RoughJustice: Top five books of 2018

2018 may have been a pretty terrible year for politics, but a look at the books selected below, as well as those in the lists of my fellow contributors, will confirm it’s been another banner year for crime fiction. In fact, politics and crime fiction go hand-in-hand because no other genre is quite so well equipped to interrogate the world. The thought of finding out what writers like George Pelecanos or Mick Herron will make of current events at least provides some comfort going into 2019.

Here, after much deliberation, are my top crime novels of the year…

5 – London Rules by Mick Herron

It seems as though every year Mick Herron brings out a Jackson Lamb novel it finds its way on to my end-of-year list. Perhaps it’s the arch satire, or maybe the intricate plotting, or maybe the way he writes his team of losers with such empathy. Silly me, I even have a soft spot for the team’s punching bag, Roddy Ho. Either way, the fifth novel in the series didn’t disappoint, and this novel of duplicitous politicians and spooks battling for turf following the Brexit referendum is a poignant and comedic thriller that is well worth your time and money. Read our review here.
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4 – Bluff by Michael Kardos

A washed up stage magician, formerly a child prodigy and now reduced to playing New Jersey convention centres, battles loneliness and borderline alcoholism in an attempt to get her life back on track… So far, so noir. Michael Kardos’ trick of introducing a wild card in the form of a professional poker cheat seamlessly switches the book into a gripping heist thriller. But it’s his writing of his protagonist, Natalie Webb, and the revelation of her bravery, quick-thinking and resilience which elevates this book from a good one to a great one. Read our review here.
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3 – Bearskin by James A McLaughlin

James A McLaughlin’s debut is a literary chimera and is every bit as beguiling as the flora and fauna of its Appalachian setting. Part literary fiction, part thriller, but also a plaintive cry to preserve the planet’s wondrous beauty, the book sets game reserve caretaker Rice against local law enforcement, poachers and meth gangs. Always looming in the background is Rice’s past and a deadly cartel assassin. The novel is packed with evocative descriptions of the reserve, and has a hallucinatory feel which reflects the damaged Rice’s psyche. Bearskin is so richly written that a re-read is an inevitability. Read our review here.
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2 – November Road by Lou Berney

The celebrated author Don Winslow tipped us off on this novel with a series of tweets proclaiming its brilliance. Circumstance throws a New Orleans mob lieutenant and a trapped and lonely Oklahoman wife together on the road to Vegas. Frank Guidry is hoping to escape the hitman chasing him down and sees Charlotte and her children as perfect cover. But it’s the bullet that you don’t see that kills you, and Guidry’s discovery of his morality means a shot at redemption is possible even if escape isn’t. If I’m making this remarkable novel sound too much like a Hallmark card for you, please forgive me. Berney always finds the correct tone, and the descriptions of mob life in Vegas are some of the most unsettling scenes I’ve ever read. Berney already has one Edgar; don’t bet against another. Read our review here.
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1 – Charlesgate Confidential by Scott Von Doviak

This time, no less an author than Stephen King led the chorus praising the book. Let me add my voice. If a veteran of 20 books had pulled off this ambitious, multi-stranded thriller about an unsolved art theft in Boston in the 1940s, I’d have been impressed. That Von Doviak is a debutant makes the achievement all the more remarkable. This is the feel-good book of the year, and just thinking about it brings a smile to my face. Read our review here.
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Read about my top five books of 2017 here.

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