Continuing on from yesterday’s part 1:
Now it’s time to head north to Newcastle and Northumberland for another new, strong, female protagonist. Mari Hannah’s Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels arrived in The Murder Wall and we had the second in the series, Settled Blood by the end of the year. Hannah is an industrious writer and Pan Macmillan already have a further two in the series penned in for publication in 2013. What marks out this author and series is a robust sense of reality in the depiction of the police work. If you’d like to achieve that ‘fly on the wall’ experience these will have you feeling you’ve arrived. It’s possible you may not entirely warm to the determined Daniels in book one, but you’ll want her as your best friend by the end of book two, and hungry for more of her in book three. Following the departure of Cheryl to the world’s stages, Daniels puts the sizzle back into Newcastle.
8. Jane Casey – The Last Girl
New to me in 2012 was Jane Casey’s series featuring Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan, with The Last Girl the third (The Burning and The Reckoning coming in at numbers one and two). Here, we have a police case in London – a mother and daughter murdered – but, wait a minute… This is not an average police procedural. If I found some of my ‘psychological thriller’ reading on the delicately thin side during 2012, Casey certainly picks up the baton. With the family under focus and no obvious motive, it’s understanding the characters that drives this novel. They’re all deliciously unpleasant too. At the centre is hard-working and spunky, young narrator Kerrigan, favoured by one boss but hosed with sexism by the rest of the team. Her eyes are sharp and her retaliating tongue sharper.
9. Craig Robertson – Cold Grave
Robertson’s third novel, Cold Grave works in a shift in focus on the central characters again, and this one’s an absorbing and moving family affair pursuing a cold case. DS Rachel Narey is losing her father to Alzheimer’s but he remembers one case he didn’t solve only too well. Strong-willed Narey wants to correct that with the help of not-yet-public police photographer partner Tony Winter and his (retired copper) uncle. All to be unofficial at the outset. Robertson is good at creating tension and painting lively, believable characters with typical Glaswegian mouths. He also allows humour to bleed in, which keeps it very real. Glasgow and its surrounds – all the way to Callander in this one – are Robertson’s patch and he’s an observant guide.
10. Thomas Mogford – Shadow of the Rock
Some say Gibraltar, I say peripatetic with a base there. Mogford’s debut introduces Spike Sanguinetti, his Gibraltar-based protagonist lawyer. In the shadow of the rock Sanguinetti spends a great deal of time in Morocco, and the second in the series will head out to Malta. Sanguinetti is a young tax lawyer but finds himself taking up the criminal defence of an old school friend facing a murder charge in Morocco. Mogford excels in telling you about the locales, creating a feel of The Sheltering Sky around a nicely woven crime story. Mogford is an exceedingly safe pair of hands for sense of place and culture.
11. Anne Zouroudi – The Bull of Mithros
With other-wordly Greek protagonist detective Hermes Diaktoros, Zouroudi follows the path of the seven deadly sins and The Bull of Mithros is the sixth. Forced to pull in at Mithros as his boat requires urgent repairs, Hermes arrives at the same time as a stranger thrown overboard by his shipmates. The man has no money or papers to prove his identity. Detained by the army and proving to be a difficult guest desperate to get away, some locals start to question whether they have seen him before. Mithros harbours its secrets in layers like prose in a palimpsest, but Hermes can extract facts as if performing an ancient art. And talking of prose, Zouroudi’s is an absolute joy to read, providing beauty in the craft of the written word.
12. Books to Die For – John Connolly and Declan Burke (editors)
A non-fiction tome to keep you up until 3am reading? Yes, it is possible. With a broad range of the world’s crime fiction authors offering up the one book each would recommend to readers in the form of an essay, this is the canapé tray of crime to which you will return again and again. It’s budget-hurting and proof you can never be fully gorged: you’ll find yourself re-reading old favourites and wanting to try loads of new novels. Books to Die For also serves as a sound record of the development of the genre. Every crime aficionado will adore this.