Mal McEwan: Top five books of 2017

My list this year rattles around some varied sub-genres and pushes at the radical edges of crime fiction. The Long Drop delves into the realms of fictionalised true crime while Graeme Macrae Burnet has carved out another literary gem in his preferred ‘faction’ style. Mr Either/Or, written in verse could lay claim to noir or sci-fi niches as well as the epic literary DNA in its bones. And, John Connolly is an old hand but was new to me in 2017 and continues with his hardboiled but supernaturally gilded tales. Carnivore is a brutal, unvarnished crime thriller with a memorable lead and it is a superlative debut. It’s a remarkable collection.

5 — The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Chief Inspector Georges Gorski is called in when a local respected solicitor, Bertrand Barthelme, is killed when his Mercedes slides off the A35 road in France and hits a tree. Gorski gently probes Barthelme’s life to curry favour with the attractive widow and Barthelme’s son, Raymond, tugs at his dead father’s secrets. It can be enjoyed as a simple study of life and loss in the quiet Alsace town of Saint-Louis, or it can be taken as a tone perfect homage to Georges Simenon with a musing on the nature of truth and lies. Man Booker Prize-nominated Burnet brings his fiction/faction styling to bear in a crime mystery that is quietly compelling. Read my full review.
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4 – Mr Either/Or by Aaron Poochigian

I didn’t expect a crime novel written in verse to hit my list but Aaron Poochigian’s bravura genre-mashup deserves it all the way. The central character is a New York FBI agent working undercover as a student, ‘Mr Either/Or’. He tears through the city after mystical artefacts and battling aliens in the company of sassy art curator Li-ling. There are strands of epic mythology, a noir cityscape and it is all bundled up in verse that lodges in your brain. Poochigian’s hero makes sly and knowing winks at the genre tropes in a likeable, literary trip that is a lot of fun. You can read my full review.
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3 — Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon

Violent, intense, but still poetic, Jonathan Lyon plumbs the depths of human nature in the company of an unforgettable lead character. Leander is just 21 years old but the book opens with him selling his body, being abused, in a hotel room in London. He has synaesthesia and chronic pain so being beaten with the buckle end of a belt is an odd relief for him. He meets up with his junkie friend Dawn but her new beau, Kimber, is a notorious dealer and a killer. With prostitution, rape, and a drug-infused narrative this sparks into one of the most memorable crime debuts of 2017. You can read the full review here.
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2 – The Long Drop by Denise Mina

The Long Drop, Denise MinaTwo unsavoury men are the unpromising characters in Denise Mina’s dark evocation of a violent 1950s Glasgow. William Watt is an ambitious businessman and Peter Manuel is a convicted rapist and a known liar. Three women have been murdered. Watt’s wife, sister-in-law and daughter are shot dead in their beds in the family home. Mina flits between Manuel’s trial and a macabre night of drinking with the egotistical Watt and psychopathic Manuel in the months before his arrest. Based on a true case Mina’s story breathes life into the men and women of Glasgow in an utterly compelling and atmospheric story. You can read the full review here.
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1 — Game of Ghosts by John Connolly

A Game of Ghosts, John ConnollyCharlie Parker is hired to find fellow private investigator Jaycob Eklund who has been tracking the murderous Brethren. Eklund has linked them to countless murders. All the characters loom large from the page. They include the Mother, a silver haired squat woman with control over a criminal empire, the repulsive assassin Donn Routh, the creepy incestuous Buckners, and, of course, the Collector. This was my first from John Connolly who blends the supernatural and a police procedural vibe with immense sensitivity and the ear of a poet. The result is crime fiction of the finest calibre. Read my full review and check out our full guide to the John Connolly Charlie Parker series.

Click here for my favourite crime fiction books of 2016.

See what other Crime Fiction Lover reviewers chose as their top five of 2017.

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