DeathBecomesHer: Top five books of 2014

Top five books of the year, said the boss – cue panic from this writer. It might be the third time I’ve completed the exercise but the job certainly doesn’t get any easier. Experience has taught me to keep a running list as the year moves along – and four of these five books ended up there as soon as I finished the final page. The fifth is the best of a plethora of five star reads I’ve been lucky enough to review in 2014. Anyway, enough of the waffle and let’s get down to business!

The Burning Room5 – The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with series authors this year, but Connelly is a writer who is top of the tree and at the top of his game too. The Burning Room is the 18th outing for LAPD detective Harry Bosch, and confirmed followers will love it, but it also offers a greatly satisfying read to newcomers. Harry, nearing retirement, is working for the Open-Unsolved Unit, where he is paired with rookie detective Lucy Soto on a case which is destined to push them both to the limits before it is over. This is a multi-layered story which steers firmly away from the predictable and will both thrill and entertain. Read my review here.
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adarkandtwistedtide2004 – A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton
The first of two water-based novels to make my list, A Dark and Twisted Tide is a book that is destined to capture you hook, line and sinker. It is the seventh to feature Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury, and opens as Lacey decides to leave her job as a Met detective behind and find a quieter life as a member of the Metropolitan Police’s Marine Unit. Then she finds a woman’s shrouded body while on an early morning wild swim in the Thames. It’s a discovery that looks destined to lead her back into dangerous waters – with no likelihood of backup from a deeply-undercover Joesbury. Great characterisation and plot, as to be expected from Bolton, but the highlight for me is the depiction of the River Thames. Jump in and be immersed by a cracking crime novel. Reviewed here.
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And She Was3 – And She Was by Alison Gaylin
Memory is another recurring theme in my top five, and this book features a central character in a million, who can remember everything that ever happened to her, word for word and in HD. Brenna Spector is a New York-based private detective who suffers from the extremely rare disorder hyperthymestic syndrome, which was triggered by the loss of her sister, who has not been seen since she got into a car with an unknown man almost 30 years ago. Now Brenna specialises in finding missing people, and her latest case sees her joining forces with Detective Nick Morasco. It’s a potent pairing which brings the story to life in a book that I enjoyed so much I read it twice! Read the review here.
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TheVisitors2002 – The Visitors by Simon Sylvester
This debut novel by Cumbria-based writer and film maker Sylvester won The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize this autumn. I read it in the height of summer, and found myself entranced and haunted by its heady mix of myth, mystery and murder, set on the fictional Scottish island of Bancree. Seventeen-year-old Flora has lives there all her life and cannot wait to get away from a place where nothing ever happens. But that chances with the arrival of Ailsa and her father, whose very presence seems to set the world on a tilt. A book that will stay with you way after the final page is devoured. We reviewed the book here, and interviewed the author here.
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Elizabeth Is Missing1 – Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
I have been raving about this book ever since I finished it and there was never any doubt as to it occupying top place in my pick of the year’s reads. Another book with memory at its heart, but this time the central character is Maud, an 80-year-old who is suffering from dementia. She lives alone, surrounded by post-it notes to aid her memory, struggles to remember her daughter’s name, and is always buying tins of peaches, but Maud is certain of one thing: she has a dear friend called Elizabeth; and Elizabeth is missing. Maud’s search for her vanished friend is interwoven with another tale, set in World War II, and focusing on another missing person – Maud’s sister, Sukie. A fantastic psychological thriller that will bring tears of happiness and sorrow, by a debut author who is definitely one to watch. Read the review here, and meet the author here.
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To read about my top five picks from 2013, click here.

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1 Comment

  1. Ewan W. wilson Reply

    Agreed Elizabeth is Missing is top quality stuff but my own favourite is Ashley Weaver’s Murder at the Brightwell. It’s a debut period piece, set in the 1920s or early 30s and features a bantering, squabbling semi detached affluent married couple. Told in the first person, it has a delicious Austen wit combining with a genuinely deviously told tale. An occasional grating ‘Americanism’ creeps in but is entirely forgiven because of the sheer verve of both plot and prose. A joyous find!

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