MarinaSofia: Top five books of 2015

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For me it’s been such a strong year for debuts and second novels that I’ve compiled a list made up entirely of new blood. Some of them have been mentioned quite a bit in the press this year, but others may have slipped a little under the radar and deserve to be better known. Plus, given my love for translated crime fiction, it should come as no surprise that we have a Finn, an Icelander and an Arab-French author in the mix.

Burnt Paper Sky 5 – Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan
Another child in danger, another domestic thriller set-up, but what makes this debut stand out from the herd of recent offerings in this area is the focus on judgement by the press and on social media. Rachel is a single mother, still struggling to come to terms with abandonment and divorce, and she pays dearly for one brief carefree moment in the park, when she allows her son to run ahead to the rope swing. She doesn’t live up to the media’s expectations of what a distraught mother should look or behave like, and she is demonised and hounded by strangers and acquaintances alike. Strong descriptions, sensitive use of language and great interactions between the characters make this story truly memorable, and it’s a heart-wrenching read for any parent. The author is on my list of Six women to watch during New Talent November.
Buy now on Amazon

snowblind2004 – Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson
You may think you’ve seen it all in Nordic noir, but then you find Ragnar Jonasson. He translated Agatha Christie into Icelandic, and now he’s brought us his own unique blend of Golden Age puzzle, Arctic chill factor and a bad case of cabin fever. This is a classic case of murder in a small community, a locked-town mystery with a limited number of murder suspects, each with a complicated back story and potential motive. Add a detective freshly graduated from the police academy, with more intuition than experience and a puppyish enthusiasm for asking questions, mix in an attractive young piano teacher he should leave well alone… and you have a perfect storm in a teacup… or an explosion in a vodka bottle. You can read a review of the novel, as well as an interview with Ragnar Jonasson on our site.
Buy now on Amazon

Stasi Child 3 – Stasi Child by David Young
This tale of corruption, secrets, lies and the dangers of everyday life in totalitarian East Germany is well-researched, perfectly paced and enthralling. The multiple storylines are skilfully blended and the sinister atmosphere of paranoia and fear is spot-on. The author has created a feisty and believable heroine in Karen Muller and charts her gradual descent into disillusionment with political propaganda. We’ve included this book in our list of Five best debuts of the year, and you can read the full review here.
Buy now on Amazon

Arab Jazz2 – Arab Jazz by Karim Miské
Disaffected young French-Arab Ahmed has all but retreated from normal life: clinically depressed, confused about his identity, his only joys in life are his pretty air-hostess neighbour and crime fiction books, which he bulk buys from an Armenian bookseller. When he finds a corpse in the apartment next door, his distrust of the police makes him think he’ll be set up for murder. The crime thriller plot is almost secondary and anyone expecting a thundering ride of a rollercoaster mystery will be disappointed. However, it succeeds as a fascinating social study into the relationships between the young people who grew up in the same area, went to the same schools, formed a hip-hop band together and then lost hope and started listening to hate-filled preachers. It’s this frenetic bustle of mosques, Jewish barbers, black youths hanging out on street corners, Turkish kebab shops, the sounds and smells of the street in the 19th district of Paris which documentary-maker Karim Miské captures so well here. Read my full review here.
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defenceless2001 – The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto
I can never resist a strong blend of compelling plot, well-rounded characters and social critique, and that’s exactly what you get in the second novel in this series. The protagonist is Anna Fekete, a young policewoman and immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, still struggling to find her place in Finnish society. There is plenty of solid police procedural as well, with multiple ongoing investigations involving drug gangs, hit and run accidents, dysfunctional families and the moving story of an illegal alien. The contrast and interaction between the two main investigators, Anna and her senior colleague Esko, are a joy to behold. Living proof that Scandinavian crime fiction still has so much to offer! For a full review, go here and here is an interview with the author.
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To see the novels I selected last year, click here, and to see the books the rest of our team have chosen this year, click here.

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