CrimeFictionLover: Top five books of 2018

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How was 2018 for you? Did you dig all the crime fiction you read, or did you find it a little bland? What I’ve been looking for more and more in my reading is atmosphere. A clever mystery and great characters are all well and good, but if a book doesn’t make you feel like you’re part of it, there in the moment and sensing the things that are essential to the story, it’ll lose me pretty quickly. On the other hand, if the writing has allowed me to join the world the author has created, I’ll stay there for as long as I can. It beats watching the news…

5 – Good Samaritans by Will Carver

Although Good Samaritans gets off to a slow start and feels a bit grubby, with its odd and unlikeable characters, it builds and builds as the author Will Carver carves out an incredibly gripping set-up. Seth, Maeve, Ant, Hadley – each character is obsessed with something and mental health is an underlying theme in this novel. Meanwhile, DI Pace is baffled by two murders, linked by the MO. Both victims were bleached, wrapped in plastic, and dumped in random fields in Warwickshire. How could suicidal Hadley, insomniac Seth, OCD Ant or alcoholic Maeve possibly be connected to them? Halfway through you’ll start to find out, and as the book reaches its gripping conclusion you won’t be able to put it down. Dark, innovative, different – check out our full review here.
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4 – Eight Million Ways to Die by Lawrence Block and John K Snyder III

This is not a new story – Eight Million Ways to Die was the fifth Matt Scudder novel by Lawrence Block, and came out in 1982. What is new is the graphic novel adaptation, care of John K Snyder III. As private eye Scudder battles with a demon named Bourbon, he’s called on to help a high class call girl in Manhattan. She wants to get out of the game but only hours after Scudder leaves her apartment she’s been slashed to death. The identity of the killer is a true mystery, shrouded in the darkness of a New York beset by violent crime. The story is classic detective noir, but the artwork takes things to another level. Snyder cleverly evokes the feel of classic 80s graphic novels like Maus and The Dark Knight Returns with loads of heavy, deep shading and he gets all the key notes of Lawrence Block’s original story pitch perfect throughout. Go ahead and treat yourself to this hardback. Read our full review here.
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3 – Tapping the Source by Kem Nunn

Another 80s throwback – what is the matter with me? This year No Exit reprinted this 1983 surf noir classic by Kem Nunn and the author’s ability to not only tell a story but to generate an atmosphere left me caught in the undertow. Totally. Fresh out of San Arco in the desert of central California, Ike has made his way to Huntington Beach, south of LA, to find his big sister, Ellen. She’s not there but the men he thinks took her are, led by the surfer king Hound Adams. Somehow, Ike befriends one of the top dog bikers on the strip, who it seems is a mortal enemy of Adams. Surrounded by the drugs, alcohol, violence and sexual exploitation of the teenage scene down on the beach, Ike searches for his sister and also searches for himself. Kem Nunn manages to show us that through pain, desperation and loneliness, even in the brightest sunshine people’s hearts can be full of shadow. This one will stay with you. Read our full review here.
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2 – Newcomer by Keigo Higashino

For something different, dip into this sublime Japanese crime novel by Keigo Higashino. Detective Kyoichiro Kaga is new to the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo, and so was Mineko Mitsui… before she was strangled to death. Because Mineko was little known in the area, the investigation begins with a distinct lack of clues and motive. It seems a middle-aged translator was simply killed for no real reason. To investigate the crime, Kaga circulates through the neighbourhood, asking questions in the shops and cafes Mineko may have visited and it’s through his conversations with the locals – each of whom seems to have a little mystery of their own to deal with – that he builds up his case. It’s beautifully written, nuanced and gives some wonderful insight into Japanese culture with its traditions and its modernity. The author is touching on genius, here. Read our full review.
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1 – This Is How It Ends by Eva Dolan

Complex, poignant and oh-so-topical, Eva Dolan’s standalone novel about two women in the protest movement is my book of the year. A man lies dead at the bottom of the elevator shaft in Molly’s building. Who is he, how did he get there, and has it got anything to do with the activists trying to save the structure from demolition and redevelopment? Standing by Molly’s side is Ella, a much younger woman who has become the enfant terrible of the movement through her blogging and her belligerent attitude to the police. Both Ella and Molly are connected to the dead body, but there’s a lot going on behind the scenes as well. The way Eva Dolan draws her timelines together – the current story progresses while parts of it push further and further in to the past of each character – is clever, but what makes This Is How It Ends so outstanding is the way she weaves social commentary right into the plot and into the lives of the characters. You won’t even notice it, you’ll be so tense about what’s going to happen with this body… but it’s there. Both the case and the campaign will tick-tick-tick in your head like two little bombs. Read our full review here.
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Find out which novels I picked last year here.

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