It’s been a while since I’ve sent a newsletter, but I couldn’t let this dreadful year end without my top ten reads list. As usual they aren’t in any particular order and they weren’t all published this year. Some aren’t out until 2021, and others were published a while ago. My only criteria was that I had read and enjoyed them this year.
But first some news.
As you might be aware, the paperback edition of The Curator was published yesterday. What you might not be aware of is that Tesco (and I’m sorry, but this will only be of interest if you live in the UK) have a special edition. At the back is ‘Once in a Red Moon’, an exclusive Poe and Tilly short story. So, if you want to know what happens when an incredibly grumpy Poe is dragged to a murder mystery evening at a country estate by an overly excited Tilly, you’d better get down to your local Tesco. The story is also a bit of a love letter to ACD’s Sherlock Holmes, and those of you who are familiar with the canon will find one or two references …
And as the paperback is out now, the price of the ebook has come down to its lowest price yet.
In other news, The Curator picked up Woman and Home‘s Best Dark Thriller award for 2020. And as Captain Tom also won an award, this was doubly pleasing. To be on the same list as that absolute legend was a massive honour.
The complete article can be seen here.
Anyway, enough of my brazen self-promotion. Here’s the ten books I’ve read and enjoyed the most in 2020.
We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker
An astonishing book, and one that’s appearing on several of these lists this year. The story about family relationships in small-town America is beautiful, haunting, laugh-out-loud funny, and incredibly powerful. If I were forced at gunpoint to pick a book of the year, We Begin At The End would be it.
Slough House by Mick Herron
The much-anticipated seventh installment in Mick’s Slow Horses series delivers on all fronts. Hilarious, topical and intricately plotted, it’s the best yet I think.
Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray
This gorgeous novel about a hoarder tells the tale of someone who doesn’t quite fit in. Beautifully written. Not out until next year, but it’s well worth putting on preorder now.
The Snow Thief by C.J. Carver
Set in Tibet, this novel is told from a Chinese police officer’s point of view and poses the question of what might happen after the death of the Dalai Lama. Superbly researched and beautifully written, I couldn’t put this one down.
Squeeze Me by Carl Hiaasen
A welcome return of the master of comic crime fiction. The Florida-set (what a surprise, eh?) yarn is brimming with shady characters, razor-sharp dialogue and black humour. Add in some recently-released hungry pythons and the return of well-loved characters and you have one of the best books this year.
The Moment Before Impact by Alison Bruce
The story of what really happened on the night of a fatal car crash is brilliantly realised by one of the UK’s top crime authors. I thought this was going to be a straight-up psychological novel, but Alison ramps it up in the last third and turns everything on its head. Remarkable. Out now in hardback, next year in paperback. Well worth checking out.
Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan
Vaseem has been one of the UK’s most reliably excellent crime authors of the last few years with his Inspector Chopra (not forgetting his baby elephant) books, but the first in this new series takes it up a notch. Set in post-partition India, this is historical fiction at its very best. Inspector Persis Wadia, India’s first female detective, is mistrusted, sidelined and consigned to the midnight shift, but that doesn’t stop her from investigating the murder of a prominent English diplomat. Expect her to upset almost everyone she meets; expect her not to care as she forges a path to the truth.
When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins
Ten-year-old Sara Carter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a secure unit for children after brutally murdering her parents. Twenty-one years later, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister, compelling her to break two decades of silence. The ensuing events will shed light on what really happened on that blood-soaked night. Compelling stuff. When I Was Ten was due out this year, but was a casualty of Covid. It’s not scheduled for release until April 2021 but is well worth putting on preorder now.
Stay Mad, Sweetheart by Heleen Kist
A topical novel with its roots firmly in the #MeToo era, Stay Mad, Sweetheart tells the story of three women who join forces to plot the downfall of the men who have wronged them. An excellent plot, compelling characters and superbly paced, this was one of my standout books in 2020.
Panic As Man Burns Crumpet by Roger Lytollis
The only non-fiction book on the list this year, Panic As Man Burns Crumpet tells the inside story of local newspapers over the last twenty-five years. Written by an ex-journalist, this was the only book I read in one sitting this year and if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a copy, you’ll soon understand why. It’s gut-bustingly funny, poignant and packed with astonishing insider information. It’s out in April 2021 and should be on everyone’s ‘to buy’ list.
There were a few books that almost made the list, but I wanted to keep it to ten so they missed the cut, some by only a whisker.
Curse the Day by Judith O’Reilly (UK-set action thriller)
Fortune Favours The Dead by Stephen Spotswood (post-war New York female PI)
Perlilous Waif by E. William Brown (Sci-fi)
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (fantasy)
The Art of Death by David Fennell (London-set serial killer)
The Law of Innocence by Michael Connely (I have no doubt this would have made my top ten but I’m not getting it until Christmas day)
If It Bleeds by Stephen King (four novellas by the best writer around)
Broken by Don Winslow (six short novels by one of world’s best crime writers)
Bird Brain by Guy Kennaway (a novel about how a man who has shot game birds his entire life is killed in a shooting accident (or was it?) and reincarnated as a pheasant)
Making Wolf by Tade Thompson (West African-set crime thriller)
That’s all folks. Which books did I miss? Which books on this list have you read? Any on there you didn’t like?
Anyway, enjoy the Christmas break as best you can and I’ll see some of you at next year’s crime festivals, fingers crossed. In the meantime, wash your hands …