I’ve probably read more books by new authors in 2016 than in any previous year.
While my tastes are predominantly crime fiction, which includes cosy mysteries, police procedurals, thrillers and psychological thrillers, I do occasionally dip into something different as you’ll see.
I’m not a fast reader, so there were only 17 to choose from (20, if you count the books I abandoned).
I narrowed the list to five because I wanted to choose the ones I enjoyed most and consider what made them stand out for me. In the end, the choice was simple – these are the only books I gave a five star review to.
So, in the order I read them, we have
HMS Prometheus by Alaric Bond
A fine example of historical navel fiction, set aboard ship in the early 1800s. Filled with well-drawn, engaging characters, plenty of conflict with the enemy (the French) and within the ship, and high stakes, this is a stirring adventure that keeps you turning the pages. The detail is so realistic you can feel and smell the conditions within the ship as you read.
You also learn so much about life (and death) on board a fighting ship, which is a great bonus.
Wicked Game by Matt Johnson
A terrorist thriller about Robert Finlay, a police inspector haunted by his past. As former SAS
colleagues are murdered, a cat and mouse game begins. Full of thrills, twist and turns, what
impressed me most was the sense that this was so authentic and based on personal experience. There was no attempt to overwrite or jazz things up – just total plausibility, which made the story all the more compelling and enjoyable.
Who killed Little Johnny Gill? By Kathryn McMaster
This is a fictionalised telling of an unsolved murder set in Bradford in 1888. With great care and
attention to detail, the author recreates life and crime detection in the 1880s. It’s grim and sober reading as you follow the police investigation into the brutal, and seemingly senseless, murder of a young boy. But what lifts this into a great book is the characterisation. You can feel the pain and
despair of the parents, struggling to come to terms with the inexplicable murder of their child.
This is a haunting, but beautifully crafted story.
The Needle House by Robin Roughley
I read this after picking up on a lot of good reviews and praise for the author.
On the surface, it’s another police procedural, of which there are so, so many, with an unassuming DS Lasser, at its heart and a bold, confident serial killer he’s determined to catch. The characters, both police and those affected by the killings, were well developed and engaging, as was the bleak
Lancashire setting. Led by a twisting plot that built tension and suspense to an excellent climax, this story paid as much attention to the characters as the plot, which is what made it stand out above the rest.
A Meditation on Murder by Robert Thorogood
This is a novel based on the TV series, ‘Death In Paradise’, and it’s first inspector, Richard Poole. As a lover of the TV series, it was great to follow the familiar cast as they investigate a locked room
murder. And what a mystery it is, with a seemingly impossible murder, carried out by one of five
people who all have motives to kill. The trouble is, they were all present when the murder was
committed, but no one knows who did it.
It’s a fascinating, seemingly impossible, mystery, which twists and turns as clues are uncovered in the time honoured fashion. But best of all, what makes the story stand out to me, are the characterisation and humour that run through the whole story, lifting it well above many of the dour crime stories I’ve read.
So there it is, my favourite five reads so far this year.
Looking through this list, it’s clear that all these stories have interesting, believable characters that lift the absorbing stories and plots above the pack. And in their own ways, they are all a little different from the pack, which is always welcome.
If there are any stories you’ve read that have these qualities, or others that lift them above the rest, please let me know as there’s nothing better than a good book to read.