The last in my series about crime writing, this blog finishes with a personal selection of my favourite crime writers and their (IMO) best novel. So far in the series I have covered crime and thriller locations, top weird and wonderful narratives, crime and thriller series, and I hope, if you’ve been following these posts, that you’ve discovered some new favourites.
People have said that all novels are crime novels in that there’s usually a wrong deed at the heart of the story, which is probably true, but the pleasure in reading crime novels for me is working out clues and solving the mystery. It’s probably the same bit of the my brain which likes sudoko. However in choosing this list, I’m also mindful that it has to be a great story with engaging characters. There has to be a reason to care. I think all of these writers do create brilliant characters, but in addition what makes these books stand out is often the premise
1. The Chain by Adrian Mckinty. I’m cheating here because this is the only book by Adrian Mckinty which I have actually read, but since finishing it I’ve been urging everyone else to read it. This is one where the premise is brilliant, but there are also characters we really come to care about and a mystery to be solved before the ticking clock runs out. Imagine your child has been kidnapped, and apart from paying a ransom, you must also to kidnap someone else’s child, before your own is released. It’s like the worst kind of chain letter and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
2. Sanctum by Denise Mina She is probably my favourite Scottish crime writer. What I particularly like about her is that she’s always inventing new series. It’s hard to choose the best one but Sanctum (published as Deception in the USA) is a standalone novel which is a fascinating examination of criminality.
3. The Lost Man by Jane Harper. I mentioned this writer in my top ten crime locations as Australia serves as the perfect backdrop to her writing. Hard to pick my favourite but The Lost Man wins it as one which stayed with me for a long time. Claustrophobic and intriguing, you’ll be kept guessing till the end.
4. Half Broken Things by Morag Joss. Another writer who featured in my top ten crime locations for Across the Bridge, but Half Broken Things is my favourite. Another brilliant study in character, reminded me of Barbara Vine at her best. The film adaptation with Daniel Mayes and Penelope Wilton is also worth watching.
5. The Word ls Murder by Anthony Horowitz. He made it into my top ten weird and wonderful narratives and I’m still working my way through his works. So far he is not disappointing, pushing at the boundaries of crime writing. The Word is Murder is the first in a series featuring Daniel Hawthorne, detective, and his side kick – Anthony Horowitz. Yes he’s in his own books as a fictional character who writes crime novels.
6. Find You First by Linwood Barclay. I don’t think I’ve read another author whose plots are so incredibly clever. All the clues are there, nothing is wasted, and yet you’re kept guessing right till the end. It was really hard to choose a favourite, but this is up there. A tech billionaire discovers he has a terminal illness. With no immediate family, he decides to leave his money to any children who resulted from his sperm donations in earlier years. But as he begins to track them down, one by one they are murdered…
7. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. A private plane on its way back to New York crashes into the sea and the only survivors are an impoverished artist and a four year old boy. The book shows you the lives of each of the passengers leading up to the crash and then what happens next. I couldn’t put it down.
8. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. Her best known work is probably Gone Girl – thanks to the film with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, and although I did truly love Gone Girl, I’ve chosen Dark Places as my favourite which is about a young girl surviving her family’s massacre, testifying against her elder brother, and then as an adult, coming to realise that maybe he wasn’t guilty after all. But do read Gone Girl and indeed Sharp Objects because Gillian Flynn is a genius.
9. Little Face by Sophie Hannah. Another brilliant writer and again hard to choose my favourite, but the premise of this one just grabbed me. A mother of a two week old baby pops out briefly and when she returns home, there is a different baby in the cot. Her husband and mother-in-law both insist that this is the right baby and there has been no substitution. Who is lying?
10. And then there were none by Agatha Christie. Saving the best till last. So difficult to choose just one of her incredible books as my favourite, but this one is surely the most puzzling. Neither of her famous detectives. Poirot or Miss Marple – are in this book, which is a classic locked room mystery.
And there we have it! Sorry about all the fantastic writers and novels which failed to make this list. Another time.