Looking back at a whole past year of reading and reviewing is always a fascinating exercise. Most reviews are penned against a deadline and an appreciation and assessment has to be arrived at sometimes too close to the actual reading. Months later, though, some titles which maybe at the time had not been praised enough, stick in your brain and often stay there forever, while others begin to lack some of their lustre. This is what I made of 2017 with the benefit of hindsight.
THE BEST OF 2017
Eye of the Beholder (Reissue)
An all-time classic of existential noir reissued yet again, Never loses its power to unsettle and sadden. I was its first UK publisher but it never loses its hypnotic effect on me.
Afraid to Death (Reissue)
Behm’s ever defiantly supernatural thriller about the shadow of death still feels like a nightmare and a fever dream (reissue).
Issued in 2016 but read later, an exemplary, gripping NYC-based psychological thriller with many a twist. In my opinion overlooked and much superior to, for instance, the Paula Hawkins books in the same vein.
The Late Show
First in a new series by the ever reliable Connelly, introducing a new character, late shift L.A. cop Renee Ballard. As ever, Connelly never puts a foot wrong.
Two Kinds of Truth
A Harry Bosch thriller, and even though it’s Connelly’s second novel of the year, as close to near perfect plot and action. No one deceptively threads the spiderwebs of a complex plot like Connelly.
The Motion of Puppets
A late 2016 volume, still awaiting UK publication, an entrancing supernatural love story and thriller that moved me enormously. Set in Montreal, about love, humanity and horror.
The revelation of a major Colombian talent with a globe-spanning literary thriller of sorts which dares to be different. Again a 2016 title.
Not a legal thriller as usual but a book about misdeeds, collectors, scams and old manuscripts. Seamless and how could I resist a novel involving the works of F.Scott Fitzgerald?
A sensational French debut set in London, Sweden and WW2 Auschwitz. Both bleak and exhilarating. Disclaimer: I was its translator!
The Word is Murder
TV series, young adult thrillers, Christie pastiches and Bond revivals: what can’t Horowitz do? A witty PI caper involving the author himself. Much toongue in cheek, but adheres to all classic crime rules.
A compelling British debut set in the Manchester wastelands of drugs and raves, involving a fallen cop in search of redemption. Poignant and raw.
A Legacy of Spies
John Le Carré
A melancholy appendix to the Smiley saga, in which the master spy manipulator makes an appearance, even though mostly off the page. A necessary reminder of Le Carre’s importance and craft.
Melissa Scrivner Love
An invigorating debut from the rough side of Los Angeles about a ghetto gang leader with a difference, as she combats other gangs, the law and the patriarchy. Rude, fast-moving, inventive and a colourful insight into the world of drugs and corruption by a new American author.
Pale Horse Riding
A stunning sequel to the London filmmaker’s Butchers of Berlin. The horrors of WW2 and morality put to the test by compromised German cops in the concentration camps.
Behind Her Eyes
Not just the best final twist of the year, but an acute psychological thriller about the occult war between men and women. Brings veteran Pinborough straight into the Premier League of thrillers.
Not yet with a UK publisher, but a stunning novel about the magic and dread of Los Angeles by the author of Visitation Street and The Art of Disappearing. A name for the future.
L’Affaire Leon Sadorski
One of France’s major crime writers, albeit not yet published properly in the UK. The story of a corrupt cop in Paris during the German WW2 occupation. Cynical to the max and fascinating.
Michael Farris Smith
A harrowing but moving tale about America’s wild and dark side, set in Mississippi. Farris Smith handles the inexorability of despair like no other. Compelling.
All the Wicked Girls
His Tall Oaks won a CWA Dagger and this impressive follow up is in the same vein: small town USA, missing persons and lost souls. A powerful cocktail of bleakness and thrills.
Winslow’s massive saga of cop corruption in New York is the equivalent of a Scorsese scalpel on the page. Gripping, odious and fascinating in equal ways.
The shape of 2018 is already beginning to take form, although, naturally, not all publications have yet been unveiled. But these are some of the titles that have caught my attention and that I am most looking forward to, for a variety of reasons, including in two cases my own personal connection.
Money in the Morgue
Stella Duffy (Ngaio Marsh Inspector Alleyn Series)
Fellow New Zealander Duffy continues Ngaio Marsh’s classic Inspector Alleyn series, from notes and a few chapters left unfinished. A fascinating merging of talents.
The Woman in the Window
A J Finn
Heavily hyped as the coming year’s big psychological thriller, a major Hitchcockian caper with strong echoes of REAR WINDOW, featuring a terribly unreliable, damaged female narrator. A debut by a major US publisher under a pseudonym.
The second Castells and Roy Anglo-Swedish thriller and a follow-up to the much praised BLOCK 46. This time the historical plot involves Jack the Ripper. Disclaimer: I am the book’s translator!
The wonderfully caustic Jackson Lamb series continues and reaches its 5th instalment, with another perplexing case for the oddballs of Slough Street: the spies who were left behind by the establishment and crave for revenge.
The Louisiana Republic
How could I not look forward to this: my first book under my own name in 6 years (too busy writing 11 books in the meantime under another name and in another genre)?. A dystopian thriller set in a near future America with a nod to Chandler’s Little Sister as well as The Big Sleep.
The Night Market
I was stunned by Moore’s The Poison Artist and The Dark Room and confident this new book will be as original and noir as its predecessors. He has a knack for evoking the stuff of nightmares which has me hooked from the first page.
With a nod or so to Shakespeare, Nesbo introduces a new cop with the eponymous name. Is it a reinvention of the Bard’s somber tale or a thriller, or both? A mouth-watering prospect.
Michael Farris Smith
In the wake of Desperation Road, I need no excuses to greet another book by Farris Smith. This one’s another journey into the dark Americana night, with a character at the end of his tether and about to return to the fighting pit. Brutally appetizing.
That Old Black Magic
Every book by Unsworth can’t help but be stunningly distinctive and this visit to a 1943 true life set of dreadful murders and the background of cops and spiritualists and a WW2 atmosphere sounds like another winner.
The Labyrinth of the Spirits
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This concluding volume to Zafon’s entrancing and evocative Barcelona ‘trilogy’ of sorts has been out in most other countries for some time and one can only assume the English translation is running late, which makes its expected 2018 appearance all the more welcome. I loved the earlier books to death and will drop all other reading the moment this arrives through my letter box!