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CrimeFictionLover: Top five books of 2012

You might want to call me Scrooge, but I wasn’t quite as excited about the books that came my way in 2012. Bah humbug. I barely awarded any five star ratings this year. That’s not to say I didn’t love my reading. Far from it, I enjoyed discovering loads of new writers during New Talent November, and looking back on some of the blasts from the past in Classics in September. It was also fantastic to interview such a diverse range of authors as I did this year, from Roger Smith to Darren Shan and on to Denise Meredith. Anyhow, what you really want to know is which crime fiction books I recommend at the moment, and here they are:

5 – Capture by Roger Smith
Things go from bad to worse for Cape Town computer geek Nick Exley after his daughter drowns in the sea. His somewhat insane wife hates him and in a fiery conflict she ends up dead too. If it weren’t for security manVernon Saul’s skills at subterfuge, Nick would be in the dock for murder. But now Saul has a hold on Nick and won’t let go. Plus, Nick is falling for Dawn, an ex-stripper whom Saul controls. Never before has Smith drawn such in-depth characters, each harshly damaged in their own way, each clawing towards some form of redemption. Capture is very dark, visceral and gripping, it’s a noir view of contemporary South Africa that won’t be advertised by the country’s tourist board.
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4 – The Killing by David Hewson
This English novelisation of series one of the hugely popular Danish crime show really nails the atmosphere that is so important in Scandinavian crime fiction. Hewson describes that cold, hard, bleak world very well, and is a touch minimal in how he shares the thoughts of the characters. The Birk Larsen family is torn apart by the disappearance of their teenage daughter Nanna. Meanwhile politician Troels Hartmann is trying to get himself elected mayor but, via a city hall pool car, seems to be connected to the missing girl. Even if you’ve seen the series and think you know how Sarah Lund solves the murder, this book is well worth reading…
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3 – The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty
It’s fair to say that whenever a murder occured in Northern Ireland in the early 80s, it was probably political. Nationalists. Unionists. Bombs. Shootings. But in the middle of rioting season (when was it not rioting season in Belfast back then?) Sean Duffy finds a corpse that’s been mutilated in a specific way, along with clues pointing to a homophobic killer, he faces a whole new set of challenges. Will his Protestant superiors back him, a Catholic, as he tries to untangle the leads he finds on both sides of the sectarian divide? And what’s with this apparent serial killer who keeps toying with him? Action, intrigue, mystery, grit, whiskey, sex and guns – it’s absolutely riveting.
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2 – Phantom by Jo Nesbo
Harry Hole is back on the mean streets of Oslo. His ex-girlfriend’s son, Oleg, has grown up into rebellious teenager, dealing drugs and using them. Russian gangsters and bikers are running the narcotics trade, but the real problem is that Oleg has been accused of shooting a junkie and, feeling a fatherly love for the boy, Hole feels obliged to try and prove the boy innocent. Nesbo writes as darkly as ever, with the occasional surreal twist such as giving us a rat’s eye view of the junkies’ squat. Phantom’s ending will hit you like a brick in the face.
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1 – White Heat by MJ McGrath
If you’ve not read it yet, allow my hands-down winner White Heat to take you to a totally different environment, and into a new dimension in crime fiction. Edie Kiglatuk is an Inuit guide, helping visitors from more southerly climes negotiate their way around Ellesmere Island, the furthest point north in Canada. When one of her charges is shot and the mayor of the Inuit community up there wants to sweep it under the carpet, Edie is frustrated. Later another man disappears and Edie’s step-son dies after fleeing home in the middle of a storm, so she digs her heels into the ice and strives to work out exactly what’s going on. At times she’s assisted by Derek Palliser, a Cree policeman, at others by her trusty bear dog, and sometimes even by the spirits of her ancestors. White hot, like the title says.
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