BEST DEBUT CRIME NOVELS AND THRILLERS OF 2022
Debuts are the lifeblood of crime fiction.
Without new authors and new ideas, the genre would become stale and boring. Every year we see an influx of new authors, and while a lot of them are happy to produce yet another ‘Gone Girl On A Train’ or outback noir imitation, there are always those with something fresh to say or willing to provide a new take on an old theme.
There has been some very good debuts in recent years by authors, such Richard Osman, Kyle Perry and Dominic Nolan, who have gone to achieve considerable success and showed that their first novel was no fluke. 2021 also saw some very good debuts, but I think that the breadth and quality of debuts in 2022 has been even better. In particular, there were four outstanding Australian debuts, by Dinuka McKenzie, Matthew Spencer, Shelley Burr and Hayley Scrivenor, which were confidently written and provided new perspectives on the local crime scene. They are outstanding pieces of fiction and I think that each of the authors will be around for some time entertaining us.
The following are eight debut novels which caught my attention this year. They cover the vast expanse of the genre from outback noir to a fresh take on the serial killer thriller to cold case crimes and a chilling thriller set high in the Himalayas.
They are set out in a rough order of preference below:
In my view Dinuka McKenzie’s The Torrent (Harper Collins) was probably the pick of a very good bunch.
An accomplished and very well written novel, The Torrent impressed with the depth of its characters and its confident plotting. The story opens with heavily pregnant Detective Sergeant Kate Miles counting down the handful of days left before she goes on maternity leave. She is hoping for a quiet week, but a violent hold-up at a fast-food restaurant in the northern New South Wales town where she works soon ruins any hope of a peaceful exit. It is a well developed and very engaging crime novel, with lots of poignancy and credibility and a fresh new voice: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/australian-crime-debuts-2022-dinuka-mckenzie-and-michael-levitt/
Another very strong Australian crime fiction debut was Shelley Burr’s Wake (Hachette).
It was a very assured first novel that showed a maturity of writing that is often missing in debut books. The plotting about a cold crime case in outback Australia was original, and the characters had a real depth to them. A very impressive novel: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/cold-cases-and-missing-children-wake-by-shelley-burr-and-the-hiding-place-by-simon-lelic/
Unlike a lot of recent Australian crime fiction, Matthew Spencer’s Black River (Allen & Unwin) was not set in outback Australia.
Set along the banks of Sydney’s Parramatta River, it opens with the murder of a young woman in the deserted grounds of an elite boarding school. The police suspect that it may be the work of the so called ‘Blue Moon Killer’, who has already claimed two victims. As the police investigation unfolds, battling journalist Adam Bowman draws on his tragic links with Prince Albert College to give him an inside running on the story.
Black River was well-crafted and highly engaging crime novel. Spencer, an experienced journalist, smoothly shifted the perspective between Bowman and the policewoman investigating the murder, and avoided the usual cliches, while also giving the reader a good dose of background information on the Sydney media. The story moved quickly and there were enough unexpected developments and moments of suspense to keep it interesting. Highly enjoyable. https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/australian-crime-debuts-black-river-by-matthew-spencer-and-poetic-licence-by-kevin-price/
Rounding out the Australian debuts is Hayley Scrivenor’s Dirt Town (Macmillan). No-nonsense cop Sarah Michaels has to put aside her personal concerns, and past history, as she tries to find out what happened to twelve-year-old Esther Bianchi, who went missing on the way home from school in a small, decaying, country town. As the tension mounts, Hayley takes the reader into the heart of the town and exposes the strengths and weaknesses of its inhabitants.
With a revolving point of view, including an inventive chorus of children’s voices, Dirt Town is an emotionally charged and compelling novel with a strong sense of place. https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/canberra-weekly-9-june-2022-aussie-crime-debuts/
Leading off the international releases, is Blood Sugar (Trapeze) by American author Sascha Rothchild.
Blood Sugar came out early in the year, but I only recently got to it after recommendations by George Easter from Deadly Pleasures and fellow blogger Michael Popple (unseenlibrary.com).
Blood Sugar is a very original crime thriller about a self confessed serial killer who finds herself being accused of the one murder she did not commit. Told in a breezy and engaging way, it is easy to side with the narrator, Ruby, despite what she has done. As much a character study as it is a crime novel, Blood Sugar hooks you in and keeps you reading all the way to the end. Certain well worth checking out!
Robert Gold’s Twelve Secrets (Sphere) did not appear to receive a lot of attention when it came out, but it was a very engaging mystery set on the fringes of London.
Gold had previously co-authored three titles in James Patterson’s Bookshots series, but this was his first solo effort and could therefore be counted as a debut. The story revolved around a horrible murder from the past, which is brought to the surface again when another related killing occurs. The story unfolded in a smooth manner that kept you eagerly turning the pages to find out what happens next. There was not a lot of action, but the unravelling of the interesting plot and the frequent twists kept the suspense and the interest high. Very enjoyable. https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/march-reading-2022-new-books-by-harlan-coben-and-robert-gold/
On the international thriller front, Patrick Worrall’s The Partisan (Transworld) stood out as a mature and compelling spy novel that moved seamlessly from World War II to 1960s’ London and Moscow and the near present day. The depth of the characters and the complexity of the plotting was very impressive and the book provided a new take on the spy thriller genre: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/old-cold-war-spies-new-books-by-tom-bradby-and-patrick-worrall/
Finally, experienced mountaineer Amy McCulloch brought a good deal of technical information and vivid descriptions of the Himalayas to her first adult novel Breathless (Little Brown). The story about an ill fated expedition intent on scaling one of the Himalayas’ toughest peaks, took its time to get started, but once underway it was a gripping and chilling read. https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/march-mayhem-four-new-crime-novels-for-march-2022/
The above books are very different in style and intent, but they are all very impressive in their own way. You should check them all out, as I suspect that their authors are going to be influential figures in the world of crime fiction going forward.
Here is a link to my recent article on the Best Crime and Thriller titles of 2022: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/the-years-best-my-favourite-thrillers-and-crime-novels-of-2022/