Friday, 22 January 2016

Best Crime Books of 2015


Golden AGe


Earlier this week I published a list of my favourite non-crime books of the year. Except that I accidentally put Falling Angel on that list – I don’t know how that happened, as nothing could be more of a crime book. Perhaps my subconscious liked it so much it tried to get Falling Angel onto both lists, which is how it’s going to be.

First of all I must mention The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards – the best book on crime fiction that I have ever read. It’s a model of research, scholarship and good writing, and I know I will read it again, and keep it ever to hand. Martin visited the blog to do a guest post – and is also responsible for my having to read and re-read various classics.

I’ve also enjoyed taking part in a couple of online groups this year:

Rich Westwood over at Past Offences has made a huge success of his Crime of the Century meme: each month a year is nominated, and participants read and review a book first published in that year. It’s terrific fun and all are welcome.

And I’m also part of the Tuesday Night Club – a group of crime fiction fans who choose a different author each month to write about, and then post on (the clue is there…) Tuesdays. Again, all are welcome – we are just finishing off Rex Stout and are about to move on to Dorothy L Sayers.

And now, here they are – my best crime stories of the year.

Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg – one more time.
 
 
Arab Jazz by Karim Miske A really really good thriller, with Arab Jazz coverfabulous characters, and a fantastic setting in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. Rachel and Jean are cops investigating the murder of a young woman. Her downstairs neighbour, Ahmed, is an obvious suspect, but the two cops, charmingly, can tell he isn’t guilty, and he helps them investigate:
An Ashkenhazi Jew, a spaced-out Breton and a loony Arab. The dream team of the nineteenth arrondissement! Now it’s time to play cops and robbers.

Kiss me First_thumb[1]Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach The first work of fiction (let alone crime story) that I feel has really got to grips with the modern cyber-age, social media and ubiquitous computers. I said:
The book worked for me on three completely different levels: the two main female characters were compelling and strangely convincing, the story was a tense page-turner, and the online/social media aspect was fascinating and original. An absolute cracker.


In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward My little set of online crime fans were all thrilled to bits this year that our friend Sarah published this book – we hope the first of many. I think we were of course all likely to be nice about it (she is our friend) but there was no need to be polite. This is a really excellent police procedural with great characters and a clever and satisfying plot. It’s the kind of crime book I particularly enjoy, with a crime in the past coming back to haunt the present. I raced through it, unwilling to put it down, anxious to know what happened. Kudos Sarah.

The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths One of my favourite authors, one of my favourite series, and Cathbad and Ruth are such great characters – while Harry Nelson is my favourite fictional policeman, he is the thinking woman’s cop.
 
Mistress of the Art of Death_thumb[1]

Ariana Franklin was one of my great discoveries of the year – thanks to Bernadette over at Reactions to Reading. I loved her 12th century stories of female doctor Adelia. I knew that sadly there were only four of them – the author died a few years ago – and tried to space them out, but couldn’t resist, and read them all in no time flat.

Len Deighton This year I tackled the second half of Deighton’s triple trilogy about Bernard Samson, loved every minute, and full intend to do the whole lot again one day.

King and Joker by Peter Dickinson – the author died this year, causing many of us to remember what a great crime writer he was.

 
Death of the Detective_thumb[1]

Death of the detective by Mark Smith My one-sentence summary when I’d finished would be: It drove me mad, but I couldn’t stop reading it – although over a period of time, it’s a huge commitment at around 700+ closely-packed pages, and I could only read so much in a session. It is the Great Chicago Novel, that’s for sure – entirely set in and around the city, apparently very recognizably so, and painting a picture of life there in the round. It’s like moving from Dante to Dickens to Dostoyevsky and back again.
 
 
The Lady Vanishes by Ethel Lina White I read what you Lady Vanishes 2_thumb[1]might call a boxset of ELW in 2015, and loved them all, but by a narrow margin this was probably the best. Source of the film, great heroine, and full of good clothes and good jokes.

Honourable mentions go to: Patricia Wentworth, Ngaio Marsh, Jill McGown – all authors I am enjoying revisiting. I will continue to do so in 2016.
 
And finally – my all-time favourite crime author  is Agatha Christie, and I did Agatha Christie Week to mark her 125th birthday anniversary, as well as a set of posts for the Tuesday Night Club. And after considerable thought and re-reading, I have changed my mind about my favourite of her books. I always said it was the wonderful, serious, atmospheric Five Little Pigs – on the blog many times. But I have now decided that I have a joint favourite: the light as a feather and very funny Man in the brown Suit.

I have not taken this decision lightly.
 
So that's the major crime news of the year, but there is yet more self-reflecting blog-posting to come – shortly I will produce a general overview on what went on at Clothes in Books in the past year.




























