Jeremy Megraw: Top five books of 2016

A perennial love affair with Nordic noir is once again reflected in my top five, but the 2016 list includes two marvelous gems with locales set well outside Scandinavia, including a steamy, high-octane thriller set in Pnomh Penh and a mafia vendetta tale set in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn.

Where Roses Never Die5 – Where Rose Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen
Fans of Varg Veum will be pleased with this 19th installment of the series featuring the clever and sensitive Norwegian PI. Varg takes on a cold case on the eve of its reaching the statute of limitations: a three-year-old girl disappears from a residential complex, whose residents all have skeletons in their closet, including the grieving mother. Although the case is 25 years old, a recent robbery/homicide in the vicinity holds the key. Full review here.
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25814249 4 – Cambodia Noir by Nick Seeley
Nick Seeley’s auspicious debut is set on the mean streets of Pnomh Penh where photo journalist Will Keller trades in misery porn, snapping shots of Cambodia’s increasingly unstable streets. Hoping to cash in with an exclusive money shot, this demeaning rut is interrupted by a new assignment: the search for a missing journalist. This takes Will into the heart of Cambodia’s oppressive politics and the psychological terrors of drugs and violence, but there is nothing more mysterious than the young woman he seeks. Full review here.
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Three Little Pigs3 – Three Little Pigs by Apostolos Doxiadis
Let’s face it, what’s more compelling than a tale of revenge? Maybe nothing, but it’s even harder to resist one set in the heart of Italian mafia culture in 20th century New York City. Our narrator, a mysterious old man, describes a mafia don’s long-reaching vendetta. When a man accidentally kills the local mob boss’ only son in a drunken brawl, the don’s vendetta cannot be undone: the hapless man’s three sons are each set to die on their 40th birthday. As the story unfolds, the identity of the narrator is just as compelling as the fates of the characters involved. Full non-spoiler review here.
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leif-gw-persson-the-dying-detective-1502 – The Dying Detective by Leif GW Persson
Retired detective Lars Johansson barely survives a stroke in front of his favourite hot dog stand. When he wakes, the nurse draws him into the unsolved rape and murder of a nine-year-old girl. This unforgettable thriller, forged with a deep sense of humanity, is darkly funny and riveting. Lars recruits an oddball cast of characters determined to catch the killer. The core issue at hand, however, is that the murderer is beyond the reach of the law. Full review here.
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birdtribunal1501 – The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn
This is not the first novel by emerging author Agnes Ravatn, but it is the talk of the town right now, and should scoop up another literary award or two. A penetrating psychological thriller of the highest order, The Bird Tribunal has the simple intimacy of a stage play. Two characters in an isolated cabin in the remote fjords of the Norwegian wilderness. One is a young woman working as a carer for the other, a brooding man who may be a monster. Ravatn creates a palpable sense of menace infused with Norse mythology. A challenge to put down, you will only drag your eyes away from its pages to ponder the dark revelations Ravatn renders in her stunning prose. Full review here.
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Read about my top five books of 2015 here.

 

 

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