The most wanted crime books of 2019

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Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but we think history and throwbacks will dominate crime fiction in 2019. The world feels considerably more unstable with Donald Trump as president, a huge feud continuing in the UK over Brexit, strong-arm nationalist politicians popping up all round the world, and social media seemingly fuelling a discourse often characterised by mendacity and abuse.

As a result, people want to sink into something familiar, that can be easily understood and that might reflect the tensions of today’s world… but not too closely. Our most wanted list was compiled by surveying the entire Crime Fiction Lover team and gauging the general level of excitement over upcoming releases. We’re looking forward to books set around World War II, the Prohibition Era and the Roaring 20s. And even where the books aren’t necessarily historical crime novels, you can see elements of the past sealed into the characters – as well as one or two detectives who are desperate to get back to their old ways…

Nemesis by Rory Clements

Corpus was good, Nucleus was great, and now lovers of World War II historical crime fiction are on the edge of their seats for Nemesis, the third book in Rory Clements’ Tom Wilde series. The books are linked to Cambridge during the build-up to hostilities, a place of great scientific endeavour and where attempts were being made to split the atom. Hence, spies of all stripes were attracted to the area and Professor Wilde has found himself caught up in their deadly games. In Nemesis, he’s in France and discovers that one of his students is in a concentration camp after fighting in the Spanish Civil War. German tanks are rolling into Poland, a U boat has sunk an ocean liner and there’s a plot afoot to assassinate a top dog in British politics. What can Wilde do to save lives and foil enemy plans? Out 24 January.
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The Border by Don Winslow

The Trump administration has put more emphasis on the Mexican border than any before it, and no crime writer knows this territory better than Don Winslow. The Power of the Dog and The Cartel have both looked at a range of illegal transactions that take place across the border, everything those activities are linked to, and the hypocrisy of certain politicians who make proclamations about the situation. DEA man Art Keller’s story continues in The Border. He has been promoted to a high rank in the DEA, but his life has been ravaged after decades fighting on the front line in the war on drugs. His counterpart, the Mexican cartel leader Adán Barrera, is now unleashing a wave of heroin across the border and onto American streets. But whatever Keller attempts to achieve, he has one hand tied behind his back because the new administration in Washington has connections to the cartels. Out 26 February.
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A Friend is a Gift You Give Yourself by William Boyle

This New York author’s third crime novel is going to blow your doors off. It all starts with a crime. Mob widow Rena Ruggiero has hit her neighbour Enzio over the head with an ashtray and she goes on the run… all the way to her daughter Adrienne’s house in the Bronx, where she is turned away. Instead, Rena is taken in by ex-porn star Wolfie Wolfstein and when her granddaughter Lucia finds out that Adrienne is planning on running away, more fireworks are in store. Rena, Lucia and Wolfie are thrown together by fate and it looks like an epic road trip is about to take place in a Chevy Impala. The book has been described as Thelma and Louise meets Goodfellas, and is based around three resilient women. It’s scheduled for release 21 March.
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Metropolis by Philip Kerr

In 1927, the German expressionist filmmaker Fritz Lang made his sci-fi classic Metropolis in Berlin. A year later, in 1928, we find Philip Kerr’s detective Bernie Gunther working to solve a series of murders in a city very much on the cusp of the future, but not in a good way. These are the fragile years of the Weimar Republic, a period of new art and culture, and new politics, with extreme right- and left-wing forces at work. Amid the chaos, someone is killing the city’s most vulnerable – the poor, the prostitutes and broken ex-soldiers now on the streets. Gunther finds himself working alongside a Nazi who has infiltrated the police force, and seeks an escape from an increasingly dangerous work life via an affair with a theatre girl. More than ever, fans of Philip Kerr will want to get their hands on this novel. The author died suddenly in March 2018 and this is the last Bernie Gunther novel to be completed. Anyone who enjoyed Babylon Berlin should also put 9 April into their diaries.
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A Bloody Business by Dylan Struzan

This looks like it could be the crime fiction equivalent of 100-proof Ozark moonshine. Dylan Struzan has been working on A Bloody Business since 1995, when she met ex-con Vincent ‘Jimmy Blue Eyes’ Alo down in Florida, and he told her all about his days working with the bootleggers Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky – two of America’s most wanted organised crime leaders of the 20th century. Jimmy Alo, the basis of the character Jimmy Ola in The Godfather, Part II, told Struzan his secrets during 50 hours of recordings and after he passed away she used them as the basis of a novel that tracks the rise of organised crime in the United States. When you get your hands on this 640-page hardcover set in the Prohibition Era, you’ll also be able to enjoy illustrations by the great Hollywood movie poster artist Drew Struzan, who is Dylan Struzan’s husband. Out 16 April.
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A Shadow Intelligence by Oliver Harris

