Guide by Barry Forshaw (Oldcastle Books)
There are few contemporary crime fiction guides that cover everything from the golden age to current bestselling writers from America, Britain and all across the world, but the award-winning Barry Forshaw, one of the UK’s leading experts in the field, has provided a truly comprehensive survey with definitive coverage in this expanded new edition of the much admired Rough Guide to Crime Fiction.  Every major writer is included, along with many other more esoteric choices. Focusing on a key book (or books) by each writer, and with essays on key crime genres. It is designed to be both a crime fan’s shopping list and a pithy, opinionated but unstuffy reference tool and history. Most judgements are generous (though not uncritical), and there is a host of entertaining, informed entries on related films and TV.

The King’s Evil by Andrew Taylor (Harper Collins)
A royal scandal that could change the face of England forever...  London 1667. In the Court of Charles II, it's a dangerous time to be alive - a wrong move could lead to disgrace, exile or death. The discovery of a murder at Clarendon House, the palatial home of one of the highest courtiers in the land, could have catastrophic consequences.  James Marwood, a traitor's son, is ordered to cover up the murder. But the dead man is Edward Alderley, the cousin of one of Marwood's acquaintances. Cat Lovett had every reason to want her cousin dead. Since his murder, she has vanished, and all the evidence points to her as the killer.  Marwood is determined to clear Cat's name and discover who really killed Alderley. But time is running out for everyone. If he makes a mistake, it could threaten not only the government but the King himself...

Honorary mentions go to 
The Feral Detective by Jonathan Lethem (Atlantic Books)
This Body’s not Big Enough for Both of Us by Edgar Cantero. (Titan Books)
The Devil Aspect by Craig Russell. (Little Brown)
Changeling by Matt Wesolowski (Orenda Books)
This is Gomorrah is by Tom Chatfield (Hodder & Stoughton)
Death in the East – Abir Mukherjee (Vintage)

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