THE YEAR’S BEST SO FAR: A DOZEN CRIME NOVELS AND THRILLERS THAT HAVE CAUGHT MY ATTENTION IN 2022
I am about to head off on a seven week trip, so I thought I would reflect on some of the books that have caught my attention so far this year.
Just over half the way through the year and we have already seen some terrific releases from new and established authors. So much so, that I found it hard narrowing down my list to just a dozen! The number of high quality Australian crime novels was particularly pleasing and there were several that I could have easily added to the lists below.
The following sets out, in no particular order, my favourite crime, thriller and debuts releases of 2021 so far. I also highlight a couple of others, which are also very good or which I have only just reviewed.
The division between crime novels and thrillers is rather arbitrary, but I have tended to follow the advice of George Easter at Deadly Pleasures, and applied the term thriller to books which feature a fast pace, a protagonist in danger, lots of action, usually a deadline or two and the focus is on saving someone or something. And most importantly, there are no cats! Some of the books below could fit in either grouping, but I have shoehorned them into the category which seems the most logical to me.
I have provided some brief words under each of the books and a link to my longer reviews, if you want to check out in more detail what I thought (but no spoilers).
Firstly, the crime novels.
I never know whether to position John Connolly’s novels in the thriller or crime category, but this one seemed to be more of a crime novel. The Furies is actually two linked novellas and, as always, they demonstrate John’s rich writing style and his great gift for creating memorable characters. Not as briskly paced as his last two novels, it is nevertheless a very entertaining read with a touch of the supernatural: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/the-furies-by-john-connolly-hodder-stoughton/
Michael Robotham’s books also float between crime and thriller and he has won both the CWA Award for Best Crime Novel and Best Thriller.
LYING BESIDE YOU (Hachette) is the third book in his series about forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven and troubled young adult, Evie Cormac, and finds Cyrus dealing with problems on several fronts. It is a well written and gripping read that really held my attention until the final pages. I think it is probably the strongest of the Cyrus and Evie novels to date: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/lying-beside-you-by-michael-robotham/
It seemed that we were left waiting a long time for a new Deon Meyer novel, but fortunately the wait was worth it.
The Dark Flood (Hodder & Stoughton) was another stunning book by Meyer in his series about Cape Town detectives Benny Griessel and Vaughn Cupido of the Hawks elite police unit. The pace was a little slower than in his previous book, The Last Hunt, but the suspense steadily built as the dual plots twisted their way to a surprising and bloody conclusion and a witty final turn of the screw.
As usual the characterisations are rich and convincing and Meyer has a good ear for dialogue, and seems to accurately capture the tone and rhythm of the conversations between the various characters. The descriptions of life in South Africa are also vivid, but do not overwhelm the book: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/the-dark-flood-by-deon-meyer-hodder-stoughton/
Without doubt the wittiest and most original crime novel I have read this year was Benjamin Stevenson’s Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone (Penguin).
It is a witty, clever and very funny novel, that plays homage to the classic British murder mystery in a very original way. I will not attempt to describe the plot other than to say that it revolves around a strange family reunion in a snowed-in resort in the Australian alps and involves several killings, in the past and the present. It is top notch read and probably my favourite of the year: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/everyone-in-my-family-has-killed-someone-by-benjamin-stevenson-penguin-29-march-2022/
Emma Viskic’s Those Who Perish (Echo) came out early in the year, but it is still one of the best Australian based crime novels of the year. The fourth novel in Emma’s award winning series about deaf Melbourne private eye Caleb Zelic, it opens in dramatic fashion and maintains a strong sense of suspense throughout.
The plotting and characters are superb and enhancing the story are some vivid descriptions of Muttonbird Island, sharp-eyed reflections on modern society and credible dialogue. There are also flashes of wry humour: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/those-who-perish-by-emma-viskic-echo/
It would be very easy to add another half a dozen or so books to the above list, including Margaret Hickey’s Stone Town; Sulari Gentill’s very original The Woman In The Library; Dave Warner’s After The Flood and Ruth Ware’s The It Girl.
I never got to review the latest instalment in Mick Herron’s stellar Slough House (Slow Horses) series, Bad Actors (John Murray), but it was another great read. A must read for fans of modern spy fiction.
Another very good spy novel was provided by Paul Vidich, who really deserves wider recognition. His The Matchmaker (Pegasus) was an intelligent, atmospheric, richly written and quietly gripping spy novel, which steadily built up the layers of complexity, deception and suspense. Set in 1989 and the chaotic days surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is one of the stand out spy novels of 2022: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/spies-and-moles-new-spy-fiction-from-matthew-richardson-and-paul-vidich/
For pure enjoyment it is hard to go pass Steve Cavanagh’s whirlwind crime thriller The Accomplice (Orion).
The seventh novel in Cavanagh’s series about New York lawyer Eddie Flynn, it is an addcitive read. From the opening page this is a rollercoaster of a ride that speeds up with every twist in the plot, until it reaches the explosive conclusion. The courtroom scenes are engrossing and Eddie’s manoeuvres and tricks are fantastic, and often quite funny: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/british-crime-releases-new-books-by-steve-cavanagh-ruth-ware-and-mark-mills/
Tom Bradby’s historical spy thriller Yesterday’s Spy (Bantam) is a dark tale that paints a convincing picture of Iran in the early 1950s. Combining interesting historical detail with rich characters and an engrossing plot, it is a stand out spy thriller: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/old-cold-war-spies-new-books-by-tom-bradby-and-patrick-worrall/
Other thrillers I could have easily add to this list are M W Craven’s The Botanist, Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake and Richard O’Rawe’s Goering’s Gold, which I have only just finished reading.
There have been some very good debuts this year, but few have been as accomplished and compelling as Dinuka McKenzie’s The Torrent (Harper Collins).
The Torrent is a very strong first novel that impresses 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: 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 novels. The plotting about an old crime 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/
If space allowed I would also add Matthew Spencer’s Black River, which is a well constructed crime novel set along Sydney’s Parramatta River.
On the international front, Patrick Worrall’s The Partisan (Transworld) was 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: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/old-cold-war-spies-new-books-by-tom-bradby-and-patrick-worrall/
I am still reflecting on some of the recent books I have read and there are some impressive releases scheduled for later this year, including from Ian Rankin, Jane Harper and Michael Connelly, so I suspect that list may go through some changes before the end of the year.
Enjoy your reading, while I head off on holidays!