In need of some new reading material? Time to load up at your favourite bookseller, maybe local, maybe an independent. Round up your haul and stash it away for a cold winter’s evening. Or, with Robin Hood-style magnanimity, give a book (or several) to someone you love. With that in mind, here are a few ideas for crime fans for Christmas:

Westwind by Ian Rankin (Orion; Action Thriller)

The classic lost thriller from the iconic best-selling author.

It always starts with a small lie. That’s how you stop noticing the bigger ones. After his friend suspects something strange is going on at the launch facility where they both work – and then goes missing – Martin Hepton doesn’t believe the official line of “long-term sick leave”… Refusing to stop asking questions, he leaves his old life behind, aware that someone is shadowing his every move. The only hope he has is his ex-girlfriend Jill Watson – the only journalist who will believe his story. But neither of them can believe the puzzle they’re piecing together – or just how shocking the secret is that everybody wants to stay hidden…

A gripping, page-turning suspense masterclass – available in print for the first time in nearly thirty years.

Under Occupation by Alan Furst (W&N; Historical Spy Story)

Occupied Paris, 1942. In the dark, treacherous city, the German occupying forces are everywhere – and so are French resistance fighters, working secretly to defeat Hitler. Just before he dies, a man being chased by the Gestapo hands off a strange-looking document to the unsuspecting novelist Paul Ricard. It looks like a blueprint of a part for a military weapon – one that might have important information for the Allied forces – and Ricard realises that he must try to get it into the hands of members of the resistance network. As he finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into anti-German efforts, Ricard travels deep into enemy territory and along the escape routes of underground resistance safe houses, spying on Nazi manoeuvres. And when he meets the mysterious and beautiful Leila, a professional spy, they begin to work together to get crucial information out of France and into the hands of the Allied forces in London.

A Crime Reader’s Guide by Barry Forshaw (No Exit Press; Encyclopaedia)

There are few contemporary crime fiction guides that cover everything from the golden age to current bestselling writers from America, Britain and all across the world, but the award-winning Barry Forshaw, one of the UK’s leading experts in the field, has provided a truly comprehensive survey with definitive coverage in this expanded new edition of the much-admired Rough Guide to Crime Fiction.

Every major writer is included, along with many other more esoteric choices. Focusing on a key book (or books) by each writer, and with essays on key crime genres, Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide (with a foreword by Ian Rankin) is designed to be both a crime fan’s shopping list and a pithy, opinionated but unstuffy reference tool and history. Most judgements are generous (though not uncritical), and there is a host of entertaining, informed entries on related films and TV.

The Accomplice by Joseph Kanon (Simon & Schuster; Historical Thriller)

A heart-pounding and intelligent espionage novel about a Nazi war criminal who was supposed to be dead, the rogue CIA agent on his trail, and the beautiful woman connected to them both.

Seventeen years after the fall of the Third Reich, Max Weill has never forgotten the atrocities he saw as a prisoner at Auschwitz – nor the face of Dr Otto Schramm, a camp doctor who worked with Mengele on appalling experiments and who sent Max’s family to the gas chambers. As the war came to a close, Schramm was one of the many high-ranking former Nazi officers who managed to escape Germany for new lives in South America. There, leaders like Argentina’s Juan Perón gave them safe harbour and new identities. With his life nearing its end, Max asks his nephew Aaron Wiley – an American CIA desk analyst – to complete the task Max never could: to track down Otto in Argentina, capture him and bring him back to Germany to stand trial. Unable to distinguish allies from enemies, Aaron will ultimately have to discover not only Otto, but the boundaries of his own personal morality, how far he is prepared to go to render justice.

Krays: The Final Word by James Morton (Mirror Books; True Crime)

Think you know everything about the Krays? Think again. Britain’s most notorious gangsters as you’ve never seen them before. Britain’s most infamous criminals: the Kray twins. The extent of their activities has always been uncertain. But now, it is time for the conclusive account of their story, from their East End beginnings, to becoming the kingpins of London’s underworld.

This objective account, compiled by best-selling crime author and criminal lawyer James Morton, cuts through the conflicting versions of their stories and answers burning questions still being asked, 50 years after their infamous conviction. How was the clergy involved in evading police action? What was Charlie Kray’s true position with his brothers? Just how many did they kill?

Featuring an in-depth discussion at the supposed claims they killed up to 30, and a deep dive into the death of champion boxer Freddie Mills, The Final Word compiles all previous accounts and then some to find the truth behind their legendary status. This is the Krays – all facts, no fiction.

