MarinaSofia: Top five books of 2013

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Over the last year I’ve read many good crime books – even a few excellent ones – but my final choice for the top five surprised me. They aren’t all books that I’ve awarded an enthusiastic five stars. They weren’t all necessarily my ‘type’ of book, if I can say such a thing. Only two of the five are in my preferred style – good solid police procedurals with plausible and intriguing plotlines. The other three are all books which lingered in my mind and haunted me long after I had finished reading them. I think that’s the sign of a top five book, don’t you?

frozendead1005 – The Frozen Dead by Bernard Minier
This surprisingly confident debut novel has been described as ‘Hannibal Lecter with snow’. However, that’s actually doing it a disservice. While we do find here a manipulative serial killer in a high-security mental facility, there is far more going on, including dodgy mental health experiments, nefarious business deals and past secrets which can no longer remain buried. Besides, you know you are onto something highly original and different when a book opens with the cadaver of a decapitated horse at the top of a cable car route. Although the shocking twists of Alex by Pierre Lemaitre stole the show this year in terms of French crime fiction, the claustrophobic atmosphere and isolation of the Pyrenees in this novel ultimately left more of an impression on me. Read the review here.
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deadlydeceit4 – Deadly Deceit by Mari Hannah
What possible connection can there be between a tragic pile-up on the motorway in Northumberland and a case of domestic arson? In this third novel, Kate Daniels is confronted with an utterly ruthless and opportunistic killer. This book is just my cup of tea: a rock-solid enquiry with enough clues to keep my brain busy, but also enough twists to keep me guessing right until the end. This is the kind of satisfying red meat crime novel which first attracted me to the genre. No gimmicks, no clichés, just good story-telling and well-rounded characters which catch at your heart. Read the review here.
Buy now on Amazon

ghostridersofordebec3 – The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas
A new Vargas is always a reliable treat, even if this latest one is a quieter, less flashy member of the Adamsberg series. Rejoining the quirky Commissaire and his eccentric team is almost like seeing beloved family members after a long break. This time, Adamsberg is not only harbouring a criminal suspect, but also heads out to the village of Ordebec in Normandy to investigate the claim of grisly murders following the apparition of ghostly horsemen. If this hint of the supernatural at work sounds wacky, rest assured that Vargas always has a perfectly rational explanation for the most unlikely of set-ups. Unkindly described sometimes as Scooby-Doo for adults, there is a beautiful timeless quality to Vargas’s work, as she deftly combines local legends, sinister atmosphere and a flawless recreation of present day rural France. Reviewed here.
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AppleTreeYard2 – Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
Dr Yvonne Carmichael is a respectable, middle-aged, well-adjusted, highly intelligent researcher who surprises herself by risking everything for a dangerous love affair. The consequences are murderous, but who exactly is the villain? This cautionary tale is not just a thrilling courtroom drama and story of sexual obsession, but also raises questions about the stories we tell ourselves. How do we reinvent and reinterpret the same events to justify our own ends, and can anyone claim to present the ‘truth’? Full of searing insights into contemporary relationships and the English justice system which stayed with me for a long time. Reviewed here.
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attheendofadullday1 – At the End of a Dull Day by Massimo Carlotto
Darker than dark, with fiercely black humour and a callous attitude towards its high body count, this is the completely amoral Ripley of modern day Italy. Giorgio Pellegrini is the quintessential bad boy we love to hate, yet cannot help rooting for. He is a reformed criminal (well, by his standards, anyway), quietly running his own restaurant and high-end prostitution ring, not wanting to get into trouble with the police again. Then he discovers that his lawyer is hand-in-glove with the mob and cheating him out of his investments. No way is Giorgio going to take this lying down! If you think that a novel about the corruption of Italian society and the mafia cannot possibly bring anything new, you are going to be surprised by the verve and sheer exuberance of this Tarantino-like plot. Read the review here.
Buy now on Amazon

To see my top five books of 2012, click here.

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