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October 13
All That Man Is by David Szalay

All That Man Is
 

David Szalay’s fourth novel was an unusual contender for the 2016 Man Booker prize because it is effectively nine standalone stories. All That Man Is opens with two students travelling Europe during the summer prior to their final A-Level year and subsequent chapters (short stories?) portray male protagonists who are progressively older. There are subtle connections between chapters - a technique not dissimilar to the one used so effectively by Jennifer Egan in A Visit From The Goon Squad. For example, sex between young men and older women features in the first two stories while despair about how meaningless their lives have become provides a link between later chapters. Even when the grandfather of one of the characters from the first chapter appears in the final story, the younger male only features in conversations and e-mails between the grandfather and his wife or daughter. 

In all cases, the main male characters are away from home, whether that be on holiday, for work or due to migration. This dislocation exposes flaws and weaknesses to the extent that none of the protagonists emerge as particularly admirable men but rather appear awkward, devious, sleazy or pitiable. Interestingly, many of the women display similar failings but they are secondary characters and readers will tend to focus more on the men, which is probably the author’s intention given the title of the book.

Such is the strength of David Szalay’s writing that readers are left wanting more as each chapter ends but then quickly become every bit as involved with the next story. All That Man Is will appeal to those who enjoy readable literary fiction, provided they remember that some men do possess redeeming features!

Submitted by David

Available as a book

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October 10
Night Passage by Robert B. Parker

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Robert B Parker has been delivering quality crime novels for decades, so it seems unlikely that a reader of this genre would not be familiar with his work.  He is perhaps best known for his Spenser novels; a super-fit private detective with a quick wit and a sensitive side.

Night Passage introduces Jesse Stone, an LA homicide detective who is in many ways the polar opposite of Spenser.  His life is on the rocks, his marriage to his actress wife in tatters, and his fondness for alcohol eclipses all else.

After an interview during which it is patently obvious that he is intoxicated he is appointed to the post of Chief of Police in the small town of Paradise in Massachusetts. Despite being well aware that the only possible reason for such an outcome is corruption, intrigue and the opportunity for escape lead Stone to accept the job.

Hathaway, the town official who appointed him, quickly discovers that Stone’s faculties and moral fibre have not been eroded by the copious amount of alcohol he consumes and so begins the dance.

As with the rest of the Jesse Stone series, this novel is thoughtful and moody.  Stone’s character is righteous although flawed; his intelligence and observational skills go to work on whatever injustice he encounters but he is no superhero or vigilante.  He is laid back to the point of inertia, but his place in the town on the fringes, both physically and socially, gives him a vantage point from which to become a chess player, carefully manoeuvring the town’s law-breakers without their awareness.

Parker’s style in this series is hypnotic; the bleak ordinariness of small-town life comes up out of the pages, painting a picture of a life that is slow and undemanding but every bit as suffocating as any big city rat-race.  The contrast between Stone’s ability to read and manipulate others while being self-aware yet incapable of fixing himself is almost painful but he is a wonderful character, and Night Passage is a great introduction to a really good series.

Submitted by Lorna

Available as a book

Reserve your copy here

 
October 10
A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
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A is for Alibi is the first in the Kinsey Millhone mystery series by Sue Grafton. A tough-talking former cop, private investigator Kinsey has set up a modest detective agency in a quiet corner of Santa Teresa, California. A twice-divorced loner with few personal possessions and fewer personal attachments, she's got a soft spot for underdogs and lost causes.

Kinsey is approached by a woman who has been wrongfully imprisoned for 8 years after being charged as guilty for the murder of her husband, a cheating, divorce lawyer who it seems everybody wanted dead. Kinsey is hired to find the truth behind his murder and also comes across another murder of a young woman who knew the victim and died in exactly the same way. 

This is a fast-paced mystery thriller with plenty of twists and turns and multiple suspects to keep the reader busy.

