Mark Bailey's favourite reads of 2015
Cavanagh, Steve – The Defence. Eddie Flynn is a New York lawyer who has not set foot inside a courtroom for over a year; he has to return to the courtroom when he has to defend the head of the Russian Mafia in New York who have Eddie's ten-year-old daughter Amy in a safe house. I am not usually a big fan of legal thrillers but I was persuaded to read this one by the reviews I read elsewhere – this is a really really impressive debut novel. Eddie Flynn is engaging character whom you do root for despite his murky past and present – he is a kind of ‘if you get given lemons you make lemonade’ guy who thinks on his feet and has friends who can help him out of an hole on both sides of the law.
Johnston, Paul - Heads or Hearts. The sixth novel in the series of novels featuring Quint Dalrymple and the first new novel for fourteen years (Skeleton Blues followed later in the year). The Year is 2033 and the UK along with most of the world, was torn apart by civil wars and criminal gangs in the early years of the twenty-first century. A referendum is looming to reform Scotland from its disparate elements – a quasi-democratic Glasgow, a quasi-monarchy in parts of the Isles and other systems elsewhere - when a human heart has been found on the football pitch at Tynecastle, rather appropriately the home of Heart of Midlothian Football Club. Quint Dalrymple is called in and the body count goes up before he uncovers a link to the planned referendum. This is a good mix of science fiction and crime fiction set in the future but with very limited technology (lower-level than what most people have access to today) with an engaging plot that goes along at a rate of knots and you can understand the motivation of the characters whilst not agreeing with them.
McGilloway, Brian - Preserve the Dead. A solid police procedural driven by old-fashioned detective work rather than technology and set against a backdrop of social unrest (the police are not trusted by large parts of the community, both Protestant and Catholic) and the aftermath of the collapse of the Celtic tiger which has left people adrift and vulnerable; although this is the third in a series, I feel that you could start with this one and read the others later.
McKinty, Adrian - Gun Street Girl. The fourth in the Sean Duffy trilogy (the fifth is out in January 2016) set in and around Carrickfergus in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Sean Duffy is struggling with burn-out and leaves the investigation of a brutal double murder in Whitehead to DS McCrabban and the two new DCs as it seems very neat and tidy. This is a very assured police procedural with a serious theme at its heart - the peace process - and great writing which is strongly literate but still keeps you engaged and turning the page.
Veste, Luca - The Dying Place. The second novel by Luca Veste featuring DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi. DI David Murphy and DS Laura Rossi make a grisly discovery in front of a church in Liverpool of the body of a teenage boy – his torso covered with the unmistakable marks of torture. They discover that the seventeen-year-old boy had been reported missing by his mother six months ago but no one has been looking for him – he was a known troublemaker but did no one care if he was alive or dead? The police soon realise that Dean Hughes is not the only boy who has gone missing in similar circumstances and that someone in Liverpool is abducting troubled teens with terrifying plans for them. Someone who thinks they are above the law. The criminology background of the author is apparent as the story highlights the impact of violent crime on the families of victims and how society, the police and the media have an implicit (and sometimes explicit) hierarchy of victims.