MarinaSofia: Top five books of 2012

I’ve never been good with limitations. Faced with the prospect of choosing among all the great books I’ve read this year and selecting just five (FIVE?!?) to highlight, I turned all Oliver Twist. ‘Please, kind sir, can I have more?’  But Crime Fiction Lover’s Master General was relentless. He stroked the white cat on his lap and replied, with a sinister voice and an echoing evil chuckle, ‘More? No! You get five, just like everybody else! And you have to rank them too!’

So here they are, the five crime books I most enjoyed this year, in reverse order. And yes, there is a theme of displaced people running through all of them:

5- The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
It’s political, it’s historical and it’s a thriller – what’s not to like about it?  The Cutting Season tackles difficult subjects such as the legacy of slavery in the Southern United States and the treatment of migrant workers, but it is a real thriller nevertheless: sharp, well-paced and beautifully written. Set in a former plantation which now serves as a wedding venue, the novel features a complex heroine, Caren Grey, herself a descendant of slaves, and offers no comfort, no easy answers.
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4- The Expats by Chris Pavone
As a so-called ‘trailing expat spouse’ myself, I could fully sympathise with Pavone’s heroine, Kate, a former CIA agent turned housewife as she follows her husband’s work to the expat haven ofLuxembourg. The author has an excellent eye for detail, managing to capture perfectly the frustrations of someone parachuted into a new life and a new culture, with no support or language skills. Does Kate’s former life catch up with them? What exactly is her computer geek husband up to? And who’s that odd, mismatched couple that are trying to befriend them? You’ll have to read this tongue-in-cheek, twisty tale and find out.
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3 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Finally, a book that lived up to its social media hype! Amy Dunne disappears from the marital home on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary and foul play is suspected. This apparently straightforward premise does not prepare you for the emotional twists and turns that follow, as nothing is quite what it seems in this tale of love and betrayal, small and large deceptions. I don’t use the term page-turner lightly, but this definitely was just such a book!
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2 – A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez
A Dark Redemption is the promising start to a series featuring DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller, both of them intriguing characters that steer well clear of the typical cop clichés. The novel shows parts of London you might not normally see, or wish to see, such as the community of illegal immigrants from Uganda. Very dark, atmospheric and timely in its discussion of Kony-type figures in the Lord’s Resistance Army, this book pushes the boundaries of the genre. I love its exquisite use of language and the sadness that lies at its core.
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1 – How’s the Pain by Pascal Garnier
This, to my mind, is the perfect noir: a tragicomedy about an unlikely friendship between the ageing vermin exterminator Simon (AKA a contract killer) and the naïve youngster with no particular talent, Bernard. The two embark on an odd sort of road trip to the south of France for one last job before retirement, meeting an array of eccentric characters on the way. Deceptively simple yet oddly lyrical, How’s the Pain? made me laugh, made me cry, and left a profound impression on me long after I had finished reading it.
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