Jeremy Megraw: Top five books of 2014

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Despite this year’s abundant crime fiction harvest, picking the five best books to enjoy with your eggnog was a relatively easy task for me. And with some of these titles, you may even go back for seconds. It seems like every year the market looks towards Scandinavia for books to translate, and 2014 was no exception. We’ve been blessed by new releases by Arnaldur Indridason, Jussi Adler-Olsen, and Karin Fossum. With my leanings toward Nordic noir well known, it makes up 80 per cent of my holiday book pie. Nevertheless, the number one title on my pile belongs to a British newcomer…


5 – Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis
Nina Borg is our hero, not only because she fights for justice, but because she is deeply flawed like the rest of us, and she’s not even a cop. In the third book of this Danish series featuring the fearless nurse, a Ukrainian national in Denmark has escaped her abusive husband, only to be accused of his murder. Chronic do-gooder Nina Borg meets Natasha and her young daughter in the Red Cross crisis center and risks all to save her. Nina’s blind need to help others at the expense of her own family life is poignantly revealed during the series. A parallel tale set in Stalin-era Ukraine explains Natasha’s pursuit by the mysterious mob matriarch known as ‘the witch’, and the two stories are finally bridged in a nail-biting finale. Read the review here.
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humanflies1004 – The Human Flies by Hans Olav Lahlum
If you’re a fan of the classic locked-room scenario, you are in for a treat with this mystery gem set in 1960s Norway. Rookie detective Kolbjørn Kristiansen is called to solve an impossible mystery: a gunshot leads neighbors to the apartment of WWII resistance hero Harald Oleson. It’s locked from the inside, shuttered, and his body is on the floor. Kristiansen’s unlikely partner in solving the crime is 18-year-old Patricia Borchmann, a wheelchair-bound Agatha Christie enthusiast with a high IQ. In this meta-mystery told years later by the detective, everyone is a viable suspect in the Christie-esque scenarios Patricia puzzles out until she and Kolbjørn line them all up for the final reveal. Read my review here.
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Marcoeffect1003 -The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Department Q is back in this bestselling Danish series featuring Detective Carl Mørck and his highly eccentric cold case squad. The clever thief Marco dreams of being a normal boy who has a family and goes to school. But when he stumbles into the path of corporate greed and murder, the street-smart urchin suddenly becomes a witness whose life is not worth a plug nickel, and who must now think about survival alone. With hired guns, his own gypsy clan, and the cops chasing him through the streets of Copenhagen, Marco must find a way to communicate with Mørck without getting himself deported in the process. If you like them dark, violent, and funny, welcome to Jussi Adler-Olsen’s world. Read the full review.
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Huntingdogs1002 -The Hunting Dogs by Jørn Lier Horst
If you’re new to the Norwegian series featuring Detective William Wisting, The Hunting Dogs is a great place to start. Wisting learns from his reporter daughter that convicted murderer Rudolf Haglund is to be freed after 20 years in prison and is going to claim that he was framed by the cops. The detective’s image will be on tomorrow’s front page. Facing pressure from the top brass to hand over his badge until the department is cleared, Wisting’s main concern is that Haglund will strike again soon. When a local girl disappears, he must stop Haglund from committing another murder, with or without his badge. Wisting and his resourceful daughter make for appealing reading in this suspenseful and character-driven police procedural. Here’s my review.
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Neverlookback1001 -Never Look Back by Clare Donoghue
One of the highlights of this year in crime fiction has to be the debut by Clare Donoghue. Her riveting first offering is first on my list. Originally titled The Watcher, Never Look Back was shortlisted for CWA’s Debut Dagger while still in the starting gate. As young women start turning up dead in South London, the latest victim bears a startling resemblance to the daughter of the investigating DI Mike Lockyer. Meanwhile, a young photographer who also fits the profile is being stalked… is it the same killer? As Lockyer struggles to keep his imperfect personal life under control, the killer begins to intrude upon it. It gets complicated when the detective meets the stalking victim and their new relationship may threaten all those he loves. The suspenseful chapters fly by as Lockyer and his partner DS Jane Bennett connect the dots. Donoghue’s sure hand combined with well established characters we actually care for have us holding our breath for the next installment of the DI Mike Lockyer series, No Place to Die, due in March. Read the review.
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Click here to see what my top five crime books were last year.

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