There are four reasons why this book is on our most wanted list. Firstly, it’s an espionage thriller set in Kazakhstan, which makes for a different setting. Russia and China have a big influence there, but the place has its own strongmen, oligarchs and the West also craves its energy resources. Secondly, well, it looks like a good old thriller much in the mould of John le Carré and sees MI6 agent Elliot Kane in the aforementioned country spying, manipulating events and trying to find a disappeared woman called Joanna Lake. Thirdly, the premise is interesting – Oliver Harris wants to look at the psychological side of being a spy. The service will train someone up, turn them into a paranoid wreck, and leave them unable to go home and relate to everyday life. Fourthly, Ian Rankin tweeted about it and that sparked our initial interest. Cheers, Ian. It’s coming your way 2 May.
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Worst Case Scenario by Helen FitzGerald

Now, if you’ve been following the crime fiction scene for the past decade or so, you’ll know that it makes no sense whatsoever that Helen FitzGerald hasn’t had a book out since Viral in 2016. Her book The Cry was recently adapted for television by the BBC and now the author has signed with Orenda Books for this release, which is out in March for Kindle and May in print. FitzGerald always tackles controversial subjects, and in this one probation officer Mary becomes obsessed with released murderer Liam, who was convicted of killing his wife and who has written a book about it and become a focal point for men’s rights activists. Mary’s son and Liam’s daughter hit it off, but Mary has her own agenda. If you’ve read Helen FitzGerald before, you already know that her brand of psychological crime fiction will have your head spinning.
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This Storm by James Ellroy

While the first Dudley Smith origin story, Perfidia, seemed a bit long-winded even to Ellroy’s most ardent fans, rumour has it that This Storm will be a return to form. Released in June, the author has shed about 100 pages on the length of Perfidia and in this book the year is 1942. Dudley Smith is an LAPD officer co-opted to Navy intelligence and he has teamed up with another LA rogue, Joan Conville. While she’s a former Navy lieutenant who has turned to war profiteering, Smith has turned Fascist. A body has been found in Griffin Park and these two are sent to investigate. The story also features a corrupt vice cop and a Japanese crime lab tech. If Ellroy’s scat-like storytelling style is back, This Storm could very well storm the booksellers’ charts. Can’t wait! If you’ve never come across Dudley Smith before, start with The Black Dahlia.
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The Knife by Jo Nesbo

July will be a good month for fans of classic Harry Hole novels like The Snowman – you know, the ones where the tall, rugged Norwegian detective gets himself in a professional and emotional twist, hits the bottle and wakes up somewhere unexpected. In The Knife, the old Harry is back. Rakel has finally chucked him out for good and he’s given up any pretence of sobriety. He’s not teaching at the academy any more either. Nope, the police have bounced him to a cold case department. However, things get interesting very quickly when a murderer and serial rapist Harry put away over 20 years ago is released. Immediately, Harry suspects that Svein Finne has not been rehabilitated and there’s also the hint that the man might want revenge on the detective who got him banged up. If you drifted away from Harry in The Thirst, The Knife sounds like it might recharge your Scandinavian crime fiction batteries. Read our complete guide to the series here.
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Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee

In November, we’ll be turning our eye to India, to mountainous Assam – one of the eastern-most regions of the country. The year is 1922 and Sam Wyndham, who has been gradually consumed by an opium addiction through the first three novels in this series, is trying to shake the disease in an ashram – a sort of monastic retreat. But the dragon isn’t the only demon he seeks to exorcise, and part of the novel will take us back to 1905 in London’s East End during a formative period in the detective’s troubled life. After Abir Mukherjee’s debut A Rising Man won the CWA Historical Dagger in 2017, his books have gone from strength to strength, revealing what life might have been like in colonial Calcutta via dark murder mysteries. Death in the East could well tie a few things together for a character who has seen the harshness and double standards of the British Raj as well as the extremes of Indian nationalism up close.
Pre-order now on Amazon

You can check out last year’s ‘most wanted’ novels here.


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