Leaves, twice, mean, not nice. But before I move on to my pick of the best crime novels I’ve read this year (a gentle reminder that there are too many published annually for two Declans to be comprehensive, let alone one), I want to note a few seasonal tidbits ahead.
Dalziell and Pascoe hunt the Christmas killer is the title story in an enticing collection of short fiction by the late Reginald Hill. Readers of traditional mysteries will welcome the 50th anniversary reissue of Collins Crime Club Tied in sequins by Ngaio Marsh and Bodies from the library 4a cozy collection of Golden Age stories, while Harper Collins offers two Christies for Christmas in handsome new hardback liveries: Mysterious affair in Styles and The murder of Roger Ackroyd. The latter comes with an introduction by Louise Penny, whose latest novel by Armand Gamache, A world of interesting thingsforms the first part of my holiday reading, followed by the obscenely tempting grand master Jerome Charyn Big redwhich depicts the turbulent Hollywood adventures of Rita Hayworth, A flash of lightGeorgina Clarke’s 1920s mystery inspired by London’s notorious all-female crime syndicate, and A life of crimea major new history of the genre by Martin Edwards.
Irish writers have been keeping the fires burning throughout 2022, absorbing Catherine Ryan Howard’s new Queen of Crime titles (film industry satire Run Time), Arlene Hunt (fear and loathing among daytime TV in while she sleeps) and Jo Spain (genius saga set in Lapland The last one to disappear). I loved the second in Catherine Kirwan’s series about Finn Fitzpatrick from Cork (Cruel deeds) and Her last words, EV Kelly’s successful debut psychological thriller. John Connolly Furies brings two violent, funny, insanely creepy Charlie Parker novels under one cover, as WC Ryan’s supernatural streak continues with Winter guestan intelligent, atmospheric country house mystery set during the Irish War of Independence.
Alison Gaylin a meticulously drawn, fiercely driven page-turner Collective investigates a network of women who conspire to take revenge for the unpunished murders of their children. Laura Lippman is radiant Seasonal work and other killer stories to mark the full range of her extraordinary on-screen talents. Mick Herron’s mirror vision of Britain’s security state continues in a beautifully written, wickedly entertaining Bad actors. Punishment is a cool, pithy, bitterly entertaining collection of stories drawn from Ferdinand von Schirach’s 20 years as a criminal lawyer. Darkly Current Alex Marwood, by Maxwell of Epstein Island of Lost Girls it pulses with mythic energy and devilishly clever storytelling.
A season in exile features the welcome return of Nick Belsey’s reliably reckless detective Oliver Harris in a brilliantly plotted and timed thriller whose poetic texture and anarchic fervor set it apart. A book of the most precious substance Sare Gran is an odyssey through the dusty world of rare books and enchanting secrets of sexual magic, a funny, charming, disturbing, truly erotic novel. Dear little corpses is the 10th in the Nicole Upson series featuring Golden Age author Josephine Tey as a detective; balancing an elegant lightness of touch with psychological acuity and depth, this gripping, emotionally devastating book is my crime novel of the year.
Nicola White completes her trilogy of police procedurals based on true Irish crimes set in the 1980s The boy on fire (Profile Books, £8.99), which followed from Rosary garden (2013) and A starving heart (2020). The personal and professional lives of detectives Vincent Swan and Gina Considine intersect when they investigate a murder in Phoenix Park, near an area known as a “gay twilight world” cruise location.
Modeled on Brothers Karamazovand is located in Wisconsin, Lan Samantha Chang The Chao family (One, £16.99) uses the murder of an immigrant patriarch to explore identity, racism and the social role of immigrants, while also asking tough questions about the sacrifices required to fully realize the American dream.
Brian McGilloway An empty room (Constable, £16.99) revolves around Dora Condron, a woman whose life is turned upside down when her 17-year-old daughter Ellie goes missing, providing a finely calibrated account of loss, grief and simmering rage.
William Boyle Shoot Moonlight Out (No Exit Press, £9.99) reads like an homage to Elmore Leonard, in which a richly detailed depiction of Brooklyn’s hardscrabble world serves as the backdrop for a very satisfying noir.
Adrian McKinty’s is located just off the coast of Australia Island (Orion, £12.99) is an exciting mix of high concept Liberation and Lord of the Flies in which American tourist Heather fights with local villagers to keep her stepsons alive after her wife is killed in a tragic accident.
At Johnny Gogan’s Station to station (Lepus Print, €13), ex-Irish diplomat Jack Lennon finds himself in over his head in southern Spain when a visiting Irish minister goes rogue and becomes the self-styled “Don Quixote on another wild goose chase”.
Winnie M Lee’s An accomplice (Orion, £12.99) is narrated by a former film industry employee named Sarah, who considers herself one of the “lucky, unmolested”. The American dream becomes a nightmare for Sara, the daughter of Hong Kong immigrants, in a thrilling novel that transcends the immediacy of its #metoo backdrop to provide a broadside to the film industry and the patriarchal system it embodies.
WITH Eye of the beholder (Canongate, £11.99), Margie Orford offers a self-contained psychological thriller in which the artist heroine specializes in “making beauty out of what is broken” to expose heinous crimes against young women and girls.
Conner Habib Jastrebova mountain (Doubleday Ireland, £11.99) was one of the most impressive debuts of the year. Set in New England, it explores the long-term effects of abuse as Todd, now in his 30s and the father of a boy, confronts his high school nemesis, though the inevitable showdown is as innovative as it is touching.
A bullet that missed (Penguin Viking, £22) is Richard Osman’s third offering in his Thursday Murder Club series, in which a group of pensioners investigate accidental murders. If you haven’t yet dived into an Osman novel, give it a go — dryly funny and wonderfully drawn, Osman has created characters that read like the Famous Five with the help of Mick Herron’s sharp wit.
He’s just as funny Disorientation (Picador, £13.99), the debut of Taiwanese-American author Elaine Hsieh Chou, narrated by Ingrid Yang, a Taiwanese-American student who discovers that the revered Chinese-American poet is actually a white man in “yellow face”. A mess fueled by casual racism, cultural colonization and the pretensions of highly educated literary science, Disorientation is a brutally funny satire that breaks the “myth of the good little immigrant”.
Benjamin Stevenson Everyone in my family has killed someone (Penguin Michael Joseph, £17.99) offers value for money, as several books are condensed into one. Its narrator, Ernie Cunningham, writes books on how to write crime novels, and that knowledge comes in handy when Ernie and his extended family go to a remote ski lodge and find a body the next morning – a victim who appears to have burned to death in a snowdrift. Metanarrative genre mischief-making at its best.
Another author who writes about writing, albeit in a more serious way, is Anthony J Quinn, whose Murder Memoirs Murder (Dalzell Press, £11.99) is an exploration of his own past growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, when the Quinn family home was attacked by IRA men who hijacked the family car and later used it in the shooting of an off-duty RUC policeman. The result is an incredibly honest true crime text.
Finally, Tariq Godard High Ivan the Conqueror (Repeater, £12.99) is a surreal story set in modern Wessex, in which DCI Terry Balance investigates the disappearance of a number of teenagers when he is informed that “posh people are taking our children away”. An irreverent and impressionistic take on police procedural, it could be the most original crime novel of the year.