So­cialites in New York, a stalker in Berlin, spies in Lon­don and a mur­der in Tu­dor Nor­folk

The Guardian - Review - - Books Of The Year - Laura Wil­son

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

Thir­teen

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

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