21st December 2018
It may be the shortest day of the year, but here at Crouch Corner, there’s a long list of crime novels to wade through if I’m to select my favourites of the year.
Without doubt, crime’s the most diverse genre and possibly the best-selling. You can read everything from little old ladies solving murders between cream teas to full blown serial killer thrillers that leave little to the imagination. We’re all interested and intrigued by murder, and many readers like to solve the mystery before they reach the solution.
I started over 50 crime novels this year, though some of them fell by the wayside and didn’t capture my interest. I finished reading 42 and enjoyed most of them. This included a number of existing favourites and many new authors, who I read for the first time.
I’ve reviewed all of the novels mentioned here, along with many more that didn’t make this post. I think of it as a way of saying thank you to the authors for entertaining me, and I hope it helps others to discover some of the great novels out there.
All my review are posted on my website and can be viewed by clicking here.
If you’ve any favourite crimes novels for 2018, please comment below and tell me about them.
Like many readers, I love a good series, and they don’t come much better than Peter James and his hero, Roy Grace, who fights crime in Brighton and Hove, just along the East Sussex coast from me. As well as beautifully crafted plots, the author provides a detailed insight into the way the police work and operate, including the issues they face with public spending cuts, the media, and senior management. This gives the stories a credible and authentic feel that makes them come alive.
I’ve only read the first eight novels in the series, but the one that gave me the most pleasure, was the third, Not Dead Enough, which finished with a series of exquisite twists.
The DCI Ryan series by LJ Ross, set in Northumberland, has become a firm favourite since the first in the series, Holy Island, based in Lindisfarne. The author’s easy style and cast of likable characters, facing internal and external threats, some of them personal, make for entertaining reading.
While every novel is terrific, my favourite is High Force, which deals with a personal vendetta that cranks up the tension to an almost unbearable level before the finale, which gives more than a passing nod to Sherlock Holmes.
Finally, my other favourite series this year involves DS Kay Hunter, created by Rachel Amphlett. Set in and around Maidstone in Kent, these novels have a straightforward, no-nonsense style and another team of likable detectives, who fight for each other as much as they fight criminals. There is also a personal element to many of the stories to add to the tension.
Hell to Pay was my favourite as Kay Hunter finally discovers who’s trying to destroy her career and why.
One of the joys of reading is discovering new authors and books that hit all the right spots. Sometimes, they come by recommendation from other readers. Sometimes a publisher offers a book for a reduced price or for free to tempt new readers. Whatever the reason, I’ve broadened my choices in 2018 and these are my favourites.
His books feature DCI Matilda Darke, a detective returning to work after sickness caused by stress. In For Reasons Unknown, as well as proving she’s physically and emotionally fit to return to work, she has competition, no guarantee of getting her old job back, and a cold case that bites back. Her personal battles add that extra layer of tension and engagement to lift the story.
Outside Looking In continues Darke’s return to her old job. But with a vendetta threatening to derail her recovery, the tension builds to a superb climax that kept me reading well into the afternoon to reach the climax.
A friend of mine commented on Facebook about Caught, describing Coben as a favourite author. I took a quick look on Amazon and loved his distinctive voice and style of writing. The story drew me in effortlessly with a TV sting snaring a child abuser. Only it was never going to be that simple. And the complications and twists kept coming, leaving me quite drained by the end.
I’ll definitely be reading more Harlan Coben in 2019.
Another American author with a voice and style I immediately connected with. While it’s always best to start a series with the first book, I began with Hush Now Baby, the sixth in the Sloane Monroe private detective series. I loved the characters, plot and tone of the book, which was reminiscent of a grittier Kinsey Millhone.
A special thank you to Sue Grafton
My reading year was tinged with sadness when Sue Grafton died. The creator of Kinsey Millhone had completed 25 novels featuring her wonderful private eye. While Y is for Yesterday wasn’t the best of the novels, in my opinion, it was a fitting end and tribute to a wonderful author, who inspired me to create Kent Fisher and write my own crime novels.
I also revisited A is for Alibi, this year and loved it as much as the first time I read it back in the late 1980s.
That only leaves me to tell you my favourite crime novel of 2108.
It wasn’t an easy choice by any means, and there were quite a few contenders, but the decision was based on my emotional reaction when I finished the book.
You should always feel sadness when you reach the end. For hours, days, maybe weeks, you’ve lived with the characters, following them through the twists and turns as they battle to overcome the challenges that face them. Now it’s over, but the book lives on in your memory. You think about it, relive some of the moments and reflect on a story that moved you, maybe even changed the way you look at life.
That’s the mark of a great book and the crime novel that moved me more than any other this year was Outside Looking In, by Michael Wood. I think it was Matilda Darke’s determination to face her demons and battle through that left the biggest impression.
If you haven’t read this series, give it a go.
And my overall favourite book for 2018
Well, that’s almost it for 2018, a year that gave me lots of reading pleasure. I hope to read more crime novels from my favourite authors and discover a few more new to me. I already have quite a few loaded onto my Kindle.
Next week, I may well reflect on 2018, when I published my third and favourite Kent Fisher mystery, No Remorse. It could also be a good time to share my hopes for 2019.
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