CrimeFictionLover: Top five books of 2014

It’s become a tradition here on Crime Fiction Lover for each of our contributors to nominate their five top novels as the year comes to a close. All my colleagues on the site have already posted their lists, which you can check out here, and so it’s my turn to think really, really, really hard about all the books I’ve reviewed over the last 12 months and make five difficult choices. When I look back across 2014, I see a dark year behind me. Many of the novels I read were not merely the sort of noir where someone makes one or two morally questionable choices and has to face unexpected or disproportionate consequences. No, the ones I latched onto had characters with pitch black corners in their souls that made them who they are and defined their dark deeds. After a year like that, I probably need some psychological rehabilitation, and maybe writing them down will help! Here are my picks and I heartily recommend that you read them too…

inthemorningillbegone2005 – In the Morning I’ll be Gone by Adrian McKinty
The Sean Duffy series has a wonderfully conflicted conceit behind it. Duffy’s a Catholic cop in the Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland police service in the early 1980s – just when sectarian hatred was dialed up to 11. In Duffy’s third outing he must both solve the locked-room mystery of a woman murdered in a village pub, and try and track down a dangerous IRA man who’s learned his terrorist skills in Libya and is out to blow up Margaret Thatcher. Duffy kicks, punches, shoots and shags his way through the book, but there’s more to it than action. McKinty’s Ulster is full of atmosphere – charming and menacing all at once. This was meant to be a trilogy, but a fourth book entitled Gun Street Girl is on its way. Hurray! Read my review here.
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longwayhome2004 – Long Way Home by Eva Dolan
I was only a few chapters into Eva Dolan’s debut when I realised it would be in my top five list for 2014. Not only is it a perceptive police procedural – with fiery Portuguese lady copy DS Mel Ferriera on the one hand and the soft and serious Serbian DI Dushan Zigic on the other – but it’s a book that deals with some of the trickiest issues in British politics. The victims in many of the crimes within are immigrants, like the Lithuanian man burned to death in a garden shed or the Chinese guy beaten and buried in concrete at a work camp. Throughout the investigation we see double-dealing, corruption and exploitation up and down Peterborough’s socio-economic food chain, where the book is set. It’s not didactic, though; the depiction of the issues is deftly handled and integral to the story. Here‘s the review.
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Dark Tides3 – Dark Tides by Chris Ewan
One thing I love is a unique setting and not having read a book set in the Isle of Man before, I was keen to find out about the place via a crime novel. Bleak? Check. Cold? Check. Dark and rainy? Check. Creepy, mysterious killer? Check. The book has most of the things on my shopping list and is based around Hop-tu-naa, the island’s unique version of Halloween. It’s the night that main character Claire Cooper’s mother disappeared when she was a child and it’s the night upon which another tragedy occurs when she’s in her teens. Then, a killer starts taking out her friends one-by-one each year in her adulthood. All the books on my list are well written but Chris Ewan stood out as the master storyteller of 2014. Reviewed here.
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galveston5402 – Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
Now, I read several excruciatingly dark novels in 2014, from The Son by Jo Nesbo through to Hold the Dark by William Giraldi, but it was Nic Pizzolatto’s novel that moved me the most. Roy Cady (is that a Cape Fear reference, Nic?) is a mob bagman in New Orleans but when his woman starts sleeping with the boss Roy’s days are numbered. A colleague’s bullet might just get him before the cancer growing in his lungs, but Cady is as tough as Texas leather and when the hit on him goes south he and a prostitute he saves in the ensuing shoot-out flee to Galveston. For just a moment he glimpses redemption through being able to help the girl and her daughter, but from now on he must live his life looking over his shoulder. Read the review.
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LastRefuge2001 – The Last Refuge by Craig Robertson
The Faroe Islands hasn’t seen a murder in about 25 years, I believe, so it should be a safe haven for Scotsman John Callum who’s running from a dark past left behind in Glasgow. He’s given lodgings and a job in a fishery by a kindly Faroese family, and even meets an enigmatic young lady called Karis. Trouble is, she’s got a jealous ex and soon Callum has to put up not only with dead animals left in his hut, but outright aggression. When said jealous ex is found knifed there’s only one man in all of Torshaven that the police are interested in… Robertson brilliantly utilises the demanding climate and landscape of the remote Faroes. The local culture – right down to a whale hunt – embellishes the plot no end. Best of the year, read the review here.
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Click here to see the books I selected last year, and here to see the books that got me into crime fiction in the first place.

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