Here at NB the Christmas preparations are in full swing, and after the chaos of 2020 we are all more grateful than ever to books (and their authors!) for keeping us going. As a thank you to those who are blessed with the skills to write, and our family and friends for putting up with us in this monumental mess of a year, we will be gifting even more books than usual for Christmas this year! However, we don’t believe in denial, and feel that we might take the last month of 2020 to really embrace the wintery gloom, turning to the genre of crime fiction to see out the year in a way that is fitting!
We have turned to our go-to crime fiction connoisseur Paul Burke, who has rounded up a collection of 2020’s best books for gifting, to others or to yourself!
Crime for Christmas 2020~
We’re all still struggling one way or another this year but fingers crossed the vaccines are not far off circulation and we can look forward to a better 2021 – meantime we do have our books and often a bit of extra time to read them. But what to choose? Whether you’re looking for a gift or something for yourself there’s plenty here to thrill, amuse, terrify and entertain.
Starting with just published:
So, If you like:
Genre Busting Adventure/murder:
The Spiral – Iain Ryan (Zaffre)
This book cuts it fine being published on Christmas Eve. Why did Jenny Wasserman attempt to murder Erma Bridges before she committed suicide? What has it to do with a series of teenage adventure books from the 1980s? The Spiral draws the reader into the game, dare you play? A fantasy thriller to keep you guessing – constantly surprising and inventive.
The Devil and the Dark Water – Stuart Turton (Bloomsbury)
High seas adventure, locked room mystery, historical thriller, I could go on. A rich and inventive read jam packed with action, mystery, strangeness, darkness and beauty. Why had Samuel Pipps, erstwhile hero of the Dutch East Indies, been arrested on the eve of the governor’s return to Holland?
A Time to Lie Simon Berthon (HQ)
Tory PM, Robin Sandford wants to introduce a radical change of defence policy and that doesn’t sit well with the party. Meanwhile, a body buried for thirty years is discovered and Sandfords connection to the dead girl could threaten his premiership. Or is it a conspiracy to scupper his leadership? Fast, twisty and gripping.
The Inner Darkness Jørn Lier Horst (Michael Joseph)
Consummate crime writing, simply top notch entertainment. Killer Tom Kerr has been behind bars for four years and now he wants to talk.
A Song for the Dark Times Ian Rankin (Orion)
A new Rebus, a personal involvement this time for the aging ex-detective as he has to find out who killed his daughter’s partner – classy, gold standard tartan noir.
Fate: Death Notice II – Zhou HaoHui (Head of Zeus)
A Serial killer commits suicide just as the police track him down. But people keep dying, did the cops get it wrong, is this a copycat?
The Lost and the Damned – Olivier Norek (MacLehose)
thoughtful French crime story set in Paris, written by an ex-cop who’s seen it all, compassionate and realistic. Several crimes coalesce in a gritty, sharply written, fresh police procedural.
Scatter Her Ashes – Heine Bakkied (Raven), Aske takes a job as a researcher for a very popular crime writer, her last consultant was shot dead. Everyone says it was unconnected, Aske is not so sure. Scandi-noir with a touch of humour and a vulnerable antihero who can’t help getting in trouble, hugely entertaining.
Carmilla – Sheridan la Fanu (superb HB edition from Pushkin Press)
A classic lesbian vampire tale, for fans of Dracula and very mild horror but with a chilly feel, perfect for a ark evening in front of the fire. This tale was written twenty-five years before Stoker’s novel and is much more readable, (incidentally, it’s beautifully bound and presented, ideal for Christmas gift).
The Year of the Gun – HB Lyle (Hodder and Stoughton)
The further adventures of Wiggins, the former Baker Street Irregular, Irish gunrunning, New York gangs in the run up to WWI. Non stop action but with much going on under the surface.
The Butcher of Berner Street – Alex Reeve (Bloomsbury)
Leo Stanhope, fascinating Victorian detective at the heart of a mystery while trying to protect his own secret, an awful lot of fun, stylishly written.
