As 2015 concludes, all the contributors on Crime Fiction Lover have brought you their top reads of the year and we’ve recommended plenty of thrillers, pulp, police procedurals, Southern noir, French crime fiction and more. I’m the last to post my list and if you’ve followed the site you’ll know that I’m partial to my cold climate crime. There’s snow and dark intent on my list once again, though two of my top books do take place in the summer. Happy reading and let us know about your favourite crime books of 2015!
5 – Dead White by Gwen Parrott
You might have heard of A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and Dead White gives us a cold winter and a Welsh setting but the similarities end there. When new teacher Della Arthur arrives in a small village to take up her post a blizzard forces her to take refuge in a lonely farmhouse. After breaking in and stoking the fire she discovers two corpses and a mystery is set in motion over who killed Leonard and Glenys… and why. This isn’t the paciest novel – occasionally there’s a bit too much detail and the plot gets pretty complex – but the well-researched 1940s detail and filled-out characters you’ll meet here in West Wales make it a tidy mystery indeed. Originally written in Welsh, it’s great to see Dead White appear in English to stand beside the Nordic, French and Scottish crime fiction we are so obsessed with these days. Read my full review here.
4 – Tell No Tales by Eva Dolan
Even though Eva Dolan was a member of the CFL team, I can put my hand on my unbiased heart and tell you that she’s one of the UK’s hottest writing talents at the moment. Like her debut, Tell No Tales is perceptive, full of deftly handled social commentary, and gives you everything you’d expect from a police procedural set across the grim concrete backlots of Peterborough. Her detectives Zigic and Ferreira are back and they’re investigating two hate crimes – the murder of an African man, and the murder of a young Muslim. Both of them were kicked to death. Their beady eye falls first on a local far-right group and its slimy leader who is rising to national prominence. When an out of control car kills a young East European woman waiting for her bus, the case gains a whole new dimension. If you’ve got a justice-o-meter, it might just blow when your heart rate hits 180. Here’s the in-depth review.
3 – The Drowned Boy by Karin Fossum
When Carmen Zita’s little boy drowns in the pond outside the family home, Inspector Sejer is touched to discover that poor Tommy had Downs Syndrome. And when the forensics report comes back saying the water in his lungs was from the bath not the pond, he gets mighty suspicious of Carmen. Did this beautiful young mother have a problem with Tommy because he was imperfect? Or, did she really have an epileptic fit when he was in the bath, as she says, and try to cover it up? Sejer’s velvety psychological questioning technique has seen him through some very difficult cases but Carmen is one tough cookie. Karin Fossum isn’t called Norway’s queen of crime for nothing and here she uses the investigation to explore what value we put on the lives of the unborn, and particularly those with disabilities. The most touching book I’ve reviewed for this website by a mile.
2 – Dark As My Heart by Antti Tuomainen
This is the second book Antti Tuomainen has had translated into English and it’s got to be on your reading pile if you love Scandinavian crime fiction. Take a liberal helping of spicy Greek tragedy, and place it in-between two layers of dark mystery. Then frost with some Nordic existentialism. Consume at sub-zero, preferably after midnight. It’s almost as though the author wrote the recipe just for me as we see his main character Aleksi Kivi out to solve the mystery of his mother’s disappearance, 20 years prior. He has his sights set on the wealthy financier Henrik Saarinen, whom his mother dated, and gets a job on the man’s estate. His plan goes awry when he falls for Saarinen’s voluptuous daughter, and he begins to discover just how much his family’s past is tangled up with Saarinen’s secrets. Bloody, poetic, funny, emotional… and another must-read from the Finn. Read the full review.
1 – Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbo
Actually, I reviewed two Jo Nesbo novels in 2015 – this one and Blood on Snow. I didn’t want to list them both but in truth each is superb. In Blood on Snow a hitman double-crosses his boss when he falls in love with his mark, who happens to be said boss’s wife. Classic noir territory but set in frozen 1970s Oslo rather than 1930s LA. Midnight Sun is even better, and sees another hitman on the run from mobsters. Jon Hansen has escaped Oslo and finds himself hiding out in a tiny community in the far north of Norway where he’s helped by a 10-year-old called Knut and his devout Christian mother, Lea. The endless sunlight of the Arctic summer, the Sami booze, fear, guilt, and the sense that he’s falling in love with Lea all addle his mind. That’s not what he needs when the kingpin’s men arrive, particularly as his biggest flaw is that he’s a hitman who just can’t pull the trigger. A tightly written tale of love, splattered with blood, and featuring a friendly reindeer. What could be wrong with that? Read my review here.