Penguin Present 2011 Crime Best Of List

This week on Publisher’s Picks, Penguin take us on a journey through their selection of criminally great books from the past year. If you’re looking for last minute Christmas gift ideas, read on…

The Cutting by James Hayman

Portland, Maine. A missing high-school athlete’s mutilated body is found in a scrap metal yard. Her heart has been surgically removed. The same day a young businesswoman is abducted.

Former NYPD detective Michael McCabe believes both crimes are the work of one man. A killer with surgical expertise who is targeting young women. Now McCabe and his team face a race against time to rescue the missing woman and unmask this sadistic killer – before it is too late.

Dark Prophecy by Anthony Zuiker

Steve Dark was once a lost soul, torn between his family and his one-of-a-kind talent for hunting down serial killers – especially those so-called ‘Level 26′ killers whose depravity exceeds law enforcement’s official scale of evil. In his reluctant pursuit of justice Dark once crossed the ultimate line, a line that might cause a lesser man to lose himself completely.

Not Dark. When the world took everything from him, when it destroyed the very thing Dark once lived for, it sparked a transformation that, three years later, is only just complete. Dark is now a man on a mission. A mission unbound by authorities. A mission that, at long last, allows him to embrace his destiny. Dark is finally ready – ready to take justice to the next level.

The Dead Tracks by Tim Weaver

Seventeen-year-old Megan Carver was an unlikely runaway. A straight-A student from a happy home, she studied hard and rarely got into trouble. Six months on, she’s never been found.

Missing persons investigator David Raker knows what it’s like to grieve. He knows the shadowy world of the lost too. So, when he’s hired by Megan’s parents to find out what happened, he recognizes their pain – but knows that the darkest secrets can be buried deep. And Megan’s secrets could cost him his life.

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

When Sister Evangeline of the St Rose Convent stumbles across a mysterious correspondence with Abigail Rockefeller in the archive, it reveals that angels once walked among us … and might still. This discovery plunges Evangeline into the hidden and dangerous world of the Angelologists – a secret society that battles to prevent the ascendancy of the Nephilim, the angels’ descendants on Earth.

Evangeline becomes the catalyst in a race to hunt down powerful and ancient artefacts that can be used to enslave humankind. And not only is the key to finding those artefacts within her grasp – but also a secret about her own past and its links to the Angelologists.

Possession of either could cost Evangeline her life . . .

The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor

1786, Jerusalem College, Cambridge.
The ghost of murdered Sylvia Whichcote has been sighted prowling the grounds by Frank Oldershaw, a disturbed fellow commoner. When his anxious mother employs John Holdsworth, author of The Anatomy of Ghosts – a stinging account of why ghosts are mere delusion – to investigate the sighting, the uneasy status quo at Jerusalem is rapidly torn apart.

Holdsworth grows to realise that the sinister Holy Ghost Club governs the privileged life at Jerusalem with a rigour far more effective than anything the Master, Dr Carbury, could muster. And when Holdsworth finds himself haunted – not only by the ghost of his dead wife, Maria, but also Elinor, the very-much-alive Master’s wife – his fate is sealed. He must unravel the circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s death … or the hauntings will continue.

The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland

1210 and a black force is sweeping England.

For a vengeful King John has seized control of the Church, leaving corpses to lie in unconsecrated ground, babies unbaptized in their cradles and the people terrified of dying in sin.

And in the village of Gastmere, the consequences grow darker still when Elena, a servant girl, is dragged into a conspiracy to absolve the sins of the lord of the manor. As the terrors that soon begin to plague Elena’s sleep grow darker, in desperation she visits the cunning woman, who has been waiting for just such an opportunity to fulfil an ancient curse conjured at the gallows.

Elena, haunted by this curse and threatened with death for a crime she didn’t commit, flees the village … only to find her nightmare has barely begun. For treachery lurks in every shadow as King John’s brutal reign makes enemies of brothers, murderers of virgins and sinners of us all.

Play To Kill by PJ Tracy

Minneapolis homicide cops Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth fish a murdered drag queen out of the Mississippi. Another day, another corpse. Except the victim’s death throes quickly appear in a video posted online. And there are other videos, other murders.

Unable to trace who is posting the videos, the cops turn to Grace MacBride and her crew of eccentric computer mavericks. But as the bodies and videos stack up, the team desperately try and answer a terrifying question:

Is this the work of a lone individual? Or of several killers who have taken social networking to the darkest extreme. . .

The Set-Up by Felix Riley

Framed for murder. Three days to clear his name.

New York City – present day.
Mike Byrne wants to know who framed him for murder.
The N.Y.P.D want Byrne locked up.
The U.S Secret Service want Byrne dead.
Detective Jenni Martinez just wants her gun and her badge back.
Thing is, you don’t always get what you want.

Mike Byrne has three days to stop a deadly game that will bring America to its knees – and he’s just been set up.

Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen

At first the prisoner scratches at the walls until her fingers bleed. But there is no escaping the room. With no way of measuring time, her days, weeks, months go unrecorded. She vows not to go mad. She will not give her captors the satisfaction. She will die first.

Copenhagen detective Carl Mørck has been taken off homicide to run a newly created department for unsolved crimes. His first case concerns Merete Lynggaard, who vanished five years ago. Everyone says she’s dead. Everyone says it’s a waste of time. He thinks they’re right.

The voice in the dark is distorted, harsh and without mercy. It says the prisoner’s torture will only end when she answers one simple question. It is one she has asked herself a million times:
WHY is this happening?

Blue Monday by Nicci French

Monday, the lowest point of the week. A day of dark impulses. A day to snatch a child from the streets …

The abduction of five-year-old Matthew Farraday provokes national outcry and a desperate police hunt. And when his face is splashed over the newspapers, psychotherapist Frieda Klein is left troubled: one of her patients has been relating dreams in which he has a hunger for a child. A child he can describe in perfect detail, a child the spitting image of Matthew.

Detective Chief Inspector Karlsson doesn’t take Frieda’s concerns seriously until a link emerges with an unsolved abduction twenty years ago and he summons Frieda to interview the victim’s sister, hoping she can stir hidden memories. Before long, Frieda is at the centre of the race to track the kidnapper. But her race isn’t physical. She must chase down the darkest paths of a psychopath’s mind to find the answers to Matthew Farraday’s whereabouts. And sometimes the mind is the deadliest place to lose yourself.

The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

We are the last defence.

I’ve seen him on the news. Followed the stories about what happened to John Smith. To the world he’s a mystery, but to me … he’s one of us. Nine of us came here, but sometimes I wonder if time has changed us, if we all still believe in our mission.

There are six of us left. We’re hiding, blending in, avoiding contact with one another, but our Legacies are developing and soon we’ll be ready to fight. Is John Number Four – and is his appearance the sign I’ve been waiting for? And what about Number Five and Six? Could one of them be the raven-haired girl with the stormy eyes from my dreams? The girl with powers that are beyond anything I could ever imagine? The girl who might be strong enough to bring the six of us together? They caught Number One in Malaysia. Number Two in England. And Number Three in Kenya. They tried to catch Number Four in Ohio … and failed. I am Number Seven. And I’m ready to fight.

Gamble by Felix Francis

As one of the youngest ever winners of the Grand National, Nick ‘Foxy’ Foxton’s career as a world class jockey is on perfect track until a near fatal accident cuts his dream brutally short. But when he returns to Aintree as a spectator years later, nothing can prepare him for what unfolds.

Minutes before the biggest event on the racing calendar, Nick’s affable American colleague Herb Kovak is shot at point blank range, the gunman disappearing amongst the stunned crowd. Along with the police, Nick is left baffled as to why anyone would want to kill such an apparently gentle soul.

With the press speculating links to gangland crime and a crumpled note containing a threatening message found in the dead man’s coat, Nick begins to doubt how well he really knew Herb. And on discovering Herb had named him as the benefactor of his will, Nick questions why he has been entrusted with the legacy. Is this a generous gift from a friend or is it, in fact, a poisoned chalice?

Senseless by Mary Burton

Every Serial Killer Knows . . .
The vicious burns scarring the victims’ flesh reveal the agony of their last moments. Each woman was branded with a star, then stabbed through the heart. With every death, a vengeful killer finds a brief, blissful moment of calm . . .

The Perfect Time . . .
Ten years ago, Eva Rayburn and her sorority sisters were celebrating the end of the school year. That party turned into a nightmare Eva can’t forget. Now she’s trying to start over in her Virginia hometown, but a new nightmare has begun. Every victim is linked to her. And Detective Deacon Garrison isn’t sure whether this mysterious woman needs investigating – or protecting . . .

To Make His Mark…
Only Eva’s death will bring peace. Only her tortured screams will silence the rage that has been building for ten long years. Because what started that night at the sorority can never be stopped –
not until the last victim has been marked for death . . .

Locked On by Tom Clancy

Although his father had been reluctant to become a field operative, Jack Ryan Jr. wants nothing more. Privately training with a seasoned Special Forces drill instructor, he’s honing his skills to transition his work within The Campus from intelligence analysis to hunting down and eliminating terrorists wherever he can – even has Jack Ryan Sr. campaigns for re-election as President of the United States.

But what neither father nor son knows is that the political and the personal have just become equally dangerous. A devout enemy of Jack Sr. launches a privately funded vendetta to discredit him by connecting the presidential candidate to a mysterious killing in the past by John Clark, his longtime ally. A shadowy mercenary team is dispatched to capture the former Navy SEAL.

With Clark on the run, it’s up to Jack Ryan Jr., along with Ding Chavez, Dominic Caruso, and the rest of the Campus team, to stop a threat emerging in the Middle East: a corrupt Pakistani general has entered into a deadly pact with a fanatical terrorist to procure nuclear warheads, which can be used to blackmail any world power into submission.