Keith Nixon: Top five books of 2015

My year in crime has been a mix of the new and the old. Favourite authors revisited and fresh faces. I have a real soft spot for Irish and particularly Scottish crime fiction, so I wasn’t surprised when my finger fell on a couple of the leading writers from these isles. Amazingly, I also picked a title with the word ‘girl’ in it. Then again, these days it’s hard not to…

252501075 – The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die by Marnie Riches
OK, it has ‘girl’ in the title, but thankfully this didn’t put me off reading Marnie Riches’ smart crime debut. Georgina (George) MacKenzie is a student seemingly targeted by a murderer who’s casually taking out her fellows by blowing them up. The action switches between lurid Amsterdam, seedy South London and genteel Cambridge. Riches never lets the pace drop and describes everything in lurid detail – from death to prostitutes to drugs. We also reviewed the second installment, The Girl Who Broke The Rules.
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Preserve The Dead4 – Preserve the Dead by Brian McGilloway
Brian McGilloway has been around a while, but Preserve The Dead was my first taste of the great Irish writer’s work. And it proved bittersweet. From the first page Detective Sergeant Lucy Black is plagued by personal tragedy and death, with her pulling the body of an embalmed old man from a river. He was embalmed, ready for burial before he hit the waters – why? And who was cremated in his place? McGilloway has been described as a rising star. On the basis of this evidence, it’s easy to see why.
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bryantandmayburningman2003 – Bryant & May – The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler
I’ve been reading Christopher Fowler since Roofworld days. This is, amazingly, the 12th Bryant and May novel. I say amazing as the writing feels as fresh and unblemished as ever. It’s incredible the aged detectives are still alive after what the author has put them through. Bryant and May work in the Peculiar Crimes Unit, which handles the particularly unusual crimes for the City of London Police Force… ones nobody else wants to touch. This time a murderer is hiding behind public protests and riots on the city’s streets, using the discord to kill. Whenever the PCU are involved things are never straightforward and Fowler leads his characters on a cerebral, engaging and witty investigation. As well as reviewing this book, I was lucky enough to interview Christopher Fowler, and you can read what he said here.
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The Drowning Ground2 – The Drowning Ground by James Marrison
I found this an excellent debut novel with the touch of the exotic about it. The protagonist, DCI Guillermo Downes, is a moody copper with a difference. He’s half-Argentine, born and raised in South America, but now living in the Cotswolds. He’s like a fish out of water. What’s so good about this novel is the steady stream of reveals. Just as you assume you understand a character, the author springs out another facet which twists the story a little more. Here’s my full review.
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A Taste of Ashes Large1 – A Taste of Ashes by Tony Black
I discovered Tony Black in a back street charity shop in Nailsworth. Not literally the author, but an early book of his. I remember it well because Gutted is one of my top reads ever and subsequently led me to pick up everything by Tony Black. A Taste of Ashes is the second DI Bob Valentine novel. He’s back after being stabbed in the heart and dying on the operating table in a previous case. Valentine isn’t your normal copper. There’s a touch of the paranormal about him. Sounds odd? It should be, but isn’t. Valentine sees people who have passed just before someone else is about to expire. It’s an interesting twist that makes A Taste Of Ashes more than your usual police procedural. Tony Black is a prolific author who has gained plenty of recognition, but deserves much more. There’s a reason Irvine Welsh calls Black his favourite British writer. He’s up there for me too.
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To see my top five books of 2014, click here. Or, check out what the other Crime Fiction Lover contributors chose for their top fives of 2015 here.

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