Crime Fiction You Can Rely On

When it’s holiday season and foggy outside, you want comfort reading. During the Christmas break, I turned to tried and tested crime novelists, whose books I was sure I would enjoy. And I wasn’t disappointed!

afteryoudieEva Dolan: After You Die

A mother stabbed to death, her disabled daughter left to die of starvation upstairs. The family had previously complained of harassment: did the police not take things seriously enough? Not a refugee or immigrant in sight here, in this third crime novel by Eva Dolan looking at life in or near Peterborough.

Investigators Zigic and Ferreira from the Hate Crimes Unit take a break from xenophobia and political corruption to investigate a case of disability-related hate crime. Dolan proves she is equally at home in a village setting as she is in the grimy town centre, and her deliberately restricted domestic canvas conveys a palpable sense of claustrophobia. As always, a tight, well-written story, with a great deal of sadness at its heart. Never one to shy away from topical discussions, this time the author looks at cyberbullying, attitudes towards disabled people and assisted death.

nightblindRagnar Jonasson: Nightblind (trans. Quentin Bates)

After describing Jonasson’s debut novel Snowblind as a ‘charming combination of influences, which feels very fresh and will appeal to those who find cosy crime too twee and Scandinavian Noir too depressing’, I was looking forward to the second book to be translated.

The publisher Orenda Books chose to translate the books out of order, so this one takes us 5 years into the future, with the main character Ari Thor now settled in the isolated town he was nervous about initially. He is back together with his girlfriend, who works at a nearby hospital, and they have a baby boy. Siglufjördur is now less cut off now with the creation of an additional tunnel, but it remains a close-knit community, shattered by the murder of a policeman. Drug-dealers, corrupt politicians, a woman on the run from an abusive partner and a mysterious inmate in a psychiatric hospital all tease us with hints and possibilities. Ari Thor remains an intriguing character, at times naive and obstinate, at other times clear-eyed and thoughtful, trying to do his best by everyone. The great strength of this series is the setting, of course: local landscapes and the quirks of a small community are impeccably described and form an integral part of the action.

silentroomMari Hannah: The Silent Room

A standalone from the creator of the Kate Daniels’ police procedural series. This one has more of a thrillerish feel to it, and of course a new set of characters, but it has the trademark depth of characterisation and good storytelling that we’ve come to expect of Mari Hannah.

The story starts with a bang: DS Matthew Ryan’s disgraced boss Jack Fenwick is ‘sprung’ from a security van hijacked by armed men. Ryan himself is suspected of aiding and abetting the fugitive, but he believes his former boss was being set up and may have been kidnapped. In an effort to prove his own innocence and find out the reasons behind Fenwick’s disappearance, he enlists the help of former colleagues who are prepared to subvert the rules. I particularly enjoyed calm, collected Special Branch officer Grace Ellis, who cannot bear the boredom of early retirement, nor the slandering of her former colleagues.

Although the trail does lead to Norway and beyond, this is not your bog-average international conspiracy thriller or all-action, all-out action man stuff – which is a good thing in my book. I am not often entranced by thrillers, because it’s all plot, fight, shoot, run, improbable coincidence… but this is much subtler and less graphic than that. There are chilling moments of real menace, though, to keep lovers of ‘normal thrillers’ happy, as well as sadness. It’s a bravura mix of action, puzzling motivations, and all of the main (and many of the secondary) characters are so well drawn, the dynamics between them completely believable.

So, if you are looking for exciting, entertaining but also thought-provoking crime fiction reads, I can heartily recommend any one of these three authors. Have you read any of their books? And do you also turn to reliable reads during the holiday season?

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22 thoughts on “Crime Fiction You Can Rely On”

    1. If you don’t mind reading books out of order, my favourite so far of the Kate Daniels series was ‘Deadly Deceit’ (the third), but this standalone makes for a good intro as well to her work.

  1. I have read After You Die and am in the process of writing my review, though it’s no spoiler to say I enjoyed it. I have Nightblind to read but I did enjoy Snowblind. I’ve yet to read any of Mari’s books, though I think I should 🙂

    1. It sounds like we have similar tastes in crime fiction, so I expect you would enjoy Mari Hannah quite a lot. Satisfying, meaty police procedurals, and realistic interactions between people.

  2. So glad you enjoyed After You Die, Marina Sofia! It’s not available in the US yet, but I am very much looking forward to reading it. And you’ve reminded me that I need to spotlight some of Mari Hannah’s work sometimes soon. I feel rather ashamed for not having done so yet…

  3. I do tend to look to one or two tried and trusted authors during the winter, writers like Andrea Camilleri or Simenon. Short stories are often a good bet for the Christmas break when my reading time gets squeezed by the festivities
    Glad to hear all three of these hit the spot for you. I’ve seen lots of praise for Eva Dolan in particular – her name keeps coming up.

    1. Ah, Camilleri and Simenon are excellent ‘go to’ authors as well. I really can recommend Eva Dolan – the social themes running through her books ring very true, without becoming preachy.

  4. I have no idea why you found the Eva Dolan comfort reading, Marina, with its themes of claustrophophobia, death and great sadness… But I shall certainly try the other two! Thanks

    1. When I say ‘comfort reading’, I don’t mean ‘easy’ or ‘escapist’ reading. I do have a preference for dark crime fiction with social themes, so that’s my ‘go to’ favourite reading matter.

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed Snowblind so I’m glad to hear Nightblind is good too. Why on earth do they translate them out of order though? It drives me crazy…!!

    1. I trust Karen from Orenda Books to do the best for her authors, so there must have been a good reason for it… I think… However, there is little reference to events in previous books (other than a bit to Snowblind), so it doesn’t cause too much disorientation.

  6. I have a review of ‘After You Die’ scheduled for later in the month. I loved Dolan’s first book, I thought the characters just walked straight off the page, but I worried if she would find enough variety in her plots given that the focus is hate crimes in a largely immigrant area. Well, I needn’t have worried and I think she is getting better with each book. She is going to be one of the greats.

  7. I am so behind in reading stories specially crime fiction, my favorite genre ~ Will tell hubby to check those books for me ~ Thanks Marina and wishing you Happy New Year ~

  8. Thank you for this list! I’m off to get samples. I’ve been interested in reading Eva Dolan for awhile now.

  9. I have only heard wonderful things about Mari Hannah’s ‘The Silent Room’, so you can’t all be wrong! Although you are all guilty of adding more and more books to my TBR piles. THANK YOU.

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