It’s hard, of course, to pick just ten, so I’m going to cheat slightly and give you 16 books and 4 audiobooks in the order in which I read them:
The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean
This book is a triumph. Beautifully written with depth, power and an intense, emotional engagement it sears through you, engaging, captivating and holding you in its thrall until you can’t look away. I don’t think I have ever wanted a character to succeed more. In these Covid days it makes the need for human warmth so poignant and to stand out as the most important thing you will ever need.
One Danny Garvey by David Ross
It is raw and emotional; it packs a huge punch and it is authentic, poignant and devastating. It is as if everything David Ross has written before was leading up to this book, such is its power, strength and characterisation. There’s Only One Danny Garvey is fantastic.
Slough House by Mick Herron
An immense, brilliant book in a fantastic and beautifully written series. Herron is a razor sharp writer whose descriptions make you sit up and take notice and his wit is scathing and so well directed. And that prose: rich, dark, intense and utterly, completely, wonderful. Just brilliant.
Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd Robinson
I adored this book. It’s rich, warm, layered and utterly fascinating. I have absolutely no hesitation in shouting about it from the rooftops. This is how historical fiction should be, drawing you in and making you feel part of that world; caring what happens to the people in it. Bravo!
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
Dark, original and disturbing this is also a book with enormous poignancy, heart-breaking moments and real tragedy. It’s ultimately very haunting and deeply thought –provoking and will sit in my brain for a long time to come. Absolutely recommended.
Hotel Cartagena by Simone Bucholz
I fall in love with Simone Buchholz’s writing every time I pick up one of her books. It is stylish, very beguiling and yet incredibly honest and impactful. This series is utterly unmissable.
Fragile by Sarah Hilary
Fragile is a book full of menace and grim foreboding that is fully played out. These are fragile people; some cracked, just waiting to splinter apart, some broken already. An intense, complex, layered and beautifully drawn character driven novel, it will seep into your bones and cause you to feel profound loss and grief for these poor children whose lives should have been so different.
The Great Silence by Doug Johnstone
This is a series and a book infused with an ineffable sense of love. The main protagonists are three generations of women who together run a funeral business and a private investigations company. Here you will find mystery, violence, theft and cruelty, but also love. Love between generations. The pain of being young and knowing hurt, betrayal and cruelty, tempered by the love of family and friends. Love between lovers and between parent and child. Love for the craft of a job well done and love for science and reaching to the stars to ask some very big questions. Love for Edinburgh and its environs shines through here, too. The Great Silence has left me in awe of Johnstone’s immense talent, and I can’t wait for the return of Dorothy, Jenny, Hannah and Indy.
Hyde by Craig Russell
The language is glorious, the settings perfect. The rich layered storytelling is suspenseful, chilling and full of meaning. There’s so much deftly embedded in this story that you could go on discovering gems for some time. I love this outstanding book and give it all the stars for an absolute must buy – must read book.
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Terrific plotting, dark, gritty and authentic, this by a masterly work by a brilliant voice whose prose is sharp as steel forged in fire and yet the middle is like liquid gold, soft and viscous as it flows through your veins when you are reading. Razorblade Tears is explosive and dynamic and is another absolute triumph from an author unafraid to tackle big questions head on.
Emily Noble’s Disgrace by Mary Paulson Ellis
This is a house where strange and frightening events have taken place and Mary Paulson Ellis makes her gothic story pulsate with life as she leads us into the dark and dusty interiors of the fly encrusted dwelling. Sometimes a difficult read because of the emotional impact, the prose is beguiling and I really liked it.
1979 by Val McDermid
I really loved this book. Val McDermid’s sharp and incisive writing brings the characters and the settings to life in vivid, three dimensional colour – so tangible you can smell it. 1979 has tremendous heart and a lot of wit. You care about Allie and Danny and Danny’s family difficulties tear at your emotions. Tense, thrilling, rich with atmosphere and crackling with authenticity, this is at once a shocking and thrilling mystery and a love letter to journalism, warts and all. This is a five star must read start to an unmissable new series
Piece of Mind by David Mark
Piece of Mind is an intense and very readable book. It is unquestionably a book I’d want everyone to read to enhance their understanding of how adverse mental health can impact on one individual. I know more about David Mark now than I wanted to and I hope that helps me to better understand the daily struggle he lives through as a writer, as a partner and as a father.
I think this is a brave book. It is certainly a brutally honest one and yes, it’s sometimes funny because only laughter will protect the raw and unvarnished truth. I really, really think everyone should read it.
The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen
The delightful Antti Tuomainen’s quirky, dry and understated humour is both visual and has that delicate and warm comedic touch that sets you off in an almost seemingly unintentional way. That’s such a clever writing technique. Special mention here to David Hackston who so perfectly captures Antti’s voice that you never, even for a moment, think that these are not his direct words. Perfect reading for these turbulent times.
The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee
This is top class historical fiction with beautifully detailed oil painting- rich characterisation and atmosphere so thick you could drown in it. I learn a lot from these books too which is a genuine delight for me. Buy it. READ THE SERIES. Highly, highly recommended.
You Need Me by Sharon Bairden
Sharon Bairden’s dark and penetrating novel brings home the harsh realities of what it means to be dispossessed and forgotten or let down by society and how easy it is for these forgotten outcasts to become the tools of those with malign intent.
You Need Me is not a gentle read. It is deep, twisted, dark and it grips the heart in a steel vice. But it is also a stark and bitter condemnation of the way we treat those less fortunate than ourselves.
Fall by West Camel
Immersive, beautiful, and haunting, Fall is a novel that will bear re-reading over the years. Each phrase is so well-judged; each character has their own place in a story that transcends its plot and the clarity and distinction of the writing is a joy to savour. I adored it.
The Rabbit Hole by Mark Billingham read by Maxine Peake
This is a tour de force from both Mark Billingham and Maxine Peake. Alice Armitage tells her story as a policewoman sectioned in a mental health hospital and investigating a murder. Witty, surprising, irreverent and stunning!
The Malabar House series by Vaseem Khan read by Maya Saroya
There are two books in this series so far and they are beguiling and addictive. I love the character of Persis Wadia, India’s first female police detective. Midnight at Malabar House is a police procedural, set after the end of and Partition. Persis has been sent to Malabar House; a dead-end district station for police officers unwanted elsewhere. She is a Parsee and disliked by her male colleagues who try to undermine her. She is driven, outspoken, and out to prove that a woman can be just as good and often better, than a man. It’s a terrific series with a great character set in a time of turbulence where being a female police officer who flouts convention is both startling and attention grabbing.
The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths read by Jane McDowell
I never miss an installment of Elly Griffiths excellent Ruth Galloway series and I love Jane McDowell’s narration.
The Night Hawks, a group of metal detectorists, are searching for buried treasure when they find a body on the beach in North Norfolk. At first Nelson thinks that the dead man might be an asylum seeker, but he turns out to be a local boy, Jem Taylor, recently released from prison. Ruth is more interested in the treasure, a hoard of Bronze Age weapons. Nelson at first thinks that Taylor’s death is accidental drowning, but a second death suggests murder.
A Change of Circumstance: Simon Serrailler, Book 11 read by Steven Pacey
A good narrator makes all the difference to a series and I love Steven Pacey’s measured voice as he reads these tales of the Serrailler family in Lafferton. Simon Serrailler finds himself in devastating new territory as a sophisticated drugs’ network sets its sights on Lafferton and the surrounding villages.