DeathBecomesHer: Top five books of 2012

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It’s been something of a strange 12 months for me, with moving house one of the most stressful of the year’s events. Thank heavens for my reading though, because thankfully when life is getting on top of you, there’s always a book to take your mind off things for a while. And I’ve been lucky enough to read some superb stories in 2012 – many of them for CFL. It’s certainly been a vintage crime fiction year for me, with some old favourites at the top of their game and a number of newcomers giving them a run for their money, which makes it all the more difficult to come up with just five of the best. I’ll give it my best shot though – and raise a glass for more great writing in 2013!

5 – The Murder Quadrille by Fidelis Morgan
The funniest crime novel I’ve ever read, so The Murder Quadrille just had to be in the top five list. Morgan is best known for historical crime books, but her modern day mystery debut is a real cracker and will have you chuckling throughout. Don’t get me wrong, this is a serious crime story, just done in a lighthearted way. There’s more than a touch of slapstick about proceedings and at times you almost expect Brian Rix to run in with his trousers around his ankles, such is the feeling of farce. However it is to the author’s credit that she manages to weave a sense of creepy unease in amongst the humour. In the words of the late Frank Carson, it’s a cracker!
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4 – The Dark Winter by David Mark
He’s a new writer, but David Mark knows just how to put together an absorbing crime novel. For starters, he has created a brilliant new central character in Aector McAvoy – the big, brooding, Scottish Detective Sergeant who work on the mean streets of Hull. And this former crime reporter is a dab hand at conjuring up a tricksy plot too. Set just days before Christmas, The Dark Winter is a great way to while away the dark nights. And I predict that Aector will be a companion you’ll want to meet again. So… fear not, he is destined to return in 2013.
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3 – Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth
As I write, I can still sense the feeling of absolute claustrophobia that ran through this accomplished novel. Cathi Unsworth is a former music journalist and the story is underpinned with a veritable soundtrack of 80s sounds that give the story an authentic edge. The central character in Weirdo is Corinne, a teenager convicted of the brutal murder of a classmate in a case which had some disturbing black magic overtones. But a campaigning lawyer is convinced that Corinne is innocent, and she calls on the expertise of former Met detective Sean Ward to prove it. This is a hauntingly well-written book that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.
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2 – Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin
Rebus is back after a five year absence in Standing in Another Man’s Grave – and it’s as if he’s never been away. Ian Rankin is on fine form in this tale of serial death at the side of a lonely road. Rebus is his usual curmudgeonly self as he attempts to join the dots and catch the killer, and he has a new nemesis in the form of Malcolm Fox, of Edinburgh’s internal affairs unit, who was the main character in The Impossible Dead. As with all Rebus tales, music takes a supporting role, with the book’s title even taking its inspiration from a song by the late Scottish singer-songwriter Jackie Leven, to whom it is dedicated. Recommended reading.
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1 – Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham
I’m ashamed to admit that Say You’re Sorry was  my first foray into the work of award-winning crime writer Michael Robotham, but you can be assured it won’t be my last. A huge search ensues after teenage friends Piper and Tash go missing from a quest English town, but when all the hunting comes to naught, locals decide the girls just ran away. Wrong – they were abducted and  held captive, and after three years their case hits the headlines once again when Tash manages to escape. Central characters are the wonderfully conceived Joe O’Loughlin, a clinical psychologist, and his trusty sidekick, ex-cop Vincent Ruiz. The plot has so many twists and turns that you will be engaged from start to finish. Prepare to read this in one sitting as it is impossible to put down – crime fiction writing at its very best.
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