DeathBecomesHer: Top five books of 2013

It’s been a vintage year for crime fiction, and I’ve been lucky enough to pass judgment over a veritable constellation of five star books in the past 12 months. Which makes it so very hard to come up with just five picks. I’ll start with some books that nearly made it: The October List by Jeffery Deaver, Original Skin by David Mark, The Doll’s House by Tania Carver, The Red Road by Denise Mina, The Never List by Koethi Zan and Watching You by Michael Robotham. They just go to prove how hard it has been to choose.

toodarktosleep5 – Too Dark To Sleep by Dianne Gallagher
My first read of 2013 and it set the bar high for those that followed. I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve read and reviewed this year, but it says a lot that I can still remember the plot after all this time. The central character in this assured debut is Maggie Quinn, once the best detective in the Chicago PD. That was before the sudden death of her only child sent her spiralling into the depths of despair and to the very edge of madness. Now, pathologically afraid of the dark and borderline agoraphobic, Maggie lives in a house filled with light, cut off from the outside world. Until, that is, her last, unsolved case, comes back to haunt her. Can Maggie fight her demons and catch a cold blooded killer? I was gripped by this self-published work. Reviewed here.
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Suspect2004 – Suspect by Robert Crais
This is a most unusual crime book – and one that actually made me cry. A Military Working Dog called Maggie is traumatised when her handler is killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. In Los Angeles, police officers Stephanie Anders and Scott James witness a car smash and violent shootout which leaves Stephanie dead and Scott seriously injured. As he tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered life, Scott decides to join the LAPD’s K-9 corps – where he meets Maggie. Crais skilfully balances the story of the growing trust between Scott and Maggie with the faltering investigation into Stephanie’s death in a story told from several perspectives – including that of Maggie the dog. Have the tissues handy. Reviewed here.
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45818_TheChessmen_TPB.indd3 – The Chessmen by Peter May
This book hooked me from the start. It is the final part of The Lewis Trilogy, but works just as well as a standalone piece and the back story is neatly woven through the narrative. The story opens as former policeman Fin Macleod is returning to the Hebrides to take up a new job as head of security on a privately owned estate on the Isle of Lewis. Poachers are stealing all the best game, and among the suspects is Whistler Macaskill,one of Fin’s oldest friends. When the pair find a crashed plane, long-buried rivalries, secrets and wrong-doings begin to resurface at an alarming rate. The reader is enveloped by the life and landscape of the Hebrides and there are times when you’ll feel as if you are striding right there alongside the finely crafted cast of characters. A cracking read. Reviewed here.
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beautifulmystery1002 – The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny
Like Peter May, this author is consummately skilled at creating an authentic feeling of place. And what a place! The story  unfolds in a remote monastery on an island in Quebec, where 24 monks live in splendid isolation. But their peace is shattered when one of their number is murdered and they reluctantly seek the skills of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir of the Sûreté du Québec. This is a book filled with music, mystery, well fleshed out characters both nasty and nice – and sometimes it is hard to tell between the two. I was torn between wanting to find out whodunnit and making the whole pleasurable experience last longer. Reviewed here.
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killingpool1001 – The Killing Pool by Kevin Sampson
This book has been sitting at the top of the pile for me ever since I reached the last pages in March, and although others have come close, none has given me that punched-in-the-solar plexus feeling which occurs as this novel’s final, gobsmacking twist is revealed. I’ve been raving about it ever since. It is set in the mean streets of Liverpool, and I found myself in something of a love/hate/love relationship with the main character, DCI Billy McCartney, as the action travelled back and forth through a variety of timelines. Possibly not for the faint hearted, but if you like your crime fiction with killer twists and shout aloud reveals, then The Killing Pool is just the book for you. Without a doubt, my crime novel of the year. Reviewed here.
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Click here to see my choices from 2012.

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