Socialites in New York, a stalker in Berlin, spies in London and a murder in Tudor Norfolk
This year we welcomed exciting new voices, with notable debuts including The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (Raven), a country house mystery complete with time travel, body swaps and a mind-bogglingly complex plot, and Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton (Raven), a Ripleyesque exploration of female insecurity set among the socialites of Manhattan. Also worth seeking out is The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor (Penguin); there are shades of Stephen King in this very creepy timeslip, as well as an evocative portrait of smalltown life in 1980s Britain.
Amer Anwar’s Brothers in Blood (Dialogue) is another assured first outing: a tense, pacy thriller set in Southall, west London. In fact, it’s been a bumper year for British Asian noir in general, with excellent new books from, among others, AA Dhand, Abir Mukherjee, Vaseem Khan and Khurrum Rahman. Between them, these authors range across the spectrum of crime fiction – everything is there, including historical mysteries and action thrillers, from cosy to hardboiled. It would be great to hear from more female voices, too.
The cascade of domestic noir continues unabated. Standout offerings from the last 12 months include Lullaby by French-Moroccan author Leïla Slimani (translated by Sam Taylor, Faber). Awarded France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, this beautifully written whydunit is the story of how an apparently perfect nanny turns into a murderous monster; it combines a gripping plot with a delicate, merciless exploration of race, class, gender and the politics of motherhood. Female experience – competition, friendship and working in male-dominated spaces – is also at the heart of by Megan Abbott (Picador), a mesmerising psychological
Judging the Man Booker prize brought many delightful surprises this year. Apart from those, I’d recommend Stuart Turton’s
to anyone who loves complexity and conundrums; Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger (Quercus) for thriller about two ambitious young scientists who share an unbreakable bond – until one of them divulges a deadly secret.
Liv Horder and her parents, the subjects of Resin by Ane Riel (translated from Danish by Charlotte Barslund, Doubleday), are my top contenders for fictive dysfunctional family of the year. They read like the invention of modern-day Brothers Grimm, and the plot, a thoroughly unsettling tale of possessive love, is equally macabre. Our House by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster) offers a different take on domestic suspense: with an intriguing premise, this masterfully plotted thriller taps into the modern obsession with property for a riveting narrative of betrayal, guilt and unintended consequences.
As much an exploration of masculinity as a psychological thriller, Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit (translated from German by Imogen Taylor, Orion) is the story of middle-class liberal Randolph, whose family is being tormented by a neighbour. With plenty of moral ambiguity and some darkly comic moments, it has its roots in real events – the author and his family suffered similar harassment, though with a different outcome.
The year has also produced a rich crop of thrillers, including the fifth novel in Mick Herron’s New York is the setting for Steve Cavanagh’s
lovers of gothic suspense, tempered with one of the most engaging detectives I’ve encountered in a long time; and Lou Berney’s November Road (HarperCollins), which shows that the Kennedy assassination remains fertile ground – conspiracy theory meets a bittersweet love story.
Give Me Your Hand
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Diaries