Spriteby: Top five books of 2016

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2016 has been quite a year for historical crime fiction lovers. The year isn’t over yet, and there are still plenty of books coming out. TE Kinsey, whose debut featured in this year’s New Talent November, has just released his second book, In the Market for Murder and on 29 December Hitchcock fans might enjoy The Watcher by Ross Armstrong. There are plenty more planned and 2017 has some strong titles on the way as well.

5 – A Quiet Life in the Country by TE Kinsey
Lady Emily Hardcastle moves to the Gloucestershire village of Littleton Cotterill with her maid, Florence. The pair’s intention of hanging up their amateur sleuthing hats and entering into a peaceful retirement, is rudely interrupted by the discovery of a dead body in the local woods. Emily finds herself forced to investigate when she realises the constabulary are barking up the wrong tree. Emily and Florence soon find that village life is far from the gentle idyll they’d expected. As they delve deeper, they find that Littleton Cotterill is a hotbed of seething rivalries and hidden secrets. So much for their quiet life… You can read my review here.
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4 – The Scrivener by Robin Blake
The death of a Preston pawnbroker sets coroner Titus Cragg and his friend Dr Luke Fidelis off on their latest investigation. It’s 1742, and with the festivities of the Preston Guild looming, the duo must solve this mystery quickly. Was Philip Plimbo murdered or did he commit suicide? The solution could be linked to a treasure that went missing during the English Civil War, a century earlier. Here’s the full review.
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3 – The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch
Police procedural meets urban fantasy in the sixth book in Aaronovitch’s brilliant Rivers of London series. The death of a teenage girl at a party in a Knightsbridge flat and a London river goddess calling in a favour see PC Peter Grant investigating a case that will bring him face to face with his former partner, Lesley May. A case involving Grant and Nightingale is never going to be straightforward, especially when they find themselves up against the Faceless Man. Here’s the full review.
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2 – Assassins by Jim Eldridge
An eminent, outspoken politician is murdered on the steps of his home during the negotiations for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921. DCI Paul Stark is the man charged with investigating a particularly tricky case, which is being watched by senior members of the government who are convinced that the newly founded Communist Party is responsible. Tensions are high and Stark must not just tread carefully, but solve the case quickly, if he is to keep his job. Read the review of Assassins here.
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1 – The Iron Water by Chris Nickson
In October, we reviewed Modern Crimes, a novel that took back to Leeds in the 1920s. The Iron Water takes us back further still, to late Victorian times when it had just received city status. In The Iron Water, the Leeds police want to show the boys at the Met that they’re every bit as good at detecting crimes. During the test launch of a torpedo in the local lake, a body floats to the surface beginning a murder investigation that takes detective Tom Harper into the world of gang warfare. Are the two most dangerous men in Leeds vying for overall control, or is someone else lurking in the wings? Read my review here.
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2017 looks set to hit the ground running with writers such as Jacqueline Winspear, Candace Robb, Tessa Harris, Benjamin Black, and Andrea Penrose all launching their latest mysteries and thrillers throughout the year. I’m particularly intriguing by Beth Underdown’s The Witchfinder’s Sister, an historical thriller which features Alice Hopkins, the sister of England’s most famous Witchfinder’s General, Matthew Hopkins.

Here are my top five books from 2014. I had a break from reviewing in 2015.

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