So, the summer is here, the sun is high in the sky, and it’s time for a holiday. Whether you’re having a stay-cation this year, or heading somewhere more exotic like Thailand, Italy, New Zealand or Tierra del Fuego, one thing’s for sure: you need to load your suitcase full of crime fiction books. Or, better yet, download them to your Kindle or other suitable reading device.
Of course, you could try and find a crime story set in the place you’re going to, but what if the book doesn’t really chime with your holiday? Does reading The Beach really enlighten your Thai experience? Probably not. Better to take some books with you that are really going to grab your crime fiction loving heart wherever you’re going. Here are our 2014 recommendations…
5 – Guilt by Jussi Adler-Olsen
A list of recommendations without a Scandinavian crime fiction novel on it? That doesn’t usually happen here on Crime Fiction Lover – we’re a destination for fans of Nordic noir. Guilt is on our list this summer to ensure that you discover the Danish author’s work before it hits the big screen. The Keeper of Lost Causes is due out this month and focuses on Carl Mørck and Department Q, a cold case division in the Copenhagen force. The novel Guilt (aka The Purity of Vengeance) is the fourth and latest book in the Department Q series and looks at some difficult issues from Denmark’s past – enforced abortions, sterilisation of disadvantaged women, eugenics – as well as some difficult people from Denmark’s present. And by that we mean the Far Right. It’s a troubling and inventive mystery for the sardonic Mørck and his secretive assistant Assad. Buy now on Amazon
Alternative: It’s a while since Henning Mankell has written a Wallander book. If you’re pining for him, try Norwegian author Jorn Lier Horst’s The Hunting Dogs featuring his detective William Wisting. It’s a winner.
4 – Entry Island by Peter May
The Scottish author abandons the Hebrides and this time picks out an island off the coast of Quebec. It forms the setting for a mystery involving a Montreal cop called Sime McKenzie who’s sent to there to find out who killed its richest resident, James Cowell. For some reason, he has a strange feeling that he’s met Cowell’s widow before. He begins dreaming of the distant past, when Scotsmen like McKenzie’s forebears went to Eastern Quebec during the Highland Clearances. Crimes past and present are addressed in Entry Island, which is on the shortlist for the Deanston Scottish Crime Book of the Year Award 2014 which will be presented at Bloody Scotland this year. Buy now on Amazon
Alternative: For something with an equally remote setting, but which is darker and less complex, try fellow Scot Craig Robertson’s The Last Refuge. It’s set in the Faroe Islands.
3 – Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
“Why, oh why, oh why has he chosen this two-year-old book?” I hear you ask. The answer is simple – if you haven’t read it you really should do so before the film comes out. Yes, Gillian Flynn’s story of Nick and Amy Dunne – which questions whether they really are who they say they are as a subtext throughout – is being adapted for the big screen by David Fincher. It will star Ben Affleck as Nick, who must exonerate himself and search for his wife after she disappears. The ennui of middle-class American life is picked away at in this taught thriller. Buy now on Amazon
Alternative: We think Megan Abbott’s recent move from 50s noir to stories based around teenage girls in middle America might have been influenced a little by Gone Girl, and The Fever is her latest.
2 – The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham
All the recent veneration of Scottish, Scandinavian and French authors may be entirely merited, but let’s not overlook the English crime fiction stalwart Mark Billingham. The Bones Beneath is one of those books where a convicted killer has to help the police find the bodies, and takes that opportunity to get right into their heads. In this case, the killer is psychopath Stuart Nicklin and the cop is Tom Thorne. Add the fact that the victims are buried on a remote island off the coast of Wales, and an eerie echoing of real life – Ian Brady never revealed the location of one of his victims on the moors – and you have a recipe for fearful levels of tension. Buy now on Amazon
Alternative: Another one set on an island – this time a hot one – is Adrian McKinty’s The Sun is God. It features a murder investigation in a frankly weird German colony off Papua New Guinea.
1 – Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
You don’t have to be a moustache twiddling intellectual or an alcoholic with commitment issues to be a sleuth these days. In fact, the more unusual the protagonist, the better. In Healey’s debut, our heroine is Maud, an octogenarian with dementia who nonetheless knows that she has a friend called Elizabeth, and that Elizabeth is missing. As with Peter May’s book, the contemporary case is intertwined with one from the past – this time the question is what happened to Maud’s sister Sukey who disappeared shortly after World War II? Elizabeth is Missing has been likened to Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and that’s no bad thing. Buy now on Amazon
Alternative: Belinda Bauer won the top prize at Harrogate this year for Rubbernecker, but we reckon you should try her latest, The Facts of Life and Death, for a wonderful character-driven mystery. It’s set in in the wilds of the West Country and involves a 12-year-old heroine and a murderer dubbed the ET Killer.
Let us know what books you’ll be taking with you on holiday in the comments below…