This year I have not read as much as I would have liked to and what reading I have done has been a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.
In alphabetical order my favourite reads this year are.
Killing is my Business by Adam Christopher (Titan Books)
Another golden morning in a seedy town, and a new memory tape for intrepid Pl-turned-hitman-and last robot left in working order--Raymond Electromatic. When his comrade-in-electronic-arms, Ada, assigns a new morning roster of clientele, Ray heads out into the LA sun, only to find that his skills might be a bit rustier than he expected...
A Game of Ghosts by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton)
It is deep winter. The darkness is unending. The private detective named Jaycob Eklund has vanished, and Charlie Parker is dispatched to track him down. Parker's employer, Edgar Ross, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has his own reasons for wanting Eklund found. Eklund is no ordinary investigator. He is obsessively tracking a series of homicides and disappearances, each linked to reports of hauntings. Now Parker will be drawn into Eklund's world, a realm in which the monstrous Mother rules a crumbling criminal empire, in which men strike bargains with angels, and in which the innocent and guilty alike are pawns in a game of ghosts
American Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to US Crime Fiction, Film & TV by Barry Forshaw (Pocket Essentials)
The crime genre is as much about films and TV as it is about books, and American Noir is a celebration of the former as well as the latter. US television crime drama in particular is enjoying a new golden age, and all of the important current series are covered here, as well as key recent films.
The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler (Quercus)
Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you're dead. So begins Christopher Fowler's foray into the back catalogues and backstories of 99 authors who, once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves. Whether male or female, domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega-seller or prize-winner - no author, it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye.These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now-vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, and the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.
The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurtwiz (Michael Joseph)
He was once called Orphan X. As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from a children's home, raised and trained as part of a secret government initiative buried so deep that virtually no one knows it exists. But he broke with the programme, choosing instead to vanish off grid and use his formidable skill set to help those unable to protect themselves. One day, though, Evan's luck ran out ... Ambushed, drugged, and spirited away, Evan wakes up in a locked room with no idea where he is or who has captured him. As he tries to piece together what's happened, testing his gilded prison and its highly trained guards for weaknesses, he receives a desperate call for help. With time running out, he will need to out-think, out-manoeuvre, and out-fight an opponent the likes of whom he's never encountered to have any chance of escape. He's got to save himself to protect those whose lives depend on him. Or die trying ...
Crime Fiction in German is the first volume in English to offer a comprehensive overview of German-language crime fiction from its origins in the early nineteenth century to its vibrant growth in the new millennium. As well as introducing readers to crime fiction from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the former East Germany, the volume expands the notion of a German crime-writing tradition by investigating Nazi crime fiction, Jewish-German crime fiction, Turkish-German crime fiction and the Afrika-Krimi. Other key areas, including the West German social crime novel, women's crime writing, regional crime fiction, historical crime fiction and the Fernsehkrimi (TV crime drama) are also explored, highlighting the genre's distinctive features in German-language contexts. The volume includes a map of German-speaking Europe, a chronology of crime publishing milestones, extracts from primary texts, and an annotated bibliography of print and online resources in English and German.
Sirens by Joseph Knox (Transworld Publishers)
It starts with the girl. How it ends is up to Detective Aidan Waits. Isabelle Rossiter has run away again. When Aidan Waits, a troubled junior detective, is summoned to her father’s penthouse home – he finds a manipulative man, with powerful friends. But retracing Isabelle’s steps through a dark, nocturnal world, Waits finds something else. An intelligent seventeen-year-old girl who’s scared to death of something. As he investigates her story, and the unsolved disappearance of a young woman just like her, he realizes Isabelle was right to run away. Soon Waits is cut loose by his superiors, stalked by an unseen killer and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman. He’s out of his depth and out of time. How can he save the girl, when he can't even save himself?
Observer Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead. But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules - a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it's stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes - and save himself in the process - before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.
Kiss, Kiss Bang, Bang: The Boom in British Thrillers from Casino Royale to the Eagle Has Landed by Mike Ripley (Harper Collins)
An entertaining history of British thrillers from Casino Royale to The Eagle Has Landed, which reveals that, though Britain may have lost an empire, her thrillers helped save the world. When Ian Fleming dismissed his books in a 1956 letter to Raymond Chandler as `straight pillow fantasies of the bang-bang, kiss-kiss variety' he was being typically immodest. In three short years, his James Bond novels were already spearheading a boom in thriller fiction that would dominate the bestseller lists, not just in Britain, but internationally. The decade following World War II had seen Britain lose an Empire, demoted in terms of global power and status and economically crippled by debt; yet its fictional spies, secret agents, soldiers, sailors and even (occasionally) journalists were now saving the world on a regular basis. From Ian Fleming and Alistair MacLean in the 1950s through Desmond Bagley, Dick Francis, Len Deighton and John Le Carre in the 1960s, to Frederick Forsyth and Jack Higgins in the 1970s. Many have been labelled `boys' books' written by men who probably never grew up. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, examines the rise of the thriller from the austere 1950s through the boom time of the Swinging Sixties and early 1970s, examining some 150 British authors (plus a few notable South Africans). Drawing upon conversations with many of the authors mentioned in the book, the author shows how British writers, working very much in the shadow of World War II, came to dominate the field of adventure thrillers and the two types of spy story - spy fantasy (as epitomised by Ian Fleming's James Bond) and the more realistic spy fiction created by Deighton, Le Carre and Ted Allbeury, plus the many variations (and imitators) in between.
Grandville: Force Majeure by Bryan Talbot. (Vintage)
In the middle of a gang war, wanted for murder, truly alone and outside the law, Detective Inspector LeBrock is on the run from both the police and gangster assassins, the victim of a diabolical scheme to annihilate himself and everyone he holds dear, engineered by mastermind crime lord Tiberius Koenig, one of the most despicable villains in the history of detective fiction. A detective thriller, featuring Grandville's trademark high-octane excitement, humour and deduction on a Holmesian scale as we finally meet LeBrock's mentor, Stamford Hawksmoor, and discover LeBrock's untold backstory. Featuring favourite characters Detective Sergeant Roderick Ratzi and LeBrock's vivacious fiancee, Parisian prostitute Billie are joined by a new badger in town! Enter Tasso, an Italian badger who's bigger, meaner and uglier than LeBrock - but is he a force for good or evil? A battle royale ensues as LeBrock fights against truly outrageous odds. How can he possibly survive? Prepare to be royally badgered!
The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen (Orenda Books)
A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he's dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition.
The Force by Don Winslow (HarperCollins)
Detective sergeant Denny Malone leads an elite unit to fight gangs, drugs and guns in New York. For eighteen years he's been on the front lines, doing whatever it takes to survive in a city built by ambition and corruption, where no one is clean. What only a few know is that Denny Malone himself is dirty: he and his partners have stolen millions of dollars in drugs and cash. Now he's caught in a trap and being squeezed by the Feds, and he must walk a thin line of betrayal, while the city teeters on the brink of a racial conflagration that could destroy them all.
Honourable mentions also to the return of Charlie Fox in Zoe Sharp’s Fox Hunter, Prussian Blue by Philip Kerr, Insidious Intent by Val McDermid, The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronvitch, The Late Show by Michael Connelly and The Pictures by Guy Bolton.