So the top crime books of 2012 is done and dusted, time to start thinking about what’s coming up next…
Gone Again – Doug Johnstone
‘It’s just to say that no-one has come to pick Nathan up from school, and we were wondering if there was a problem of some kind?’
As Mark Douglas photographs a pod of whales stranded in the waters off Edinburgh’s Portobello Beach, he is called by his son’s school: his wife, Lauren, hasn’t turned up to collect their son. Calm at first, Mark collects Nathan and takes him home but as the hours slowly crawl by he increasingly starts to worry. With brilliantly controlled reveals, we learn some of the painful secrets of the couple’s shared past, not least that it isn’t the first time Lauren has disappeared. And as Mark struggles to care for his son and shield him from the truth of what’s going on, the police seem dangerously short of leads. That is, until a shocking discovery…
Out in early March Gone Again signals a shift in gear from Doug Johnstone. An emotionally fraught novel with a fabulous eye for domestic details, it’s a real heartbreaker.
Ratlines – Stuart Neville
Right at the end of the war, some Nazis saw it coming. They knew that even if they escaped, hundreds of others wouldn’t. They needed to set up routes, channels, ways out for their friends. Ratlines.’
Ireland, 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. He is the third foreign national to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey is desperate to protect a shameful secret: the dead men were all former Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government. A note from the killers is found on the corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favourite WWII commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. It says simply: ‘We are coming for you. Await our call.’
Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate the crimes. But as he infiltrates Ireland’s secret network of former Nazis and collaborators, Ryan must choose between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? And who are the killers seeking revenge for the horrors of the Second World War?
Like Stuart Neville’s previous books Ratlines merges the political and the personal to great effect. The period details are deftly deployed so that this historical crime novel feels fresh and punchy, and his hero Albert Ryan is a character I’d love to see more of. A bona fide single-sitting read, this one will grab you from page one.
Runaway Town – Jay Stringer
After narrowly surviving a vicious knife attack, gangland detective Eoin Miller thinks he’s earned a break from hunting down thieves, runaways, and stolen drug money. But when crime boss Veronica Gaines tips him off to a particularly sensitive new case, his Romani blood won’t let him say no. A rapist is targeting immigrant girls, and the half-gypsy Eoin knows all too well just how little help an outsider can expect from the local police.
Besides, his client isn’t looking for someone to arrest the bastard. He’s looking for someone to stop him—for good. But the deeper Eoin digs, the more tangled he becomes in a web of corruption, racism, and revenge…especially once his troubled past threatens to derail the investigation by raising questions about his own loyalty and family ties. With his life teetering on the brink of disaster, Eoin realizes there is a fine line between justice and punishment. Now it’s up to him to decide just which side he’s on.
Old Gold, Jay Stringer’s debut, was a cracking read, grim and violent, pacy as hell, and Runaway Town continues in the same strong vein. Eoin Miller is an engaging protagonist, on the wrong side of the law but he has right with him most of the time, and this book takes him into territory often overlooked by crime writers. This series deserves to be huge.
Where The Devil Can’t Go – Anya Lipska
A naked girl has washed up on the banks of the River Thames. The only clue to her identity is a heart-shaped tattoo encircling two foreign names. Who is she – and why did she die? Life’s already complicated enough for Janusz Kiszka, unofficial ‘fixer’ for East London’s Polish community: his priest has asked him to track down a young waitress who has gone missing; a builder on the Olympics site owes him a pile of money; and he’s falling for married Kasia, Soho’s most strait-laced stripper.
But when Janusz finds himself accused of murder by an ambitious young detective, Natalie Kershaw, and pursued by drug dealing gang members, he is forced to take an unscheduled trip back to Poland to find the real killer. In the mist-wreathed streets of his hometown of Gdansk, Janusz must confront painful memories from the Soviet past if he is to uncover the conspiracy – and with it, a decades-old betrayal.
Recently picked up by The Friday Project and with a paperback release in February this is a book which really makes a mark. Anya Lipska drags her readers into the murky, crime infested world of London’s migrant worker community and renders it pungent on the page in a way most writers could only dream of. Anya Lipska is definitely a name to watch.
Matador – Ray Banks
A man wakes in a shallow grave next to a corpse to find himself shot, amnesiac and in deep trouble. Meanwhile, an expat drug runner finds out that he’s not the killer he thought he was.
That is all I know about Matador, but I want it. If you’re in the USA you can sign up for it in serial form already at $1.99. In the UK we’ve to wait until February, but on the upside it will be available as a paperback.