Author Eva Dolan shares with us her most highly anticipated paperback crime books of 2017. Her latest novel is Watch Her Disappear.
The North Water by Ian McGuire
Not strictly a crime novel, but The North Water has more than enough grit, gore and moral hazard to keep even the most lit-fic averse reader satisfied. Set on a whaling boat, heading from Hull into the Arctic circle it pits a disgraced British Army surgeon against a villain who is no less than a force of nature. McGuire’s narrative is almost hypnotic in its quiet force and irresistible momentum and you read it with a sense of rising foreboding as the men hatch their own plans for greater glory and rewards and discontent breeds among them. The North Water was my favourite book of 2016 and one I’m sure I will reread many times in the years to come. The prose is absolutely exquisite, especially in the descriptions of the treacherous waters and icy landscape.
The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn
This beguiling psychological thriller heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice on the crime scene. Set on a remote island off the Norwegian fjords it’s a brooding two-hander, absolutely thrumming with sexual tension and suppressed violence. Disgraced journalist Allis takes the job of live-in housekeeper for Sigurd - a man much younger and more attractive than she was expecting when she answered his ad - who lives alone as he awaits the return of his ill wife. As the two awkwardly share the isolated house, mostly in silence, warily circling one another, the tension escalates to a point where something must give. With echoes of Daphne du Maurier, but very much an original, this book is a riveting character piece exploring psychological abuse and stubborn self-delusion. Special mention for the translation by Rosie Hedger, who has preserved the poetry in Ravatn’s beautiful prose.
The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto
This award winning author has previously written two excellent books in the Anna Fekete series, which have explored the social and racial frictions in modern Finnish society, but her latest instalment sees the steely but troubled Fekete returning to her family’s native Serbia for a much needed break. When her handbag is stolen and the thief turns up dead local police are quick to close the case, but Fekete has doubts and begins her own investigation. With the current migrant crisis unfolding in the background this compelling and strongly written novel is also very timely, a must for readers who like their Nordic Noir with a little less ice and a lot more fire.
Crush by Frederic Dard
Originally published in the 1950’s, Crush is one of those slim but perfectly formed French noir novels, very much in the mould of Georges Simenon’s romans durs. Bored teenager Louise Lacroix sees a more exciting life to be had within the household of glamorous American couple, the Roolands, and charms her way into their employment and elegant home as a maid. But, all is not as it seems. With its unreliable narrator, plush suburban setting and twisty ending Crush is the perfect choice for fans of domestic noir who feel like stepping back to an earlier incarnation of the genre. Huge credit here to Pushkin Press for their outstanding Vertigo list, which is throwing up some fantastic lost gems and packaging them rather beautifully, too.
The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson
Fans of Patricia Highsmith will already know about her stay in the quiet Suffolk countryside – setting for one of her lesser read novels, A Suspension of Mercy – and Jill Dawson has brought a fictionalised version of this period alive in The Crime Writer. Grumpy, odd and obsessing over the visit of her married lover, Pat conjures prowlers out of the darkness and reluctantly prepares for an interview with a journalist, which, in finest Highsmith fashion, goes bad. Dawson’s version of Highsmith is horribly convincing and there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in the conceit of dropping the author into a plotline she might have written herself, subtly blending fact and fiction and never letting the reader feel too certain about where the line is.
Darktown by Thomas Mullen
Mullen’s critically acclaimed novel feels like an important read in the current political climate, given that it focuses on the first black police officers recruited in Atlanta during the late 1940s and how the two-tier system on the streets translated inside the station house. Virtually powerless – no right to arrest white suspects or drive a squad car – Boggs and Smith find themselves investigating the murder of a black woman last seen with a wealthy white man, when nobody else is interested in tracking down her killer. Mullen writes crisp, efficient prose, almost terse in places, which captures the tension in the air as change seems to be coming. This is crime writing of the highest calibre, intelligent, important stuff, covering issues – like systemic racism and police corruption – which should be behind us by now but, sadly, seem to be on the rise.
The Long Drop by Denise Mina
With a back catalogue of fiercely realist crime novels it was maybe inevitable that at some point Denise Mina would put her considerable talent towards fictionalising a true life case. Here she tackles the infamous Glasgow serial killer, Peter Manuel, who was hanged in 1958 for his crimes, taking us back to the first murderers he committed, wiping out the Watts family, all bar the father William, the inevitable prime suspect. Who innocently turns to Manuel for help. This literary thriller displays all of Mina’s usual psychological insight and flair for character and has award-winner written all over it.
Dead Man’s Blues by Ray Celestin
This is the much anticipated follow up to Celestin’s CWA Dagger-winning debut The Axeman’s Jazz, which saw a young Louis Armstrong chasing down a serial killer in jazz era New Orleans, alongside a fearsome secretary from the Pinkterton Agency who harboured ambitions of being a real detective. In Dead Man’s Blues Ida is back on the case and the action has moved to Capone’s Chicago where a trio of crimes challenge our heroes; the poisoning of a group of city bigwigs, the mutilation of a gangster and a disappeared heiress. Prepare yourself a fast paced narrative which comes stuffed with period detail, and even more jazz.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Watch Her Disappear by Eva Dolan and is published by Harvill Secker.
You can run from your past. But you can’t run from murder. The body is found by the river, near a spot popular with runners. With a serial rapist at work in the area, DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are initially confused when the Hate Crimes Unit is summoned to the scene. Until they discover that the victim, Corinne Sawyer. Police records reveal there have been violent attacks on trans women in the local area. Was Corinne a victim of mistaken identity? Or has the person who has been targeting trans women stepped up their campaign of violence? With tensions running high, and the force coming under national scrutiny, this is a complex case and any mistake made could be fatal...
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