Vicki Weisfeld: Top five books of 2015

So far this year, I’ve reviewed 22 books for Crime Fiction Lover, just under half of them in their audio versions. The richness and diversity of the crime and thriller genre means that while this category dominates my reading overall, it never grows stale, for readers and apparently for writers as well, as a remarkable number of debut authors are constantly entering the field. I confess to having a bit of a soft spot for debut authors, because the pleasures they bring are like that unexpected holiday gift. I also gravitate to books that have some literary merit (the author is trying!) or content that makes them more than cheap thrills. Thrills, yes, just not cheap ones. Here are the five best of the bunch that demonstrate that exciting variety. In other words, something for everyone!

The Water Knife, Paolo BacigalupiThe Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
‘How bad could it get if people and governments in the Southwest United States were really, really desperate for water?’ asks this near future eco-thriller. Against the backdrop of the recent drought, scenarios that might have seemed far-fetched seem alarmingly possible. In Bacigalupi’s thriller, states assert territorial rights, including the right to defend their border and ‘first-user’ water rights, denying the people and cities downstream. Strong characters, believable xenophobia, a touch of sci-fi, and don’t say you weren’t warned. Read the review here.
Buy now on Amazon

The Long Fire, Meghan TifftThe Long Fire by Meghan Tifft
A debut crime novel from Tifft with an unforgettable protagonist in Natalie Krupin, a young woman with pica, who’d as soon eat a book as read it. She feels compelled to investigate a mysterious phone message from her gypsy mother, who died in the fire that destroyed her parents’ Western Massachusetts home. “Wherever gypsies go, fire follows,” Natalie’s mother once told her. Natalie gathers information in the quirky way she approaches life in general. You never know what’s coming next, lots of it is hilarious, some is heartbreaking, and an extra point here for literary skill. Impressive first outing for Tifft. A full review is here.
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A Better Goodbye, John SchulianA Better Goodbye by John Schulian
Though a first novel for Schulian, he’s an experienced screen and short story writer, and it shows. He really moves a plot along with intriguing characters and more than a peek at the issues sex workers face. Former boxer Nick Pafko is hired as muscle for a sketchy massage parlor run by a washed up Hollywood actor who is drifting ever-closer to a terminally violent and scary pal looking to do some damage. Schulian provides the perspective of his varied cast of characters convincingly and keeps the Los Angeles vibe alive. Read more here.
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On the Road with Del and Louise, Art TaylorOn the Road with Del and Louise by Art Taylor
While Schulian’s book requires a reader who’s OK with stories full of rough language and lots of sex, this novel is one my Grandma could read. While it deals with crimes and the planning thereof, it’s really about the interactions of the two good-hearted protagonists who are working their larcenous way across America and trying to reinvent themselves along the way. Del and Louise are doing the best they can and, yes, they fall short at times, but as you read you’ll want them to succeed and to stay out of harm’s way. Lots of humour, sharp insights about human nature, and good writing here. Here is our review.
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The Cartel, Don WinslowThe Cartel by Don Winslow
This tops my list not only because the book is super-engaging thriller, but because his ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter concerns a topic sliding off the public attention scale. He effectively portrays the ultra-violence of the Mexican drug cartels, their control over Mexico’s leaders and security forces, the ineffectiveness of US anti-drug efforts, and the complicity of Americans in destroying a nation and so many innocent civilian lives through both public policy and private practice. Winslow meticulously recreates this toxic environment, its consequences, and its ruthless players. While this is a novel, what he describes is all too real. Read about it here.
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To see what the rest of our team picked for their top fives, click here.

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