Lists, twice, bad, not nice. But before I get to my selection of the best crime novels I’ve read this year (kind reminder that too many Declans are published each year to be exhaustive, let alone one) I want to note a few seasonal treats for perspective.
Dalziell and Pascoe hunt down Natale’s killer is the title story in a tantalizing collection of short stories by the late Reginald Hill. Traditional mystery readers will welcome the Collins Crime Club 50th Anniversary reprint of Bound in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh e Bodies from the Library 4a welcoming collection of Golden Age short stories, while Harper Collins offers two Christies for Christmas in a beautiful new hardcover livery: The Mysterious Story of Styles And The assassination of Roger Ackroyd. The latter is accompanied by an introduction by Louise Penny, whose latest novel by Armand Gamache, A world of curiositiesforms the first installment of my holiday reading, followed by grandmaster Jerome Charyn’s indecently seductive Big redwhich chronicles the turbulent Hollywood adventures of Rita Hayworth, The glare of lightGeorgina Clarke’s 1920s mystery inspired by a notorious all-female London crime syndicate, and The life of crimeMartin Edwards’ huge new genre story.
Irish writers kept the housefires steadily burning throughout 2022, absorbing new titles from Queens of Crime Catherine Ryan Howard (the film industry satire Execution time), Arlene Hunt (fear and loathing among daytime TVs in While she sleeps) and Jo Spain (the ingenious saga set in Lapland The last to disappear). I enjoyed the second in the Cork-based Catherine Kirwan’s Finn Fitzpatrick series (Cruel acts) And His last words, a successful debut psychological thriller from EV Kelly. by John Connolly The Furies offers two violent, funny, delusional and chilling Charlie Parker novels under one cover, while WC Ryan’s supernatural streak continues with The Winter Guesta clever and atmospheric country house adventure set during the Irish War of Independence.
by Alison Gaylin meticulously plotted and fiercely driven page turns The Collective explore a network of women who conspire to avenge the unpunished murders of their children. Laura Lippman is dazzling Seasonal work and other stories of assassins mark the full range of his extraordinary talents on display. Mick Herron’s mirror vision of the British security state continues in splendid, indecently funny writing Bad actors. Punishment is a fresh, concise and bitingly funny collection of stories from Ferdinand von Schirach’s 20 years as a criminal defense lawyer. The gloomy topicality of Alex Marwood, of Maxwell by Epstein The Island of the Lost Girls pulsates with mythic energy and fiendishly clever storytelling.
A season in exile has the welcome return of Oliver Harris’ dependable swashbuckling detective Nick Belsey in a brilliantly plotted and paced thriller whose poetic plot and anarchic verve set it apart. The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran is an odyssey through the dusty world of rare books and the bewitching mysteries of sexual magic, a funny, fascinating, disturbing, genuinely erotic novel. Dear little corpses is the tenth in the Nicola Upson series with Golden Age author Josephine Tey as the detective; balancing an elegant lightness of touch with psychological insight and depth, this captivating and emotionally devastating book is my crime novel of the year.
Nicola White concluded her trilogy of Irish true crime police procedurals with a set from the 80s The boy on fire (Profile Books, £8.99), which is followed by The Rosary Garden (2013) e A hungry heart (2020). Detectives Vincent Swan and Gina Considine’s personal and professional lives intersect when they investigate a murder in Phoenix Park, near an area known to be a cruising spot in the “Twilight World of Gays.”
Modeled on The Karamazov brothersand set in Wisconsin, by Lan Samantha Chang The Cao family (One, £16.99) employs the murder of an immigrant patriarch to investigate immigrant identity, racism and social role, and it also asks hard questions about the sacrifices required if the American Dream is to be fully realized.
by Brian McGilloway The 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, offering a finely calibrated account of loss, grief and seething anger.
by William Boyle Shoot in the moonlight (No Exit Press, £9.99) reads like an homage to Elmore Leonard, in which a richly detailed portrayal of Brooklyn’s tough world forms the backdrop for a very satisfying noir.
Located just off the coast of Australia is Adrian McKinty’s The island (Orion, £12.99) is an exciting high-concept blend of Liberation And Lord of the Flies in which American tourist Heather fights the locals to keep her stepchildren alive after a woman is killed in a tragic accident.
By Johnny Gogan From station to station (Lepus Print, €13), former Irish diplomat Jack Lennon finds himself freaked out in southern Spain when a visiting Irish minister goes rogue and becomes a self-styled “Don Quixote in another wild goose chase” .
Winnie M Li’s Accomplice (Orion, £12.99) is narrated by a former film industry employee named Sarah, who considers herself one of the ‘lucky, not raped’ ones. The American dream becomes a nightmare for Sarah, the daughter of Hong Kong immigrants, in a gripping novel that transcends the immediacy of her #metoo background to launch a broadside against the film industry and the patriarchal system she embodies.
With The eye of the beholder (Canongate, £11.99), Margie Orford offers an independent psychological thriller in which the artist’s heroine specializes in “making beauty out of what had been broken” to expose heinous crimes against young women and girls.
Conner Habib Mount Falcon (Doubleday Ireland, £11.99) was one of the most impressive debuts of the year. Set in New England, it explores the long-term consequences of bullying as Todd, now in his thirties and father of a young boy, meets his high school nemesis, though the inevitable showdown is as innovative as it is poignant.
The 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 unsolved murders. If you haven’t yet immersed yourself in an Osman novel, take the plunge: dryly funny and delightfully plotted, Osman has created characters that read like the Famous Five thanks to the acid wit of Mick Herron.
Just as fun it is Disorientation (Picador, £13.99), the debut of Taiwanese-American author Elaine Hsieh Chou, narrated by Ingrid Yang, a Taiwanese-American graduate student who discovers that a revered Chinese-American poet is actually a white man with the ” yellow face”. A skewering game of casual racism, cultural colonization, and the pretensions of high-level literary scholarship, Disorientation is a brutally funny satire that explodes “the myth of the good immigrant”.
by Benjamin Stevenson Everyone in my family has killed someone (Penguin Michael Joseph, £17.99) offers good value, being a number of books condensed into one. Its narrator, Ernie Cunningham, writes books on how to write crime fiction, knowledge of which comes in handy when Ernie and his extended family head to a remote cabin and discover a body the next morning: a victim who appears to have burned to death. in a snowdrift. The meta-fiction genre that creates mischief at its best.
Another author writing about writing, albeit in a more serious vein, is Anthony J Quinn, whose Murder Memoirs Murder (Dalzell Press, £11.99) is an investigation into his past growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, when the Quinn family home was invaded by IRA men who hijacked the family car and subsequently used it during the shooting of an off-duty RUC policeman. The result is incredibly honest true-crime writing.
Finally, that of Tariq Godard High John the Conqueror (Repeater, £12.99) is a surreal story set in modern-day Wessex, in which DCI Terry Balance investigates the disappearance of a host of teenagers when he is informed that “posh people are taking our children”. An irreverent and impressionistic take on the detective procedural, it could very well be the most original crime novel of the year.