Vicki Weisfeld: Top five books of 2023

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In 2023, I was lucky to read quite a few engrossing crime novels, making this year’s top five even harder to select than usual. The list below includes a wide range of types and topics, offering excellent choices, no matter your subgenre preferences. Also, I know books by the leading lights in crime fiction will come to your attention, but 2023 saw publication of excellent books by lesser-known writers, too. I’ve included several of those that I don’t want CFL readers to miss!

5 – Bastard Verdict by James McCrone

Bastard Verdict by James McCrone front cover

This ‘ripped from the headlines’ political thriller poses intriguing, unnerving ‘what ifs?’ It’s McCrone’s fourth look at the way democracies’ electoral systems are warped by the current no-holds-barred political climate and was inspired by the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Feelings ran high; motives ran low; and hopes for a second referendum on the question continue to simmer. But was something wrong with the first vote? How badly can such a visible process go off the rails? Read this and see. McCrone’s intimate knowledge of the Scottish terrain and culture, not just the country’s politics, shines through. Full review here.
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4 – The Epilogue of August by Jennifer Milder

The Epilogue of August by Jennifer Milder front cover

This debut crime mystery turns into a multi-year saga about mothers and daughters that is heart-breakingly convincing. Jan reluctantly visits her mother’s dying bedside, determined to uncover the secrets of her birth and the fraught history of her childhood. In fact, generations of secrets involving the murders of two sisters, false accusations, and more eventually come to light, and the burdens the various characters have shouldered begin to explain their life choices. This is one of those books that seems to grow bigger and more emotionally resonant – altogether more consequential – as you read on. Read the full review.
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3 Clonk! by JP Rieger

Clonk! by JP Rieger front cover

A crime novel with a sense of humour is to be treasured. I always enjoy characters who are following an entirely different agenda than I think they are, and this one is a good example. It involves eight friends who have stayed close since high school, where they were social misfits—not evil, just weird. Fast forward twenty years, and one of them is a Baltimore police detective with an unorthodox (laugh-out-loud) way of solving cases outside any normal procedure. When his friends inevitably find themselves in trouble, he’s there to help. Fast-paced and really fun. The full review is here.
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2 – Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent front cover

Sally, the reclusive subject of this remarkable book, is forty-ish, neurodivergent and unforgettable. Author Nugent describes so effectively Sally’s way of thinking and being that it starts to make a strange kind of sense. Her mother was kidnapped at age 11 and imprisoned in a single room for 16 years. There her mother gave birth to two children: Sally and a brother she knows nothing about. Eventually, after their captor escapes with his son, doctors raise Sally in rural Ireland. The story is not only about the damage inflicted by super-controlling people, it’s an uplifting tale of resilience. Read the review.
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1 – The Man in the Corduroy Suit by James Wolff

The Man in the Corduroy Suit by James Wolff front cover

Wolff’s three books in this series are about British intelligence agents. Renegades, in fact. Leonard Flood is the third of them– an expert interviewer, seriously short-changed in social skills, wearer of corduroy. He’s asked to delve into the activities of a retired officer who is the very person who vetted the recruits who were subjects of Wolff’s previous books, and management is rightly concerned that her vetting process was flawed. By coincidence? Or design? If so, why? And how many of these dodgy agents are out there, anyway? Cleverly satisfying, with delightfully unexpected twists and turns. Full review here.
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Read about my 2022 picks here.

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