Join Hafta-Ichi to find out the article “Best crime and thriller books of 2015 | Best books of 2015”
Books that arrive on a tide of chatter about vast advances, foreign sales and movie rights often don’t provide an internal narrative to match the external one. But, in a welcome plot twist this year, two talked-up debuts justified the hype.
Disproving the usual rule that thrillers with the word “girl” in the title are merely cynical attempts to catch the eye of Gillian Flynn fans, The Girl on the Train (Doubleday) by Paula Hawkins is an ideal solution for those seeking immersive distraction on a beach, plane or indeed train, from which the sozzled heroine may or may not have witnessed a murder in a house backing on to the tracks. And Renee Knight’s Disclaimer (Doubleday) is an inventive and troubling literary puzzle that begins, startlingly, with a woman being sent a novel that appears to fictionalise a secret part of her life story.
In this genre, a throat-grabbing opening is obligatory, but what follows often fails to maintain the grip. However, the Hitchcockian premise of I Saw A Man (Faber) by Owen Sheers – in which someone finds their neighbour’s back door unexpectedly left open and goes inside – delivers a clever novel in which the healing after a bereavement leads to the infliction of more grief.
Ruth Rendell died in May, but October brought the posthumous publication of her 66th and final book, Dark Corners (Hutchinson), a dark comedy about an accidental killer, which includes suitably valedictory reflections on several of Baroness Rendell’s recurrent concerns, including guilt, London, literature and cats.
In Rendell’s absence, that manuscript was shepherded to publication by Val McDermid, who was on strong form herself in Splinter the Silence (Little, Brown), a case that takes co-investigators Jordan & Hill into an increasingly violent world. Belinda Bauer, another writer who follows in Rendell’s footsteps, confirmed her star status with The Shut Eye (Bantam), in which a grieving mother is contacted by a psychic who may be a psychopath.
Dark Corners may not be the last we hear of Rendell’s characters, given the tendency for crime narratives to be continued posthumously by other hands. If these transactions are to happen – and the practice raises considerable ethical and technical challenges – then it is hard to imagine a better ghostwriter than David Lagercrantz, whose The Girl in the Spider’s Web (MacLehose) convincingly extended the life of the late Stieg Larsson’s great character, Lisbeth Salander.
In an otherwise relatively quiet year for the Scandinavian powerhouse of suspense fiction – with market leader Jo Nesbø represented by the minor exercise, Midnight Sun (Harvill Secker) – the Nordic star was Dead Joker (Corvus). The latest exploration by ex‑politician Anne Holt of the political and journalistic underworlds of Oslo, it begins with the state prosecutor being suspected of killing his own wife.
Authors of successful franchises often become sick of revisiting the same protagonist each year: there are horror stories in publishing about the awful day when a top-selling writer of cop novels suddenly delivers a first-world-war bildungsroman. Two writers who have never tired of their main men are Ian Rankin, whose Even Dogs in the Wild (Orion) is his 20th full-length investigation for DI John Rebus, and Lee Child, who takes his Jack Reacher to the same number of tales in Make Me (Bantam). Both novelists have become expert technicians at the continuation of a signature brand.
Peter James showed that a diversion this year into ghost stories with The House on Cold Hill had not diverted energy from his consistently impressive sequence of DS Roy Grace policiers, the 11th of which, You Are Dead (Macmillan), confidently combines a cold case with a very hot one.
John Grisham, another super-seller who has taken occasional generic vacations in teenage, Christmas, and baseball books, returns triumphantly to his home base of legal thrillers in Rogue Lawyer (Hodder & Stoughton), introducing the fascinating character of a lawyer who lives in a van and represents only those whom no other attorney will defend.
The brilliantly versatile Laura Lippman combines the best elements of her standalone psychological novels with the greatest strengths of her series featuring journalist turned private eye Tess Monaghan in Hush Hush (Faber), a Monaghan mystery that probes the extremities of maternal love.
At the age of 85, America’s finest spy writer, Charles McCarry, proves impressively up-to-date with the methods and tensions of international espionage in The Mulberry Bush (Head of Zeus). This is a novel that has the CIA failing to spot a problem from the past – an agent who is, Hamlet-like, avenging his dead father – and seeing but having little idea how to deal with the present difficulty of Islamist jihad.
From the other end of a career, Attica Locke’s third novel, Pleasantville (Serpent’s Tail), is another superb example of her personalised genre of African-American-political-recent-historical thrillers, as a murderous mayoral race in Houston in 1996 exposes an attempt at social engineering in the 1940s. In a crowded field in which even stars follow traditions, Locke has the feel of a true original.
With Locke having the fix on racism and McCarry on terrorism, a third threat to the US – from the political, economic and social consequences of the long Mexican-American drug wars – is described in Don Winslow’s The Cartel (Heinemann). It features violence so frequent and visceral that it should probably be read in a bullet-proof vest.
• Mark Lawson’s The Deaths is published by Picador. Browse all the books and save up to 30% at bookshop.hafta-ichi.com or call 0330 333 6846. 20p from each book you order until Christmas will be donated to the Guardian and Observer charity appeal 2015.
Best books of 2015
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Best crime and thriller books of 2015 | Best books of 2015