NTN: The top 10 crime debuts of 2014

NTN 2014 logo courier 100New Talent November is all about new authors, so it’s time to take a look back across 2014 and recall the best debuts we’ve come across. Our team has come together to recommend 10 fresh reads that will set your crime reading world alight. So many of us are committed to those long running series that keep the bills paid for established writers, but here are some new ones that deserve your attention. One thing to note about this year’s list is that it’s dominated by new female authors.

Never Look Back10 – Never Look Back by Clare Donoghue
In this taut debut, young women are turning up dead in the South London, and a young photographer who fits the victims’ MO is being terrorized by a stalker. Is it the same perpetrator? One things’ for sure, the latest victim bears a strong resemblance to the daughter of DI Mike Lockyer, and when he finds a common link between the victims, it hits even closer to home. Things get complicated when Lockyer becomes involved with the stalking victim, endangering his own family in the process. Donoghue’s well-developed characters involve the reader early on as we negotiate a twisty plot that keeps us guessing. The Detective’s struggle to solve the case is riveting, as his personal life clashes head-on with the hunt for the killer. Review.
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SomeoneElsesSkin9 – Someone Else’s Skin by Sarah Hilary
Someone Else’s Skin written by Sarah Hilary – Meet Marnie Rome, a Detective Inspector with myriad complications – and a character unlike any other you’ll find in the pages of a crime novel. She is a woman who is plagued by her own demons, but strong enough to set them aside when the going gets tough. And it doesn’t get much tougher than in this tautly written, ever-surprising debut by Bath-based author Hilary, which has a plot designed to challenge preconceptions and leave you gasping – and a unique murder weapon too! Review.
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Madras Miasma8 – A Madras Miasma by Brian Stoddart
The author is a distinguished academic in Australia, and has written many non-fiction books, but this is his debut as a novelist. We are in post WWI Madras, and former soldier, now policeman, Christian Le Fanu, has to investigate the death of an English woman, found in one of the city’s stinking canals. He must do this against a background of mounting unrest in the civilian population, and dissenting factions within the British colonial administration. As well as being a compelling detective story, the novel unforgettably evokes the sounds and smells of 1920s India. Review.
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Hustle7 – Hustle by Tom Pitts
Hustle is Pitts’ debut novel, and follow up to last year’s shorter Piggyback. Set amongst the world of San Francisco’s male prostitutes, it delivers a hardboiled crime drama which never shies away from the squalid experiences of men who sell their bodies in return for party favours (drugs), but somehow manages to produce a story with heart and soul which actually has unlimited cross-over appeal. I defy you not to be moved by Donny and Big Rich’s attempts to get off the corner. The knowledge, as you read along, that neither may make it, makes it all the more heart-breaking. Review.
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spring-tide6 – Spring Tide by Cilla & Rolf Börjlind
Like the legendary crime couple Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, the Börjlinds balance a gripping procedural plot with a clear-eyed analysis of Swedish society. One of the principal characters is a homeless man who’s clearly undergone a huge amount of trauma. The other is a police trainee, who’s been reading up on the cold case her late father worked on in the Eighties. Her investigation takes her to the island where, decades earlier, a pregnant woman was buried up to her neck on the beach as the tide came in. This page-turning novel of murder and corruption begins what promises to be a major Swedish crime series. Review.
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Elizabeth Is Missing5 – Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
A crime book that created a buzz before it was even published – and for once, the hype was justified. Debut author Healey has created a detective story like no other, with a unique protagonist. Maud is in her 80s and struggling to cope with an increasingly dodgy memory. She might not always recognise her own daughter but Maud is sure of two things: she has a friend called Elizabeth, and Elizabeth is missing. This bittersweet, wholly realistic portrait of a family struggling with the onset of dementia will have you laughing and crying in equal measure. Review.
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Silent Wife4 – The Silent Wife by Asa Harrison
With its flip-flopping narrative style, this chilly psychological thriller about a doomed relationship had some similarities to the smash hit Gone Girl. The book begins with the revelation that Jodi, a psychiatrist in Chicago, will become a killer in just a few months. We then witness the messy break-up between her and Todd, the philandering partner of 20 years. Painful memories are interweaved with disturbing psychological episodes on both sides, while a procedural element adds another layer of suspense. The Silent Wife was a perfect debut by Canadian author Susan Harrison, who died shortly before the novel’s publication. Review.
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LandofShadows2003 – Land of Shadows by Rachel Howzell Hall
This police procedural set in Los Angeles features the formidable new detective Louise Norton, whose only blind spot is her unfaithful husband. Her investigation into the murder of a young black girl found at a prominent developer’s latest construction site is as relentless as anything Harry Bosch could manage. All together Hall delivers an astonishingly assured debut that blends a thoroughly efficient investigation with an examination of family life in the emerging black middle class, and introduces us to a series character sure to develop a devoted following. Review.
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longwayhome2002 – Long Way Home by Eva Dolan
When DI Dushan Zigic and DS Mel Ferreira investigate the suspicious death by arson of an Estonian immigrant in Peterborough they uncover a hidden world of exploitative gang bosses and landlords. They go on to find another body as well – in 80 pieces on the railway line – and it appears to be the fire victim’s brother. Unlike reports in the Daily Mail, newcomers to Britain are far from having it all their way in this sterling story from a writer who used to be a CFL contributor. This is a gripping and totally convincing police procedural and the good news is her second book, Tell No Tales, is due out in January. Review.
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The Lying Down Room1 – The Lying Down Room by Anna Jaquiery
A thought provoking and atmospheric French crime debut which opens with the brutal murder of an elderly woman to the soundtrack of Faure’s Requiem. The reasons for this murder, and the choice of victim, baffle Chief Inspector Serge Morel and his team. As more murders occur, Morel makes a connection between the victims and two individuals who distribute religious pamphlets in the suburbs, leading his enquiries back into the past, away from Paris into the French countryside, and eventually to the heart of Soviet Russia. It’s a superbly multi-faceted thriller that plays with your emotions, and preys on the mind long afterwards. Review.
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Read our list of the 10 best debuts of 2013 here.

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