Submitted by Pete

Available as a book

Reserve your copy here

 
 
October 10
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
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The Snowman is the seventh book in Nesbø’s Inspector Harry Hole series although it was tellingly the first of the series released in the UK. Nesbø may not have been the first Nordic crime author to darken our shores but his presence is a welcome addition to our shelves. 

The Snowman is everything you’d expect from a Scandinavian author, and more. It is a police procedural; a tense almost macabre thriller; and a social issues commentary all rolled into one. A new female partner also adds some of the power struggle dynamics so familiar to fans of novels featuring crime fighting duos.

As with many Nordic novels, the landscape and weather provide much of the tension and atmosphere of the plot – after all snowmen are representative of childhood innocence and carefree fun in winter wonderlands, aren’t they?  Unfortunately, for Harry and his team that does not prove to be the case.

The disappearance of a woman at the same time as a snowman appears outside her home; a letter to Harry from someone who calls himself ‘The Snowman’ and a string of women who went missing on the first snowfall of the year are the dots that lead him to believe he is dealing with a serial killer, one with a personal motive, one determined to use Harry as a player in his sadistic games.

With Nordic crime authors there’s no guarantee that things will all work out in the end or that the protagonist will emerge intact, but Nesbø’s storytelling will make the journey simultaneously enjoyable and terrifying. And completely change your perceptions of snowmen.

Submitted by Lorna

Available as a book or eBook and audiobook

 

 
October 10
A Morning for Flamingos by James Lee Burke

 

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At first glance this novel seems to be a stereotypical American crime novel; male lead character – check; lead character has a military background – check; lead character has a crime solving partner – check; lead character has addiction problems – check.  But so what?  Just because a novel follows a formula, it doesn’t mean it is not enjoyable, indeed far from it, but the more important question is why should it be in the top 10?  The simple answer is the writing style of James Lee Burke and a central character of Dave Robicheaux.  If you are used to fast-paced crime novels with short chapters and action set pieces every forty pages, this will book will represent a change of pace.  Each character and scene is drawn out in detail and we are sucked into the underworld of New Orleans hitmen, drug dealers and the Mafia.

In this novel, Robicheaux is forced to face his own mortality and to question how he acted in those final moments before impending death and the aftermath of survival.  Robicheaux’ s own moral code is (a key feature of this novel and indeed Burke’s writing) is shaken and he looks for a way to redeem himself in his own eyes.  Coerced into a partnership with the FBI and surrounded by danger, Robicheaux  enters the world of the New Orleans Mafia in an attempt to set up a sting operation. However the people he encounters cause him to question his decisions both now and in the past. Faced with danger on all sides and his own moral uncertainty Robicheaux must act to complete his task and ultimately try to save his life.

Submitted by Sean

Available as a book

Reserve your copy here

 
October 10
The Watchman by Robert Crais

 

 
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Part of the joy for me in reading crime novels is the recurring list of characters who appear in each novel.  How these characters develop over time is every bit as interesting as the crimes. The lead characters, partners, lovers, friends and enemies add context, humour and depth to the story but rarely get to move from the background.  However this novel is an exception, where the story centres on Joe Pike, the strong silent and violent partner of Private Detective Elvis Cole. Joe Pike, ex LAPD, gun shop owner, ex-Marine and ex-mercenary, has a debt to pay. Joe must now baby sit a LA wild child heiress – Larkin Conner Barkley and protect her from a drugs cartel.

The story requires Joe to work with his ex-LAP partner, Larkin’s family and the FBI. As the attacks on Larkin continue, Joe must face the realisation that all or some of the people he trusts are lying to him.  In order to save Larkin, Joe must find out who wants to kill Larkin and why. Knowing only one way to tackle a problem, Joe decides to turn the tables and starts to hunt the hunters.

This is more than just a simple crime novel, as it explores how the characters formative years have shaped and moulded them into the people we see on the page before us. It explores how fear affects different people in different ways. And when your life is on the line, who you can really trust.

