DeathBecomesHer: Top five books of 2021

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It’s been a year with some stranger-than-fiction moments, hasn’t it? Just as well we crime readers have our imaginary worlds to fall back on — and thanks to the hard-working authors for supplying such a wealth of material! Looking back over 2021, I was struck by the sheer range and variety of novels that I reviewed over the past 12 months – and my top 5 picks for the year echo that trend.

5 – The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

Ballard and Bosch are back, and in The Dark Hours their slightly off-kilter partnership is really cemented. It is New Years Eve 2020 when a man is killed, apparently from a stray gunshot fired into the sky at the stroke of midnight. But LAPD detective Renee Ballard thinks differently, and when her investigation uncovers a link to a cold case which had Harry Bosch as the lead, the pair begin working in tandem. They’re soon in deep – and so are we, as the maelstrom of the COVID pandemic swirls around us and Los Angeles deals with the aftermath of the George Floyd case in a novel that deftly blends truth and fiction to stunning effect. Click here to read the full review.
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4 – The Devil’s Advocate by Steve Cavanagh

The Devil's Advocate by Steve Cavanagh front cover

Book six in a series can be a point where an author settles down and takes the safer approach. Not so with Steve Cavanagh, because in The Devil’s Advocate he takes con man turned lawyer Eddie Flynn out of his comfort zone – and the gamble really pays off. Like The Dark Hours, this is a book that encompasses modern day issues, in this case police corruption and racial prejudice. Eddie is in the Deep South, in Alabama, where an innocent young man sits on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. Can Eddie get him off? You can bet he’ll try his darndest – so sit back and enjoy the unpredictable and hugely entertaining ride. Read our review in full here.
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3 – Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh front cover

Holiday flights – remember them? Sitting back with a gin and tonic while flipping through the in-flight magazine, cabin crew scurrying hither and thither. You might want to keep that idyllic image in mind as you read Hostage, because here Clare Mackintosh has created the flight from hell – and it’s anything but comfortable. Mina is a member of the crew on a history-making maiden flight – 20 hours non-stop from London to Sydney on a Boeing 777 with 353 excited passengers. But among them is a group of undercover eco-warriors and soon they have Mina in their thrall. Fasten your seatbelts, because you’re in for a bumpy flight! Our review is here.
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2 – The Waiter by Ajay Chowdhury

The Waiter by Ajay Chowdhury front cover

My favourite debut of the year straddles continents in a well-plotted tale with an engaging protagonist. Kamil Rahman is the waiter of the title, working in his uncle’s restaurant in Brick Lane, London. But not long ago Kamil was a rising star in the Kolkata police department.What led to his downfall? Well, it’s quite the tale, involving the suspicious death of a Bollywood star. Meanwhile back in London, when a murder occurs at a swish party where Kamil is serving, he can’t resist the urge to investigate. This is a refreshingly different crime novel, moving smoothly and smartly between two worlds — and be warned, it may make you feel hungry! Read the full review here.
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1 – Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner front cover

I shuffled and struggled to pick the other four books in this ‘best of’ selection, but my winner for 2021 was never in doubt. I reviewed this book in April and there have been a LOT of other novels on my radar since then, but Before She Disappeared has stuck with me through all those months. Lisa Gardner is a past master at the standalone crime novel and she’s at the very top of her game here, creating in Frankie Elkin a memorable and totally realistic protagonist. Frankie is middle aged, white and obsessed with finding missing people whose stories have slipped from the headlines. That obsession brings her to Matapan in Boston, where her search for teenager Angelique Badeau, a Haitian immigrant who vanished from her high school 11 months ago, is about to get her into all manner of bother. Characters, settings, plot… everything is spot on here. Settle down and immerse yourself. You can read the full review here.
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Find out what my top books of 2020 were here.

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