Saturday, 12 December 2020

My favourite fiction reads in 2020

My favourite reads this year have been quite eclectic and they have also included a number of non-fiction titles as well. It has of course been extremly hard to draw up a shortlist of books and I could have easily made this list longer. I have therefore decided to split (for the first time) my list into fiction and non-fiction. I am also putting them in alphabetical order purely because it makes my life easier!

Up first are my favourite fiction reads in alphabetical order  - 

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly (Orion Publishing) Defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by police, who find the body of a client in the trunk of his Lincoln. Haller is charged with murder and can’t make the exorbitant $5 million bail slapped on him by a vindictive judge. Mickey elects to defend himself and must strategize and build his defense from his jail cell in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles, all the while looking over his shoulder–as an officer of the court he is an instant target. Mickey knows he’s been framed. Now, with the help of his trusted team, including Harry Bosch, he has to figure out who has plotted to destroy his life and why. Then he has to go before a judge and jury and prove his innocence.

Dirty South by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton) It is 1997, and someone is slaughtering young black women in Burdon County, Arkansas. But no one wants to admit it, not in the Dirty South. In an Arkansas jail cell sits a former NYPD detective, stricken by grief. He is mourning the death of his wife and child, and searching in vain for their killer. He cares only for his own lost family. But that is about to change . . . Witness the becoming of Charlie Parker.    

Blacktop Wasteland by S A Cosby (Headline) It's a crime that history repeats itself. Beauregard "Bug" Montage: honest mechanic, loving husband, devoted parent. He's no longer the criminal he once was - the sharpest wheelman on the east coast, infamous from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida. But when his respectable life begins to crumble, a shady associate comes calling with a clean, one-time job: a diamond heist promising a get-rich payout. Inexorably drawn to the driver's seat - and haunted by the ghost of his outlaw father - Bug is yanked back into a savage world of bullets and betrayal, which soon endangers all he holds dear.

Like Flies From Afar by K Ferrari (Cannongate). Luis Machi has had enemies for a long time: after all, he's built his success on dirty deals - not to mention his cooperation with the military junta's coup years ago, or his love life, a web of infidelities. What's new is the corpse in the boot of his car. A body with its face blown off, detained by a pair of furry pink handcuffs that Machi knows well . . .Someone is trying to set him up, but the number of suspects is incalculable. Machi is stuck dredging his guilty past for clues and trying to dispose of the mystery corpse. But time is just another enemy and it's running out fast.

Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz. Evan Smoak lives by his own code. As a boy he was taken from a foster home to be raised and trained as an off-the-books government assassin codenamed Orphan X. Then he broke free to live in the shadows as the Nowhere Man, using his unique skills to help those in desperate need. But all good things must come to an end. He'll take on one last mission then go out on a high note. Clean, neat and tidy, just the way he likes it. And then he meets Max Merriweather. Max Merriweather hasn't got much left to lose. Bad luck and trouble have seen off his marriage, his home and his career. On the face of it he's the last guy you'd expect to be trusted with a deadly secret. Which is exactly why his cousin gave him an envelope with the instruction: 'If anything ever happens to me, call the number inside.' Now his cousin is dead and Max's own chances of survival look bleak. On the run and stalked by death, he meets the one man who might save him: Evan Smoak. With Max now under his protection, Evan realizes that the forces against them pose as daunting a threat as he has ever faced. He'll be lucky just to get through it alive . . .

The Less Dead by Denise Mina (Vintage) When Margo goes in search of her birth mother for the first time, she meets her aunt, Nikki, instead. Margo learns that her mother, Susan, was a sex worker murdered soon after Margo's adoption. To this day, Susan's killer has never been found. Nikki asks Margo for help. She has received threatening and haunting letters from the murderer, for decades. She is determined to find him, but she can't do it alone...

The Lost and the Damned by Oliver Norek (Quercus Publishing) A corpse that wakes up on the mortuary slab. A case of spontaneous human combustion. There is little by the way of violent crime and petty theft that Capitaine Victor Coste has not encountered in his fifteen years on the St Denis patch - but nothing like this. Though each crime has a logical explanation, something unusual is afoot all the same, and Coste is about to be dragged out of his comfort zone. Anonymous letters addressed to him personally have begun to arrive, highlighting the fates of two women, invisible victims whose deaths were never explained. Just two more blurred faces among the ranks of the lost and the damned.

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi (Penguin Books) All murder mysteries follow a simple set of rules. Grant McAllister, an author of crime fiction and professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out. But that was thirty years ago. Now he's living a life of seclusion on a quiet Mediterranean island - until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor, knocks on his door. His early work is being republished and together the two of them must revisit those old stories. An author, hiding from his past, and an editor, probing inside it. But as she reads the stories, Julia is unsettled to realise that there are parts that don't make sense. Intricate clues that seem to reference a real murder. One that's remained unsolved for thirty years . . . If Julia wants answers, she must triumph in a battle of wits with a dangerously clever adversary. But she must tread carefully: she knows there's a mystery, but she doesn't yet realise there's already been a murder . . . 

These Women by Ivy Pochoda (Faber and Faber) In West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they're referred to as "these women." These women on the corner ...These women in the club ... These women who won't stop asking questions ... These women who got what they deserved ... They're connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There's Dorian, still adrift after her daughter's murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighbourhood.

Rules For Perfect Murder is by Peter Swanson (Faber & Faber). If you want to get away with murder, play by the rules. A series of unsolved murders with one thing in common: each of the deaths bears an eerie resemblance to the crimes depicted in classic mystery novels. The deaths lead FBI Agent Gwen Mulvey to mystery bookshop Old Devils. Owner Malcolm Kershaw had once posted online an article titled 'My Eight Favourite Murders,' and there seems to be a deadly link between the deaths and his list - which includes Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders, Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train and Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Can the killer be stopped before all eight of these perfect murders have been re-enacted?

City of Spies by Mara Timon (Bonnier Zaffre). LISBON, 1943: When her cover is blown, SOE agent Elisabeth de Mornay flees Paris. Pursued by the Gestapo, she makes her way to neutral Lisbon, where Europe's elite rub shoulders with diplomats, businessmen, smugglers, and spies. There she receives new orders - and a new identity. Posing as wealthy French widow Solange Verin, Elisabeth must infiltrate a German espionage ring targeting Allied ships, before more British servicemen are killed. The closer Elisabeth comes to discovering the truth, the greater the risk grows. With a German officer watching her every step, it will take all of Elisabeth's resourcefulness and determination to complete her mission. But in a city where no one is who they claim to be, who can she trust?

The Devil and the Dark Water is by Stuart Turton (Bloomsbury Publishing) A murder on the high seas. A detective duo. A demon who may or may not exist. It's 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world's greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent. But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered. And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel. Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes? With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board. 

Honourable mentions also go to -

Box 88 by Charles Cumming (Harper Collins), 

Midnight Atlanta by Thomas Mullen (Little Brown) 

A Song for The Dark Times by Ian Rankin (Orion), 

The Last Protector by Andrew Taylor (HarperCollins), 

The Silver Collar by Antonia Hodgson (Hodder & Stoughton) and 

Angel's Inferno by William Hjortsberg (No Exit Press)

A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke (Orion)

My favourite non-fiction reads will be posted separately.


















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