MarinaSofia: Top five books of 2014

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2014 has been a year of discovering the joys of crossovers, or books which push the boundaries and extend the definition of crime fiction. Think Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters or Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven, with their mix of YA, horror, dystopia police and literary fiction. However my top books of the year veer more towards quiet but equally deadly stories that offer a devastating twist in the tale of the everyday, rather than high-octane adventure. So, if you want a change from conventional crime fiction and standard police procedurals, here are some novels that will stretch and enchant you.

cemeteryofswallows2005 – The Cemetery of Swallows by Mallock
Superintendent Mallock travels to the Dominican Republic to oversee the extradition of French citizen Manuel Gemoni, who has cold-bloodedly planned the murder of a local man for no apparent reason. Is Gemoni mad, a brilliant actor claiming ignorance, or is there a deeper enigma to uncover? You have to admire a crime writer who conjures up an impossible scenario and finds a way of resolving it without resorting to conspiracy theory or supernatural explanations. There are hints of both, though, in this finely-crafted, atmospheric thriller, taking us from the jungles of the Caribbean to an unusually snowy Paris. Full review here.
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A Pleasure And A Calling4 – A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan
The book guaranteed to put you off real estate agents forever! Mr Heming is your neighbourhood estate agent, and he strives for extremely long-term relationships with clients. In fact, he prefers to keep an eye on you even after you move, just to make sure that things are going the way they’re supposed to… or the way he likes them. This is one of the funniest and yet most genuinely disturbing characters I’ve come across in recent crime fiction. The author proves that suspense does not have to rely on descriptions of graphic violence, exotic locations or non-stop shooting and punching. Previously reviewed here.
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Front Seat Passenger3 – The Front Seat Passenger by Pascal Garnier
Fabien’s wife is killed in a car crash. To his surprise, there was another victim in the car: his wife’s lover. This is the simple story of a middle-aged, self-absorbed little man attempting to take revenge on his wife’s memory. In the hands of a master of subtle menace like Pascal Garnier, however, it becomes much more sinister and unexpected. French bourgeois conventions are dissected mercilessly, with the author’s customary scalpel-like precision and dark humour. A slim volume that packs a punch, see the full review here.
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The Long Way Home2 – The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
In just nine novels, Louise Penny has made us feel we intimately know (and sometimes love) Québecois detective Armand Gamache and every single inhabitant of the village of Three Pines on the Canadian border with Vermont. Gamache has retired to this picturesque location, but resumes his detecting to search for a missing husband. This is far less of a murder mystery, more of a road trip, a personal quest and a meditation on the nature of artistic inspiration and talent. For a full review, read here.
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investigation2001 – The Investigation by Jung-Myung Lee
This book was inspired by the real life story of dissident Korean poet Yun Dong-ju, who died in a prison in Japan during World War II. The story is both an account of the investigation into the gruesome death of a much-hated prison guard, as well as a moving tribute to beauty, freedom and humanity in a world filled with fear and brutality. It is also the story of a young man’s gradual awakening to the dangers of propaganda and his personal transformation as he encounters the redeeming power of words. A book that will haunt me for years to come, it’s one of my top reads of the year across all genres. See the full review here.
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To see my choices last year, click here.

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