22 comments:

  1. I like the variety in your choices, Moira. And you've picked some good 'uns, too. And you've reminded me that I mean to read Kiss Me First. Must put that on the list and get to it.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the list Margot, and I do recommend the Moggach - I think you'd find a lot of points of interest, and I'd be really interested in your opinion.

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  2. Only two in common - Smith and Hjortsberg, though I intend to get Deighton read at some point. I have the books, just need to ease them into the schedule!

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    1. Ha! This is most unfair of me, but while writing this piece I was looking at some old posts and found a claim by you that 2015 was going to be the year of Deighton...

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    2. Absolutely - 2025 was obv what was meant, and I know you will have read all of his books by then...

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  3. Ah, so many books that I want to read . . . don't forget, too, Moira, it is your turn to choose a book for us both to review. Can't wait to know what it is.
    In agreement about Martin's splendid book.

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    1. Thanks Chrissie - and I am thinking hard...

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  4. A great list and almost too much to adequately comment on. We are in agreement on King and Joker and the Len Deighton books, although I put other books on my top ten for those authors. I love them all. Also, In Bitter Chill, just a great book.

    I am not sure I will ever be able to force myself to read Death of the Detective at that length. Although I have read longer books in the last year or two. Maybe some day.


    I think I may have to rank the few (maybe 12) Christie's I have read in the last 3 years so I can keep up with which are favorites. Not for publication, though, until I have a few more.

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    1. I love reading other people's lists, which is why I always do my own. It's particularly interesting, as you say, to see which authors we have in common, while picking different books.
      Death of a Detective really is a commitment...

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  5. Moira: Interesting to read your favourites. I am going to keep an eye out for Martin's book in Canadian bookstores.

    I have not read any of the authors you mentioned beyond Ariana Franklin. I enjoyed the three books I have read in the series.

    The majority of my reading involves North American authors. Occasionally I cross the Atlantic or Pacific in my crime fiction reading but it is not often.

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    1. I was surprised that my proportion of North American books wasn't higher, but most of mine were British-set. I do like to expand my horizons somewhat, but in the end I like UK/American books more than, say, Scandi-noir or other European fiction.

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  6. I think Harry Nelson is my favourite fictional cop too - he is so dry - and I like that he is not a drunk. I am a bit tired of drunks. I have been saving up the last Ariana Franklin book - so much so that when I went to get it last year to finally read I have...er...misplaced it (i.e. donated it or something in one of my decluttering purges). Have to get another copy.

    From your list I definitely want to read Kiss Me First and the Golden Age of Murder. That one is difficult to get because of my self-imposed ban on buying books from overseas stores but I'll make it happen somehow. I think my days of reading 700 page books are behind me. Or maybe when I retire...but probably not. I don't recall reading either of your favourite Christie novels so might have to seek them out too. I do recall a terrible movie of The Man in the Brown Suit - set in the 80's with Edward Woodwood and one of the actresses from the Golden Girls tv show - utterly wretched. I'm sure it bore little resemblance to the book.

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    1. Oh yes, it was very very terrible, I can see Rue Mclanahan with an orange tan in a warm climate. Very bad. Someone should do it again - they had updated it to contemporary in that case, but it would make a nice 20s flapper adventure.
      And yes, agree with you about drunk policemen...

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  7. It's a great list with a lot to add to my TBR list. I loved In Bitter Chill and liked The Ghost Fields. I adore Ruth Galloway in all of her investigations and living her own life.

    Now, Death of a Detective interests me because I grew up in Chicago and like reading books set there. But I don't know if I can read a book that size, and tightly packed at that. These days a 400-page book is a commitment. So I'll see about that.

    But there are other titles that intrigue me here, including Arab Jazz and Kiss Me First. Always interesting books here.

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    1. Oh I didn't know you were Chicago, Kathy - in that case you might consider it, even though it is so long, because it is apparently a very Chicago book. I set myself a target and read so many pages each day - then did end up reading the final pages at a much faster pace.

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  8. My history in Chicago is just one more reason why I love V.I. Warshawski's adventures. I know certain locations, but then I look at maps and photos of other areas of the city.

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    1. I would love to visit Chicago, but have never done more than change planes there. One day....

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  9. Chicago has a lot to offer and it has changed a lot since my family moved away. Famous landmarks are the Art Institute and the fantastic Museum of Science and Industry, which I still miss. Saw chicks hatching, walked through a gigantic replica of the human heart, went into a facsimile of a coal mine, etc.

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  10. Also, I love Adelia Aguilar, coroner, crime solver, a feminist ahead of her time. Diana Norman wrote other books before she wrote these as Ariana Franklin. But I can't find them here.
    I'd like to read her book about Constance Markovicz (spelling?) but it's not available here.

    And The Lady Vanishes is a favorite movie. Had no idea there was a book upon which it's based.

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    1. If you find her other books you'll have to tell me if they're worth reading.
      Yes Lady vanishes was based on a book, though much changed by Hitchcock. I think both film and book excellent in their own ways.

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