Monday, 27 April 2015

Telegraph release the best crime books for 2015. Do you agree?

Terry Ramsey, writing for the, provides a summary of what he believes to be the best crime books of 2015 (updated monthly). Below are the summaries of the books he has listed in this month's entry:

'The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths
This is the seventh instalment in Elly Griffiths' highly likeable series of Ruth Galloway investigations. It won't disappoint fans and deserves to win over new followers as it features one of her most atmospheric stories coupled with her usual humour, characterisation and eye for building up to a set piece.
The story starts with a digger driver at a new Norfolk housing development uncovering the wreckage of a World War Two plane, complete with a body sitting at the controls.
Naturally, there is more to this than meets the eye and forensic archaeologist Ruth is soon on the case, once again helping her friend and former lover DCI Harry Nelson. The enjoyable "will-they won't-they" get back together soap opera of the duo's relationship continues through the investigation – though why someone as bright as Ruth would yearn for an unlikeable curmudgeon like Nelson is the biggest mystery of the books.
Griffiths seems to be having some fun here with the Agatha Christie style of country house mystery – she sets much of the story in the rambling, forbidding Blackstock Hall, home of the Blackstock family, who seem to have as many skeletons as they do cupboards (which is a lot). The house even gets cut off at one point - shades of Christie's And Then There Were None.
For someone who's 'day job' as a university archaeologist sounds a tad dull, Ruth has more than her fair share of excitement (including rekindling a relationship with American TV presenter Frank Barker). Fun and skilfully written.
384pp, Quercus, £16.99

What She Left by TR Richmond

This deliciously modern take on the psychological thriller caused quite a stir well before it hit the bookshops, as it was the subject of a serious bidding war between publishers. Now we get to see what the fuss was about.
The story is based on the notion that, in years gone by, when a young girl such as Alice Salmon died, her memory might soon fade away. But these days, we all leave a digital trail: emails, social media posts, blogs, online journals, published articles . . . Our lives are all out there, waiting to be pieced together.
Alice, an aspiring journalist, dies when she tumbles from a bridge, but was it an accident, suicide or something more sinister? Her rather creepy former university teacher, Dr Jeremy Cooke – who is obsessed with Alice (and her mother) – embarks on a project collecting everything he can find about her and trying to discover the 'real' Alice. He is painstakingly assembling a jigsaw of the dead girl's life, and the book itself is like that: documents, letters all sorts of information, all coming out in a seemingly random order. Of course, the writer is much smarter than that, and the way information is delivered is cleverly crafted to create a shifting, mesmerising, mysterious story.
While Cooke is creepy, Alice is carefully revealed to be a sparky, intelligent, infuriatingly self-absorbed, ambitious girl with a tendency to drink too much.
The difficulty (for an author) of telling a story through many characters (Cooke, Alice, her mum, her boyfriend, her best friend and so on), is ensuring that every voice is distinct and authentic. But no problem here. What She Left is very well-written and intelligently realised, occupying a territory half way between literary novel and thriller. It overdoes things though, extending the story for about 50 pages longer than necessary, just when the reader is breathless for the conclusion. Still, a memorable debut.
Incidentally, the author is billed as "an award-winning journalist" but searching the web for "T R Richmond" reveals no trace of such a journalist. He or she have covered their tracks. A little ironic, given the premise of the book.
384pp, Michael Joseph, £12.99 

Silver Bullets by Elmer Mendoza

"Introducing the godfather of Mexican crime fiction" pronounces the cover of this book - which might sound a bit niche, but to be honest it is remarkable (assuming it is true) that there has not been a translation of an Elmer Mendoza book before. He has been writing his celebrated crime novels since 1999, has had rave reviews and is a leading figure in 'narcoliterature' , depicting the violent and debilitating effect drug wars have had on Mexican society. (Incidentally,Mendoza is also a university professor of literature.)
This novel, from 2008, features his frequent protagonist, Detective Edgar Mendieta, a police officer in the drug-trafficking city of Culiacan. When a prominent lawyer is murdered, it looks like just another example of day-to-day corruption (Mendieta is every bit as weary and cynical as you might expect). But the killer used a silver bullet - and a few days later the assassin seems to have struck again.
Mendoza's writing style (smartly translated by Mark Fried) could never be called easy - his habit of using reported speech and running a whole conversation together into a single paragraph, means the reader has to concentrate. But it also helps create the claustrophobic atmosphere and sense of urgency and edginess that makes this novel so convincing. Demanding, different and impressive.
240pp, Maclehose Press, £14.99

Woman of the Dead by Bernhard Aichner

This German thriller has been a European sensation, selling millions of copies across the continent, before arriving here. It centres on Blum, a wife and mother who (of course) has a dark secret in her past. When her husband dies in what looks like a hit-and-run accident she is convinced his death is no accident and sets out to get revenge on the men responsible.
It is easy to see why readers have been drawn to Woman of the Dead in large numbers. It is simply but grippingly written (here in an elegant translation by Anthea Bell), told from the point of view of a deeply flawed but understandable central character and it has some of the dark elements of Nordic noir: the hard-bitten Blum is reminiscent of Lisbeth Salander and the importance of historic sex crimes also echoes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
However, the revenge thriller plotline becomes a little formulaic and the 'reveal' at the end is too easily spottable from some way off. But there is no doubt that Aichner has a talent for keeping readers hooked - this is a gripping read and the character of Blum lives long in the mind.
288pp, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99 

Toxic by Jamie Doward

“Sometimes banks are more dangerous than bombs” runs the sell-line on the cover of this new conspiracy thriller by British journalist Jamie Doward. And a good line it is too, as it captures the spirit of the times: banks are not just untrustworthy but evil, with the power to bring down the Western world.
Add a febrile plot involving Arab plotters, the CIA, a nuclear power station and a headless, handless body washed up on an English beach, and you have the ingredients for a book that is bang on the mood of the moment.
At the heart of the story is Kate Pendragon, a financial investigator seconded to MI5, who makes a likeable central character with a memorable penchant for cocktails and random one-night stands. Unfortunately, some of the secondary characters are less well drawn and can be tricky to differentiate. Is this person from the CIA, MI5 or one of the Saudi Prince's advisers, you might find yourself wondering, as the action jumps between locations. This slows down the early chapters, but the later stages rattle along satisfyingly. The plotting is a bit loose and there's a feeling that Doward, rather than being driven by a central idea, has picked his zeitgeist-y elements and then come up with a recipe to suit his ingredients. However, there's an enjoyably tense will-she won't-she climactic scene, which sees Kate risk the ultimate sacrifice.
Doward appears to have been trying hard to create a bang-up-to-the-minute thriller and, even if it falls short, Toxic is a promising debut. He could crack it next time.
352pp, Constable, £19.99'

No comments: