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 fabulous 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 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.
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 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 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.