I Will Miss You Tomorrow by Heine Bakkeid (Raven Books; Scandi Noir)

The first in a new Norwegian crime series featuring disgraced ex-Chief Inspector Thorkild Aske, a damaged man with a complicated past. Fresh out of prison and a stint in a psychiatric hospital, disgraced ex-policeman Thorkild Aske only wants to lose himself in drugged dreams of his beloved Frei. Wild, unknowable Frei. The woman he loved. The woman he has lost forever. Yet when Frei’s young cousin goes missing off the Norwegian coast and Thorkild is called in by the family to help find him, dead or alive, Thorkild cannot refuse. He owes them this. Tormented by his past, Thorkild soon finds himself deep in treacherous waters. He’s lost his reputation – will he now lose his life?

The Paris Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe (Pushkin Vertigo; Classic Crime)

Three macabre and confounding mysteries for the first and greatest of detectives: C. Auguste Dupin.

An apartment on the Rue Morgue turned into a charnel house; the corpse of a shop girl dragged from the Seine; a high-stakes game of political blackmail-three mysteries that have enthralled the whole of Paris, and baffled the city’s police. The brilliant Chevalier Auguste Dupin investigates – can he find the solution where so many others before him have failed?

These three stories from the pen of Edgar Allan Poe are some of the most influential ever written, widely praised and credited with inventing the detective genre. This edition contains ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, ‘The Mystery of Marie Rogêt’ and ‘The Purloined Letter’.

Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker; Historical Crime)

Calcutta police detective Captain Sam Wyndham and his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, are back for another rip-roaring adventure set in 1920s India.

1905, London. A young constable, Sam Wyndham, is on his usual East London beat when he comes across an old flame, Bessie Drummond, attacked in the streets. The next day, when Bessie is found brutally beaten in her own room, locked from the inside, Wyndham promises to get to the bottom of her murder. But the case will cost the young constable more than he ever imagined.

1922, India. Leaving Calcutta, Captain Sam Wyndham heads for the hills of Assam, to the ashram of a sainted monk where he hopes to conquer his opium addiction. But when he arrives, he sees a ghost from his life in London – a man thought to be long dead, a man Wyndham hoped he would never see again.

Wyndham knows he must call his friend and colleague Sergeant Banerjee for help. He is certain this figure from his past isn’t here by coincidence. He is here for revenge . . .

Agent in the Field by John le Carré (Penguin; Espionage/Brexit Anger)

Nat, a 47-year-old veteran of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, believes his years as an agent runner are over. He is back in London with his wife, the long-suffering Prue. But with the growing threat from Moscow Centre, the office has one more job for him. Nat is to take over The Haven, a defunct substation of London General with a rag-tag band of spies. The only bright light on the team is young Florence, who has her eye on Russia Department and a Ukrainian oligarch with a finger in the Russia pie.

Nat is not only a spy, he is a passionate badminton player. His regular Monday evening opponent is half his age: the introspective and solitary Ed. Ed hates Brexit, hates Trump and hates his job at some soulless media agency. And it is Ed, of all unlikely people, who will take Prue, Florence and Nat himself down the path of political anger that will ensnare them all. Agent Running in the Field is a chilling portrait of our time, now heart-breaking, now darkly humorous, told to us with unflagging tension by the greatest chronicler of our age.

Mikel by Mark Bellido (SelfMadeHero; Political Thriller/Graphic Novel)

Mikel lives with his wife and two children in Costur, an idyllic Spanish town surrounded by hills. He has a job selling confectionery, but Mikel is a dreamer, not a businessman, and money is tight. What’s more, the mundanity of small-town life is preventing him from fulfilling a life-long dream: to become a writer. Seeking both drama and financial security, Mikel takes a job as a bodyguard. His family is soon uprooted to the Basque country, where Mikel is charged with protecting politicians from the armed separatist group ETA. It is a job that provides drama worthy of the page but only at the cost of fear, uncertainty and family breakdown.

In Mikel, author Mark Bellido draws on his own experiences to create a powerful and provocative story about a man who risks everything in the pursuit of a dream.

And a few newly published stocking fillers:

The crime novel for non-crime readers – Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver (Orenda)

Police procedural – Deathly Affair by Leigh Russell (No Exit Press)

Scandi Noir – Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen or Cage by Lilja Sigardardottir (Orenda)

Graphic crime – Breakneck by Dwayne Swierczynski (Titan Comics)

Noir – Coffin for a Hood and Operation-Murder by Lionel White (Stark House Press)

Paul Burke
November 2019