MarinaSofia: Top five books of 2018

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There’s nothing more enjoyable than travelling the globe via crime fiction, so it should come as no surprise that each one of my top five picks take me to another part of the world. What’s more, four out of the five I’ve chosen this year are titles are in translation, which shows that the appetite for literature in translation is alive and well when it comes to crime fiction at least. Also, for the first time ever, a true crime book and a collection of short stories make my list too.

5 – Weeping Waters by Karin Brynard

Our first journey takes us to South Africa, with the hard-hitting fiction of Afrikaans investigative journalist and writer Karin Brynard. She is adept at showing the simmering unrest and real challenges of living in the rainbow nation.  In her first novel to be translated into English, she tackles the hugely controversial hot topic of farm murders. Inspector Albertus Beeslaar has fled Johannesburg to enjoy the peace and quiet of the flat farmlands of the Northern Cape, bordering the Kalahari Desert. Peace is elusive, however, when cattle thefts escalate to murder. The other farmers demand instant action from the police and start setting up their own militia groups, and Beeslaar has to use all his investigative skill and diplomacy to contain the racial tensions. Read our review here.
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4 – The First Prehistoric Serial Killer and Other Stories by Teresa Solana

Quirky does not even begin to describe this collection of short stories with an irresistible title by Catalan crime writer Teresa Solana. Well-worn crime and horror tropes are given a clever little twist, often surreal, sometimes grotesque. The protagonists are often naughty or murderous or both, yet somehow remain quite likable, with a deadpan humour and narrative style. In the second part of the collection, the city of Barcelona plays a starring role. Even if you prefer novels, you should give these funny, dark and stylish stories a try: there is nothing quite like them out there! Read our review here.
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3 – Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen

From one black comedy to another, this time a crime novel set in a seaside resort in Finland. This is a resort which aspires to rival Florida – minus the heat and the danger of sunburn. The book is a brilliant slice of satire, with a large cast of characters who aspire to become rich but show a surprising ineptitude for the criminal activities that might make them wealthy. There are both farcical and violent elements in the story, but they are carefully balanced with more serious themes, such as betrayal, reaching middle age and watching your dreams turn to dust. Above all, there is a lot of compassion for the eccentric characters, who in the hands of a lesser writer might have descended into slapstick. Read our review here.
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2 – I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

The posthumous publication of this meticulous piece of research into the so-called Golden State Killer active in California in the 1970s and 80s made the headlines because, unfinished though the work is, it ultimately led to the arrest of a suspect in April 2018. Quite aside from the patient analysis of all the evidence, this book excels at capturing the mood and atmosphere of a particular time and place, as well as showing a lot of sympathy for the victims and their families rather than glorifying the perpetrator. What makes it exceptional is also the remarkably frank way in which the author discusses the personal toll this case took on her. In many ways, it is also a memoir of McNamara and her fellow investigators, people who become obsessed with unsolved cases and with bringing criminals to justice. Read our review here.
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1 – Beton Rouge by Simone Buchholz

From the United States to the Hanseatic port of Hamburg, Germany, where we find the public prosecutor with the unlikely name of Chastity Riley. She is the walking, talking incarnation of what the Germans might call Weltschmerz (world weariness), and the grey, often rainy city of Hamburg forms the perfect backdrop for her hard-drinking, wise-cracking ways. The criminal investigation occasionally takes the back seat in this atmospheric noirish homage to Chandler or Jakob Arjouni. Of course, Chas is the proverbial tough shell with a heart of gold; she is always on the side of the poor and downtrodden, as her short and sharp observations about wealth and social inequality prove. What really makes the series stand out is the unique style, with brief lyrical interludes almost hidden between scenes of graphic violence or witty dialogue. The line breaks might remind you of poetry, while the abrupt jumps and changes to the rhythm are like jazz improvisations. A breath of fresh air in the crime fiction world! Read our review here.
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Read about my top five picks of 2017 here.

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