NTN: The 10 best crime debuts of 2013

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NTN 2013 logo 100A debut novel is a bit like a first album for a band, or a first film for a director. No matter how much belief the author, musician or filmmaker has in their talent, the battle is getting the work done, convincing everybody of how great it is, and then putting it out there and finding an audience. We take our hats off to any author who has the guts and talent to write a crime novel and offer it up to be read. There have been some wonderful debuts in crime fiction during 2013 – these are the best ones we’ve reviewed over the last 12 months…

frozendead10010 – The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier
The title sounds like it might be another dark Scandinavian murder mystery, but in fact The Frozen Dead is set in the French Pyrenees. Forensic psychologist Diane Berg is working at an insane asylum here, one that seems to have a few secrets. When a horse belonging to a rich industrialist is found dead and frozen, and there’s evidence on its body pointing to an inmate at the asylum, we find ourselves in the midst of an atmospheric and truly fear-inducing story. A great debut from French author Minier.
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thenecessarydeathoflewiswinter9 – The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter by Malcolm Mackay
We interviewed Scottish author Malcolm Mackay during New Talent November last year, and David Prestidge reviewed his debut novel The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter in January. The book follows young contract killer Calum Maclean. His latest job is to take down a man called Lewis Winter who is, by all accounts, a bit of a loser and so drab that he’s almost too tragic to kill. The elegant writing was recognised by the CWA which shortlisted the book for a dagger this year.
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neverlist1008 – The Never List by Koethi Zan
This was a big release for Harvill Secker in the summer and it was widely reviewed, including here on Crime Fiction Lover. American author Koethi Zan’s debut is dark and claustroph0bic – the perfect atmosphere for a book that sees three survivors of an abduction, which saw one girl murdered, face new horrors when their abductor is released from prison. Can they solve the mystery of where the fourth girl was buried? We interviewed the author here.
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toodarktosleep7 – Too Dark to Sleep by Dianne Gallagher
This self-published effort by debut author Dianne Gallagher. Once the best female investigator on the Chicago police force, Maggie Quinn has slid down the ladder of life somewhat. She’s walks out of a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt. However, a man who murdered two of the city’s women, and who is appearing in Quinn’s dreams, has returned and she might be the only person who can catch him. Terrified of the dark, she works with a rookie detective and they try to hunt the killer down.
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Everyone Lies6 – Everyone Lies by AD Garrett
This collaboration between thriller author Margaret Murphy and Professor Dave Barclay kind of counts as a debut. It’s the first novel the pair has produced as AD Garrett and it’s set in Manchester. DI Kate Simms is rebuilding here career and a series of drug overdoses by young women in the city is what she’s up against as she does so. She teams up with Professor Nick Fennimore in the process. If you like police procedurals with forensic detail, this is the book to buy. Read our review here.
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healer1005 – The Healer by Antti Tuomainen
Swedes, Danes and Norwegians tend to be producing much more crime fiction than the Finns, but Antti Tuomainen is changing that. His main character here is Tapani Lehtinen, a poet, struggling in the chaos of a near-future Helsinki which is flooding, rat-infested and turning to anarchy. In the midst of all this, it seems his wife has been kidnapped by The Healer, a radical environmentalist who has become a cold-blooded murderer. Does the answer lie in Johanna’s past? Who can Lehtinen trust as Finnish society disintegrates?
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Buy now on Amazon

wickedgirls1004 – The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
This book is so gripping you might just experience a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder if you put it down for too long. You’ll just have to get back to it and read about two women released from prison after serving time for killing a four-year-old back when they were only 11 themselves. Living under assumed identities they bump into each other again in a seaside town in Kent. And it’s a town where someone is murdering the women. Read the review here.
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CleanBurn3 – Clean Burn by Karen Sandler
Reviewed in September, this debut by Karen Sandler is from the Exhibit A Press stable. Here we meet Janelle Watkins, a San Francisco private investigator who takes on a case to find two missing girls. To solve the case, she has to face her past – both her own mistakes, and the abuse she faced as a child. RoughJustice really enjoyed the construction of the Watkins character, and the sympathetic portrayal of mental illness in the book when he reviewed it. Read an interview with the author here.
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killingpool1002 – The Killing Pool by Kevin Sampson
The Killing Pool opens with DCI Billy McCartney and his boss attending the scene of a brutal killing – the decapitation of a man. A Kurdish man, and one of their informants. We go back in time to the 80s, and the 90s, for some background to the situation and as the story unravels it involves the worst of Liverpool’s criminal underworld. “I literally reeled as if punched in the solar plexus as the final, gobsmacking, twist, revealed itself,” said our reviewer DeathBecomesHer. This has been one of the most visited reviews of the year on Crime Fiction Lover.
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norwegianbynight1 – Norwegian by Night by Derek B Miller
This book has been hugely popular with visitors to our site, with our followers on Twitter, and with the judges at the Crime Writers Association who awarded it the John Creasey Dagger award this year. It was also a novel that our reviewer Andre enjoyed a great deal. It’s Nordic Noir crossed with an American-style thriller that sees an 82-year-old ex-marine protects a six-year-old boy from vicious Kosovan gangsters, in Oslo. Read the review here.
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What was your favourite debut of 2013? Let us know below.

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