Submitted by Sean

Available as a book and audiobook

Reserve your copy here

 
 
October 10
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has long been regarded as one of the cornerstones of crime fiction. As well as a cast of characters that includes a troubled family and its domestic staff, the story contains one of the most celebrated plot twists in crime writing history.

When the widow, Mrs. Ferrars, commits suicide, and the wealthy Roger Ackroyd is murdered within a few days, the small English village of King's Abbot is more full of gossip than usual. The murder is a complete mystery to the incompetent local police. Fortunately, though, the famous detective Hercule Poirot has just moved into King's Abbot and agrees to take on the case, even though he has already decided to retire from detective work.

In November 2013, 600 members of the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) of professional novelists, concluded that this 1926 mystery was the finest example of the genre ever penned.

Submitted by Pete

Available as a book, eBook and audiobook

Reserve your copy here

 
October 10
The Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter

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This is the final Inspector Morse novel. I read all of them and they were all excellent. This book is about Morse's last case, which he solves as always with Sergeant Lewis's help. But the case itself is not what really matters here: it is the MAN himself with all his little faults, his drinking problem, his unhappy love-affairs; the man who loves Wagner and enjoys driving his Jag; the 'loyal, honest policeman.

A year after the murder of Mrs. Yvonne Harrison at her home, the CID are still baffled. Morse refused to become involved, even after new evidence and a fresh murder arose. Sergeant Lewis's loyalty to Morse turns to distress as his own investigation suggests Mrs. Harrison was no stranger to Morse. This was probably the longest of all Morse novels, yet it sustains the reader's interest, primarily because we want to see what happens to Morse. For the Morse novels have never really been about solving crime, have they? They're about the character.

Submitted by Pete

Available as a book and an eBook

Reserve your copy here

 
October 10
The Burning Man by Christopher Fowler
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This is the twelfth of Christopher Fowler's books in the Bryant & May series and, as always, features the Peculiar Crimes Unit - a tiny (and normally maligned) division of the Metropolitan Police which specialises in solving, as the name suggests, strange and unusual crimes. Or, to put it another way, to solve the crimes that nobody else wants to! It’s the week before Guy Fawkes and London’s banks are under siege.

Although started by the scandal of a corrupt financier, the violence is growing and now includes murder by fire. But the death doesn’t look accidental to the Bryant and May of the PUC, especially not when a second fire also kills. This series is always fun to read, though often gruesome and fairly heartrending - over-age detectives, a touch of creepiness, plenty of horrific murders and a solid mystery.

A witty, engaging mix of crime drama and comedy that's also an esoteric history of London.

Submitted by Pete

Available as a book

Reserve your copy here

 
October 10
Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
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Despite being a reader of a wide range of fiction, over the last few years the majority of my reading has been from the crime/thriller shelves. Most have been enjoyable, a few formulaic and a few the kind you want all your friends to read. ‘Distress Signals’ has been by far my favourite and fits firmly in the last category.

Adam is an aspiring author, Sarah the long-suffering girlfriend. When she disappears from his life after a ‘business trip’ he is convinced that something has happened to her but has a hard job convincing anyone who could help that she hasn’t just given up on them. When he finds out that she was actually on a cruise ship, he sets out to follow her trail himself.

Catherine Ryan Howard is an author to watch – as a debut novel this is amazing; many established authors would be proud to have produced such a well-crafted storyline delivered with such deftness of touch that your eyes glide through the book, never hanging up on clumsy sentences or pausing to consider the purpose or intent of a character or losing sense of the story.

One of the truly outstanding things is that everything is relevant; there really are no red herrings, no crazy twists leading the reader down blind alleys.  That’s not to say that the plot is obvious or dull; more that each turn of the page provides additional information and by the end you know what happened, as simple as that.

The only problem with this book is the speed at which it is devoured – despite having a plot well-rooted in reality, it races along, pulling you in its wake, a willing but somewhat breathless participant.

Submitted by Lorna

Available as a book and an eBook

Reserve your copy here

 
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