Erin Britton: Top five books of 2023

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As 2023 draws to a close, it’s comforting to reflect on the fact that, unlike many other aspects of day-to-day life, the crime fiction published this year has been just as good as ever… or, in some cases, even better. From cosy mysteries featuring plucky amateur sleuths to dark and twisted tales of serial killers and spooky supernatural investigations, the five novels that have particularly stood out for me this year showcase the richness and versatility of crime fiction, providing enthralling insights into the minds of detectives, criminals and those caught in the crossfire.

5 – Death Comes to Marlow by Robert Thorogood

Death Comes to Marlow by Robert Thorogood front cover

Robert Thorogood’s Death Comes to Marlow chronicles the second case cracked by Judith Potts, the prickly puzzle-loving founder of the Marlow Murder Club. The story intertwines the worlds of crosswords and murder mysteries, echoing the longstanding connection between the two. It follows Judith as she attempts to decipher a cryptic crossword clue that leads her to a mysterious assignation. Soon, she finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation at a pre-wedding party, challenging her and her eccentric friends to unravel the complexities of a seemingly impossible crime. Despite the challenging nature of the locked-room mystery, the novel maintains a cosy atmosphere throughout, emphasising the characters’ reactions and motivations over gory details. It makes for a warm and humorous murder mystery enlivened by bonkers interview techniques and leaps of logic on the part of Judith and friends. Read my full review here.
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4 – You’d Look Better as a Ghost by Joanna Wallace

You'd Look Better as a Ghost by Joanna Wallace front cover

In Joanna Wallace’s debut novel, You’d Look Better as a Ghost, the female serial killer protagonist, Claire, emerges as a darkly compelling figure. The narrative unfolds from Claire’s first-person perspective, providing deep insights into her seemingly reasonable but chillingly murderous mindset. After the death of her father, Claire’s quest for solace leads to a double homicide, setting off a chain of events involving blackmail and a complex mystery. Wallace delves into Claire’s disturbing childhood, exploring the nature versus nurture debate in the development of psychopathic tendencies. Alongside the macabre subject matter, the story considers issues of child neglect and elder abuse, grounding it in grim reality. Claire’s dark humour and complex background make her an engaging yet unsettling protagonist in this deliciously twisted tale, which was chosen by readers as Best Debut of 2023 in our awards. Read my full review here.
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3 – Killing Jericho by William Hussey

Killing Jericho by William Hussey front cover

William Hussey’s Killing Jericho introduces Scott Jericho, a complex detective with a violent past and a unique background as an openly gay traveller. Having left the police force under a cloud, Jericho’s private detective career begins when he is thrust into a case involving a suspected serial killer using a tragic historical event as inspiration. The dark and twisted tale unfolds with a hint of the supernatural as Jericho, haunted by ghosts and guilt, navigates a gruesome investigation that delves into his traveller roots. Despite his difficult personality, Jericho’s almost Sherlockian investigative skills are showcased, shaped by his upbringing among showmen. The novel explores discrimination faced by travellers and vividly depicts the duality of life on the fairground. Killing Jericho is a gripping and macabre start to the Scott Jericho series, offering a compelling blend of mystery, horror and social commentary. Read my full review here.
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2 – Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Sutanto

Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Sutanto front cover

In Jesse Sutanto’s delightful cosy mystery, Vera Wong is a strong-willed and meddlesome woman of a certain age who finds her once-thriving teahouse in San Francisco’s Chinatown sullied by a break-in and the discovery of a dead body. Convinced of her superior detective skills, Vera takes matters into her own hands, drawing the killer back to the teahouse through a clever obituary scheme. The story is told from the perspectives of five characters – Vera and the four suspects – revealing their vulnerabilities and complex relationships. Sutanto skilfully weaves together the main plot and intriguing subplots, blending humour, mystery and heart-warming moments in a uniquely evocative setting. Vera emerges as a truly memorable and highly amusing amateur sleuth, making this cosy mystery a delightful and satisfying blend of murder, mayhem and home cooking. Read my full review here.
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1 – The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett front cover

Janice Hallett’s The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels is a gripping and intricately layered novel in which the true crime phenomenon takes centre stage. Eighteen years ago, the Alperton Angels cult made headlines following a shocking murder plot involving a baby said to be the antichrist. True crime author Amanda Bailey, seeking a unique angle for her latest book, delves into the case, only to find herself competing with former nemesis Oliver Menzies. The novel is told via emails, WhatsApp messages, interviews and various source materials, adding a modern twist to the epistolary format. As Bailey and Menzies collaborate to unearth the truth, the reader becomes a detective, navigating unreliable narrators, obscured intentions and a web of mysteries. Hallett crafts a deviously twisting and twisted puzzle, blending thriller and whodunnit elements, making The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels a gripping and challenging read. Read my full review here.
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Read about my top five crime books of 2022 here.

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