Rough Justice: Top five books of 2014

Trying to decipher trends that have arisen from the year just ended is always difficult. Though I read a lot, I don’t read everything by any means, and many good books might have escaped me. But what I can say is that there were many solid British efforts even if they didn’t make my final top five. Overall, it was relatively new authors who stood out the most for me in 2014, as the list below shows. Interestingly, all of my picks were published by indies including DarkFuse, Broken River Books, Crime Factory and Snubnose Press.

abeautifulmadness2005 – A Beautiful Madness by Lee Thompson
This crime debut is notable for an unforgettable killer, but what most impressed was the confidence with which Thompson, previously a horror author, took on the classic noir trope of hidden family secrets coming to the surface. There were similarities with Tom Piccirilli, to whom the book was dedicated, and it felt as if I was reading an author’s 10th novel, not his first. I reviewed the book here, and interviewed him here.
Buy now on Amazon

thefirstoneyouexpect2004 – The First One You Expect by Adam Cesare
This book, the first of two novellas to make the cut, is a hugely entertaining parable of the be-careful-what-you-wish-for kind. Tony Anastos is a micro-budget horror director who can’t believe his luck when the totally hot Anna falls into his lap and his films. But Anna’s ambition is literally killer, and Tony has to decide just how much other people will have to suffer for his art. Cesare is another horror writer who has found a natural home in crime fiction. Reviewed here.
Buy now on Amazon

Freight3 – Freight by Ed Kurtz
Freight is the first of a terrific one-two combination by another horror-turned-crime writer. Is this a trend? Set amongst the railway yards in Texas 1973, Enoch Ford is trying to put his criminal past behind him but succumbs to the promise of easy money. Any noir devotee knows there is no such thing, and instead Ford faces a moral challenge which will define him. This is noir with heart and soul, and my review can be found here.
Buy Freight here.

Hustle2 – Hustle by Tom Pitts
Hustle is a no-holds-barred depiction of junkie and rough-trade life in San Francisco’s tenderloin district, and as such must have been one of the toughest publishing pitches imaginable. In fact, to his enormous credit, Pitts isn’t interested in shock for its own sake, but by showing his characters painfully human attempts to escape their circumstances, has provided for us a universally relatable story that has genuine crossover appeal. And if you don’t believe me, read it. My review can be found here.
Buy now on Amazon

angel_of_the_abyss1 – Angel of the Abyss by Ed Kurtz
It takes a lot to grab the top spot, and perhaps Kurtz has cheated by providing two mysteries in one book. Whatever, I’m not complaining. There is the mystery of how a mythical lost Hollywood film became lost in the first place, and also the drama of its rediscovery in the present day. Both periods are evoked fantastically, and Kurtz clearly has a great knowledge of film history. If you read our interview with the author here you might recognise some of him in his protagonist Graham Woodward. And, we are led to believe, there will be more from Kurtz next year.
Buy now on Amazon

You can read my top five picks from 2013 by clicking here.

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