In what has been a difficult year, we book lovers have found consolation in reading. Perhaps you have spent time re-visiting old favourites, tackling some of those books we have been intending to read for more years than we’d like to recall or perhaps doing all three.
I’d like to share with you some of the books that I have enjoyed this year. My only problem is going to be selecting only a few.
A Cotswold Christmas Mystery
Starting with an appropriate book for the season, I’ve chosen Book 18 in Rebecca’s Cotswold Mysteries series. Lovers of the cosy mystery will be delighted to find that this, like all the novels in this series, fits all the criteria of the genre. No gratuitous bad language, graphic sex or violence but lots of puzzles to solve complete with plenty of red herrings to lead you in the wrong direction.
The story concerns Thea who attempts to help her friends and neighbours who are having problems with their landlord. When he is found dead, suspicion falls on members of the Frowse family. It’s then a helter-skelter ride to find the culprit.
Fast moving, full of twists and turns to make you want to keep turning the page, fascinating characters (Stephanie, Thea’s thirteen-year-old step daughter is a pure delight), with justice for all at the end, what’s not to like?
Death on the Danube
Jennifer S. Alderson
This is the first in Jennifer’s Travel Can Be Murder series and as Lana the main character is a tour guide, there are no guesses as to why I chose to read this book.
Lana finds herself trapped with nine murder suspects on a Danube cruise. It’s a fun mystery and, rather like my Fiona, Lana ends up getting involved to the point of putting herself in danger.
Jennifer is a prolific writer and although this book came out in November of last year, she already has several others in the series now available, each one set in a different European country. That’s in addition to bringing out more books in her Zelda Richardson art mysteries.
Jennifer is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors and I’m a great fan of both series.
The Carlswick Mythology
Sheryl was a new author for me. What first attracted me to the book was the word mythology in the title. I read the burb and discovering its setting is Greece and involved smuggling, I downloaded a copy straight away.
The book did not disappoint. This is the 5th in the series although I had no problems reading it as a standalone. Needless to say, I fully intend to read the others in the series.
I have just finished reading another book by Sheryl. The first in a new series – The Kat Munro Thrillers
Sheryl has an enviable skill, in addition to being able to create a great fast-moving plot and credible characters, she has the rare ability to paint a vivid description, be it building, landscape or character, in only a single sentence.
The Deadly Houses
My next choice comes from a much grittier sub-genre – the psychological thriller. As you might expect from a serving police officer, in all the books in his DS Maddie Ives and DI Harry Blaker series, the realism of his police procedures is never in doubt. Despite the horror, Gallagher makes it all so credible.
The story hinges on four brutal domestic abusers who band together not only to find their wives and children now hidden in secret locations for their protection but to destroy the lives of the people who they blame for making it possible. The sheer sadistic evil of which these men are capable makes for stomach-churning reading, and this is certainly not a book for the faint hearted or squeamish. I must confess that I tend to read much closer to the cosy end of the scale that the noir, nonetheless, as with all his previous books, I found it a compulsive read. I couldn’t put it down and continued reading long into the night.
Gallagher is not only able to weave a compulsive plot, his characters leap off the page. Young Peter will linger in the memory for some time. The contrasting personalities of feisty, often impulsive Maddie Ives and her boss, the more introspective and often irascible Harry Blaker, make for a perfect partnership.
If you are a fan of action-packed thrillers with a complex plot, full of twists and turns to keep you on your toes, then this book is a must.
The Patient Man
Joy also writes police procedurals though in a somewhat less gruesome vein. This is the sixth book in her DI Jackman & DS Evans series. Like all her books, it’s set in the Lincolnshire Fens which evokes a remote misty bleak atmosphere that characterises this area of the country. It’s a fast-moving complex story involving seemingly unconnected crimes from an outbreak of amateurish thefts to a professional sniper who goes on a killing spree. But most disturbing for DI Jackman and DS Marie Evans is the reappearance of their arch nemesis serial killer Alistair Ashcroft.
There are no cardboard, two dimensional characters in the story. For all the fast-octane action, it’s the characters and their reactions to the traumatic situations in which they are place that drive the reader onwards.
Although it is possible to enjoy this book to the full without reading the earlier books in the series, I defy you not to want to get hold of the earlier books to find out more about what happened when Jackman and Evans first encountered the evil Alistair Ashcroft.
Black Heart : Arrival
Jay Allan Storey
By no means all the books I’ve read this year have been crime novels. I will admit that Canadian novelist Jay is a friend. We first met on a holiday in Costa Rica and again, quite by chance, on a tiger watching trip in India a few years later. Jay writes dystopian fiction which I do enjoy. I read his first book and have become quite addicted to them.
He pictures a world where centuries ago Earth was blown off its orbit. The population now live in a city deep below the surface. Although it is the second in his Black Heart series, it is set at a much later time and features different characters so it can be read as a standalone.
Ianthe and the Fighting Foxes
Living in a Jane Austen world for the last year as I’ve written the latest novel it’s hardly a surprise to find my final choice is a Regency Romance.
I’ve always loved Alicia Cameron’s delightful romps and I’ve read them all. Each one has provided a real escape to a world of feisty ‘Elizabeth Bennet’ ladies and distant, reserved ‘Mr Darcy’ heroes. We may have little doubt as to how the novel will end but the fun twists and turns, intrigues and diversions in getting there will keep you reading far longer than you ever intended.
When poor relation Ianthe comes to live in the house of her distant relative Lord Edward Fox, she refuses to be daunted by his stepmother, the intimidating Lady Fox who rules the household. Her arrival results in total disruption and some fun consequences.
What have you been reading?
There are so many more books I’ve discovered this year, but this blog is already far longer than I intended. Now it’s your opportunity to tell us all about your favourite read of the year. Use the comments box below and let us know which book you’d recommend and why?