The Orion Crime team pick out some of their favourite books and authors of 2014.
Bill Massey – Deputy Publishing Director
Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham
Having once believed you were dead is not normally considered a useful attribute when applying to the police force. So when Fiona Griffiths is having her job interview, knowing that not so long ago she was so out of her head that she thought she was a corpse, you can’t help but be on her side. I mean, which one of us hasn’t got something in our past we’d rather our boss didn’t know about? In Fiona’s case, though, it’s something more dramatic than most of us have ever experienced. And the effects of her breakdown remain part of her. As she discovers when she starts working on her first murder case, she’s rather more comfortable in the company of the dead than the living. For Fiona, the living, those people who inhabit ‘Planet Normal’, can be far stranger and more unsettling than a mutilated corpse lying on a slab, which is why, when she’s really stressed by the pressures of trying to be like everyone else, Fiona prefers a quiet night in the morgue, chatting with the dead, to an evening down the pub with her colleagues. She’s an odd one, that Fiona Griffiths, no doubt about it. She’s certainly like no other cop you’ve come across. But once you meet her, you’ll find she gets into your head, and under your skin, and then, I’m afraid, you’ll be hooked.
Talking to the Dead is out in paperback now.
Kate Mills – Publishing Director
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
From the defiant challenge of the very first sentence: ‘Does anyone really believe what happened at the Reichenbach Falls?’, Anthony Horowitz has the reader in the palm of his hand in Moriarty. Where better to start than with one of the most famous deaths in literature? Yes, Sherlock Holmes is dead. Does it matter? No. Our new companions more than fill the void in this blistering gallop through Conan Doyle’s world. Moriarty is Horowitz’s chance to go to town with the criminal masterminds and creeping villains of the 1880s. His delight in doing so resonates on every page as the reader is plunged into an exhilarating cat-and-mouse chase across Europe. There’s a glorious sense of a world teeming with lowlife as we’re swept from crypts to Gothic houses, from ballrooms to the stinking alleys of the City of London. The characters walk off the page to meet us, the pace never falters and the puzzles keep on coming – riddles, codes, fiendish clues. It’s a thrilling rollercoaster of a read and I only wish I had the joy of discovering it all over again.
Moriarty is out in hardback on the 23rd October 2014.
Genevieve Pegg – Editorial Director
Capital Punishment by Robert Wilson
We turn to crime fiction for all sorts of reasons – for compelling stories that take to us to somewhere new, or the secret side of somewhere we already know; for scaring ourselves when we consider what people are capable of; for moral ambiguities and dark deeds that make us look at ourselves afresh; for characters you can’t forget. If any of these strike a chord with you, then Robert Wilson offers up all this and more. His novels are already garlanded with awards and prize nominations, but if you’re wondering where to start, his brilliant new Charles Boxer series is a must. In Capital Punishment and You Will Never Find Me, Robert Wilson introduces a protagonist you can’t help but be fascinated by. Boxer is a man who specialises in kidnap recovery – when someone you love is taken, sometimes you need someone who does what the police can’t – or won’t – do. Plus no one knows how to find a missing person better than a man who understands loss in the most personal of ways. These are big, multifaceted thrillers from a writer who knows that even the largest heists and most audacious crimes start with a dark thought in one man’s mind.
Kirsty Dunseath – Publishing Director
The Honey Guide by Richard Crompton
Richard Crompton’s writing was the first thing that caught my attention – his style is very clean, very honed, and he drew me into the world of his character Mollel immediately. And then there is Mollel – a former Maasai and a misfit in a police force dominated by men from the Kikuyu tribe. Richard expertly draws the subtleties of Kenyan tribal politics in the interplay between Mollel, his Luo boss and his Kikuyu colleagues. Indeed it isn’t just his background the colleagues distrust, because Mollel is one of the good guys, a man who still believes in justice amid a corrupt system in which the police and government officials work together to maintain a convenient (and sometimes lucrative) status quo. Most low ranking officers round out their meagre salaries with a bribe here, a fine there, but Mollel isn’t afraid to question the way things are – which makes him an unpopular figure at police headquarters. He has a son, whom he loves but can’t seem to relate to, and he still mourns his wife who was killed in the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi.
The city itself is a major character in Richard’s novel. This isn’t the Kenya of tourist brochures – Richard paints Nairobi in all its shades and colours, from the prostitutes of Koinange street, to the slums of Kibera and then the sleek offices of the business district. It is a city full of energy and vibrance but poised on the edge amid political turbulence and a growing void between the haves and have-nots. Even when Mollel escapes to the relatively tranquil surroundings of Hell’s Gate national park, he cannot avoid the sprawling corruption of the city and the echoes of his own unhappy childhood.
Richard’s novels have depth and emotion. They also paint a very clear and multi-layered portrait of a country and its past. His love of the many textures of Kenyan society shines through his work and in the character of Mollel he brings us a flawed but deeply humane character who simply wants justice, even if it means breaking the law.
Jemima Forrester – Editor
The Killing Season by Mason Cross
It’s rare, given the amount of thrillers that cross my desk on a daily basis, to find one that really stands head and shoulders above the rest. It’s more unusual still for such an authentic American debut to be written by a Brit. And it’s practically unheard of for a manuscript to come in so faultlessly slick that I wouldn’t change a word of it. However, all these things can be said of Mason Cross’s outstanding debut The Killing Season.
The novel is the first in a brand new American thriller series that, crime fan or not, I guarantee you’re going to love. The story unfolds through three different narrative viewpoints – our hero, the enigmatic Carter Blake; ambitious FBI agent Elaine Banner; and chillingly charismatic killer Caleb Wardell. The novel combines impeccably drawn characters, intelligent plotting and gripping, fast-paced action.
Mason Cross’s talent is plain to see and anyone who likes Lee Child and James Patterson will devour The Killing Season and immediately ask for the next one. Mason Cross is a major bestseller in the making – just read the first chapter and you’ll see what I mean!
The Killing Season is out now in trade paperback.
Jon Wood – Deputy Publisher
The Red Road by Denise Mina
Having bagged the prestigious Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year Award two years in a row for The End of the Wasp Season and Gods and Beasts, Denise Mina really has affirmed her place among the crime-writing greats, sitting comfortably alongside global bestsellers Ian Rankin and Val McDermid. Denise’s writing is unfailingly intelligent and emotionally powerful. She deals with weighty subjects such as power and politics, combining them with empathetic stories of family, love and loyalty.
The Red Road, a tale of murder and corruption that stretches back to the night that Princess Diana died, welcomes back DI Alex Morrow, Denise’s no-nonsense lead character who readers have grown to know and love. This new novel is Denise at her absolute best. The narratives are skilfully woven together, building up a picture of a series of crimes that have lain dormant for over fifteen years and which must finally come to a head. It’s written with that wholly Denise flair for language, character and style. And, whether you’re a Denise super-fan or you haven’t read her for a while, I guarantee you’ll love this book.
The Red Road is out now in paperback.