Mark Bailey's favourite reads of 2017
Top 5 reads of 2017
In alphabetical order by author:
The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards (Non-fiction)
I was raised on golden age crime fiction (I have a school report from when I was aged 11 telling my parents off for allowing me to read such age-inappropriate material). Here Martin Edwards explores the evolution of the crime genre during the first half of the twentieth century through acknowledged masterpieces and some lesser known works.
The Chalk Pit (Ruth Galloway 9) by Elly Griffiths
In the underground tunnels beneath Norwich boiled human bones have been found by Dr Ruth Galloway. The finding that they are relatively recent and not a medieval curiosity means DCI Nelson has a murder enquiry on his hands.
DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper with the only lead being the rumour that she’s gone ‘underground’. This might just be a figure of speech, but the discovery of the bones and the rumours that the network of old chalk-mining tunnels under Norwich is home to a vast community of rough sleepers give cause for concern.
As the weather gets hotter, tensions rise. Another woman goes missing and the police are under pressure to find her. The dark secrets of “The Underground” seems to be the key – can Ruth and Nelson uncover its secrets before it claims another victim?
I am a big fan of the Ruth Galloway novels but I do feel that they are best enjoyed in sequence but you can probably pick up most of the background needed to enjoy the novel as you go along.
As usual there is the excellent characterisation that one expects in Elly Griffiths’ books that gives you believable albeit flawed but ultimately likeable ongoing main protagonists (Ruth Galloway, Harry Nelson & Judy especially in this one although Kate is coming to the fore). There is also the usual sufficiently twisty plot to keep you engaged whilst giving you a chance to solve the mystery before the protagonists do and there is a well-researched backdrop to hang the story on.
As I have stated about previous Ruth Galloway mysteries- if you do have a liking for modern cozies with perhaps a little hint of grit then I would strongly recommend this to you.
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (Sean Duffy 6) by Adrian McKinty
Detective Inspector Sean Duffy is on holiday in the Donegal Gaeltacht with his girlfriend and baby daughter. He is called back to Carrickfergus where a man has been shot in the back in the Sunnylands Estate with an arrow. Uncovering who has done it takes Duffy down a dangerous road leading to a lonely clearing where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave. Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs and with his relationship with his girlfriend on the rocks, Duffy needs all of his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.
Once again, this a very assured police procedural with multiple serious themes (the peace process is still in the background along with the ongoing war (both in Ireland and elsewhere – the Gibraltar shootings provide a spark to more rioting)), economic regeneration (or the lack thereof in Carrickfergus) is in the middle and another cover up in the foreground) and great writing which is strongly literate but still keeps you engaged and turning the page.
A Rising Man (Sam Wyndham 1) by Abir Mukherjee (2016 publication)
Captain Sam Wyndham, formerly of Scotland Yard, is newly arrived in Calcutta seeking a fresh start after his experiences during the Great War. He has just arrived when he is caught up in a murder investigation that will take him into the dark underbelly of the British Raj. A senior British official has been murdered, and the note left in his mouth warns the British to quit India or else. With rising political dissent and the stability of the Raj under threat, Wyndham and his two new colleagues embark on an investigation that will take them from the luxurious parlours of wealthy British traders to the seedy opium dens of the city.
This is a well-researched book with Calcutta and India beautifully described. The dominant factor for me is relationship between Sam and his Indian Sergeant (who is preparing for an orderly transfer of rule by acquiring the requisite skills of a detective). This is both a very good historical novel and a very good thriller and the next in the series is on my to-be-read pile.
The Hidden (Monika Paniatowski 12) by Sally Spencer
The prologue has the daughters of PC Michael Knightly finding the body of a woman in the grounds of a local country house – he recognises her as DCI Monika Paniatowski.
Her team believe that the girl found dead in the woods is the victim of a ritual killing by a secret society in the heart of Whitebridge but without Paniatowski to back them up they are forced to treat it as a domestic. Therefore Meadows, Crane and Beresford operate by themselves – cutting corners, ignoring procedure, and running the risk that their careers could be brought to an abrupt and dramatic end.
Monika knows who the killer is and also knows that he is stalking her daughter Louisa but there is nothing she can do about it as she is one of the killer’s victims too and is lying in a coma – hearing everything, but unable to move or speak!
This is a good solid police procedural which is well researched and plotted and you are kept engaged as the plot twists and turns. The absence of Paniatowski is an issue but the other characters make up for it especially DS Kate Meadows and Louisa Paniatowski. I would recommend it to fans of police procedurals in general but especially those set in Britain.