The Medici Supremacy – Matteo Strukul (Head of Zeus)
Blood, murder, conspiracy, war and statecraft in renaissance Italy, light but intelligent entertainment. What’s not to like?
Sentinel by Lee and Andrew Child (Bantam)
Latest stop on the tour for Jack Reacher, Lee is handing over to his brother and this joint enterprise indicates the change will be smooth – does what it says on the cover, top action thrills.
The Law of Innocence by Michael Connolly (Orion)
Mickey Haller The Lincoln Lawyer is in hot water when the cops pull him over and there’s the body of a former client in the car’s boot, (trunk). Much anticipated return of a favourite character.
The Kingdom by Jo Nesbo (Harvill Secker)
Two brothers, old secrets and a reunion that brings everything back to the surface. Chilling and page turning, the usual high standard.
The Searcher by Tana French, (Viking)
A US cop retires to an idyllic Irish village only to get involved in a missing person case that shines a light on some nasty goings on. Superb psychological thriller.
In case there is nothing there that takes your fancy, here are a few more gift worthy Hardbacks released in 2020…
If you like…
Or, perhaps if you’re looking for some stocking fillers, 2020 had some wonderful paperbacks to pick from too…
The high octane thriller: Black Thirteen Adam Hamdy (Macmillan) 5* and Fall Out MN Grenside (Urbane) 4*.
The legal thriller: Fifty Fifty Steve Cavanagh (Orion) 5*.
The psychological drama: The Summer of Reckoning Marion Brunet (Bitter Lemon Press) 5*, and, In the Clearing JP Pomare (Hodder and Stoughton) 4*.
The police procedural: Fallen Angels Gunnar Staalesen (Orenda) 5*, and, A Deadly Divide Ausma Zehanat Khan 5* (No Exit Press), Peace Garry Disher (Viper).
Euro-noir: The Devil Nadia Dalbuono (Scribe), and The Second Life of Inspector Canessa Roberto Perrine (Walter Presents/Pushkin) 5*, and Sword Bogdan Teodorescu (Corylus) 4*.
Northern Ireland: The Last Crossing Brian McGilloway (Dome), 4*. Turncoat Anthony J Quinn (No Exit Press) 5*.
Literary crime: Cesare Jerome Charyn (No Exit Press), 5*.
Spy thriller: Paladin David Ignatius (Canelo) 4*, The Englishman David Gilman (Head of Zeus) 4*.
Classics: GBH Ted Lewis 5*, The Sleeping Car Murders Sebastian Japrisot (Gallic) 4*,
Historical: The March Fallen Volker Kutscher (Sandstone) 5*.
The Guide: Southern Cross Crime Craig Sisterson (Oldcastle) 4*. A guide to antipodean crime fiction.
Short Story: Cutting Edge: Noir Stories by Women ed. Joyce Carol Oates (Pushkin Press) 5*.
Horror: The Easton Falls Massacre Holly Rae Garcia and Ryan Prentice Garcia (Close to the Bone) 4*.
British Crime: Stone Cold Trouble Amer Anwar (Dialogue Books) 4*, Blood Red City Rod Reynolds (Orenda) 4*, Bent Joe Thomas (Arcadia) 5*, Bloodstock Rod Humphris (Rat’s Tales) 4*.
PI: The Heights Parker Bilal (Blackthorn, Canongate) 5*.
Political Thriller: Play the Red Queen Juris Jurjevics (No Exit Press) 5*. Vietnam murder mystery.
Comic Crime: Bad Debt William McIntyre (Sandstone) 4*, and The Readers Room Antoine Laurain (Gallic Books) 5*.
Feminist Crime: Dead Girls Selva Almada (Charco Press) 4*, These Women Ivy Pochoda (Faber) 4*, Hurricane Season Fernanda Melchor (Fitzcarraldo) 5*.
Contemporary issues: Three-Fifths John Vercher (Pushkin Press). A novel about identity and responsibility following an assault in Pittsburgh in 1995.
Good luck with your next read.