When we asked the crime fiction fanatics and reviewers over at Crime Squad what the best books by authors at this year’s festival were, they put their heads together and came up with ten not to be missed books. Including classic writers like Colin Dexter and Ian Rankin, welcoming newcomers such as Ryan David Jahn and Julia Crouch and of course throwing in something Scandinavian from Jo Nesbø this is a varied list packed with the very best crime novels around.
It is a cold January morning and Shetland lies buried beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter’s eye is drawn to a vivid splash of colour on the white ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbour Catherine Ross. As Fran opens her mouth to scream, the ravens continue their deadly dance . . . The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man – loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when police insist on opening out the investigation a veil of suspicion and fear is thrown over the entire community. For the first time in years, Catherine’s neighbours nervously lock their doors, whilst a killer lives on in their midst. Raven Black is a haunting, beautifully crafted crime story, and establishes Ann Cleeves as a rising talent in psychological crime writing.
The boy was born and raised on the Main Line. But he vanished on Philadelphia’s mean streets – last seen in a down-town cheater’s hotel. For sports agent Myron Bolitar, his client, superstar Linda Coldren, comes first, and that means unravelling the mystery of her son’s kidnapping. But when Myron goes after the missing boy, he crashes through a crowd of low-lifes, blue bloods and liars on both sides of the social divide. And when family skeletons start coming out of the closet, Myron is about to find out how deadly life can get…
In the depths of the Maine woods, the wreckage of an aeroplane is discovered. There are no bodies, and no such plane has ever been reported missing, but men both good and evil have been seeking it for a long, long time. What the wreckage conceals is more important than money: it is power. Hidden in the plane is a list of names, a record of those who have struck a deal with the Devil. Now a battle is about to commence between those who want the list to remain secret and those who believe that it represents a crucial weapon in the struggle against the forces of darkness. The race to secure the prize draws in private detective Charlie Parker, a man who knows more than most about the nature of the terrible evil that seeks to impose itself on the world, and who fears that his own name may be on the list. It lures others too: a beautiful, scarred woman with a taste for killing; a silent child who remembers his own death; and the serial killer known as the Collector, who sees in the list new lambs for his slaughter. But as the rival forces descend upon this northern state, the woods prepare to meet them, for the forest depths hide other secrets. Someone has survived the crash. Something has survived the crash. And it is waiting . . .
The Wayland family – Lara and Marcus and their three children – leave England to spend a long, hot summer in Trout Island, Upstate New York. Lara, still reeling from an abortion that Marcus insisted on, hopes the summer away from home will give her time to learn to love her husband again. A chance meeting at a party reacquaints the family with Marcus’s old actor friend, Stephen, with whom Lara once had an affair. Lara feels herself drawn towards Stephen and they pick up their secret relationship where they left off. Lara knows she’s playing a dangerous game; what she doesn’t know is that it’s also a deadly one.
That night he dreamed in Technicolor. He saw the ochre-skinned, scantily clad siren in her black, arrowed stockings. And in Morse’s muddled computer of a mind, that siren took the name of one Joanna Franks . . . The body of Joanna Franks was found at Duke’s Cut on the Oxford Canal at about 5.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 22nd June 1859. At around 10.15 a.m. on a Saturday morning in 1989 the body of Chief Inspector Morse – though very much alive – was removed to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital. Treatment for a perforated ulcer was later pronounced successful. As Morse begins his recovery he comes across an account of the investigation and the trial that followed Joanna Franks’ death . . . and becomes convinced that the two men hanged for her murder were innocent . . .
April 1952. Los Angeles. After thirteen-year-old Sandy Duncan shoots his stepfather in the temple and carves a symbol into the corpse’s forehead in imitation of a comic book, district attorney Seymour Markley launches a grand jury investigation into the murder and its causes, an investigation that could implicate east coast crime boss James Manning and end his thirty-year career. Also potentially implicated: the comic book’s creator, Eugene Dahl, who now spends his mornings working as a milkman and his evenings warming bar stools. Threatening notes begin appearing nailed to his front door, notes that draw him to a downtown hotel where one of the district attorney’s witnesses, one of the men who could bring down James Manning, is being held. There, Eugene finds the witness murdered, as well as the police officer charged with protecting him; and he finds himself framed for those murders. He’s forced to go on the run, and, in order to clear his name, to devise a plan that involves deeds far worse than anything he’s been framed for. And he must commit those deeds with the police right behind him.
I WANT THEM TO SUFFER, AND I WANT THEM DEAD . . . Carly Chase is traumatised ten days asfter being in a fatal traffic accident which kills a teenage student from Brighton University. Then she receives news that turns her entire world into a living nightmare. The drivers of the other two vehicles involved have been found tortured and murdered. Now Detective Superintendant Roy Grace of the Sussex Police force issues a stark and urgent warning to Carly: She could be next. The student had deadly connections. Connections that stretch across the Atlantic. Someone has sworn revenge and won’t rest until the final person involved in that fatal accident is dead. The police advise Carly her only option is to go into hiding and change identity. The terrified woman disagrees – she knows these people have ways of hunting you down anywhere. If the police are unable to stop them, she has to find a way to do it herself. But already the killer is one step ahead of her, watching, waiting, and ready . . .
The night the first snow falls a young boy wakes to find his mother gone. He walks through the silent house, but finds only wet footprints on the stairs. In the garden looms a solitary figure: a snowman bathed in cold moonlight, its black eyes glaring up at the bedroom windows. Round its neck is his mother’s pink scarf. Inspector Harry Hole is convinced there is a link between the disappearance and a menacing letter he received some months earlier. As Harry and his team delve into unsolved case files, they discover that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years. When a second woman disappears Harry’s suspicions are confirmed: he is a pawn in a deadly game. For the first time in his career Harry finds himself confronted with a serial killer operating on his turf, a killer who will drive him to the brink of insanity. A brilliant thriller with a pace that never lets up, The Snowman confirms Jo Nesbø’s position as an international star of crime fiction.
Rebus is back. Resurrection Men, the 13th DI Rebus novel, finds Ian Rankin’s doughty detective off the case. He explodes at his superior DCS Gill Templar over the increasingly frustrating murder inquiry into the savage killing of an Edinburgh art dealer and his punishment is a spell cooling his heels at the Scottish Police College in central Scotland. Rebus balks at his “retraining” but he’s not alone: he’s part of an ill-assorted group of similar officers–all with an attitude problem and a dislike of the institution they find themselves in. Given an old unsolved case to work on the group is obliged to polish up their teamwork while supervisors assess the reprobates. But some of the team have secrets not unconnected to the case they’ve been handed and Rebus finds that anything goes when it comes to keeping the past obscured.
Through years of success in Hollywood composing music for Oscar-winning films, Chris Lowndes always imagined he would come full circle, home to Yorkshire with his beloved wife Laura. Now he’s back in the Yorkshire Dales, but Laura is dead, and Chris needs to make a new life for himself. The isolated house he buys sight unseen should give him the space to come to terms with his grief and the quiet to allow him to work. Kilnsgate House turns out to be rather more than he expected, however. A man died there, sixty years ago. His wife was convicted of murder. And something is pulling Chris deeper and deeper into the story of Grace Elizabeth Fox, who was hanged by the neck until she was dead . . .