_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Another brilliant year of books and blogging, so thanks to all my visitors, the support of my fellow bloggers and the wonderful publicists who provided me with a veritable smorgasbord of reading delights throughout the year! 2014 proved a bumper year of reading with 152 books read over the last twelve months with 70 reviews posted here, and 24 at CrimeFictionLover.com. I did have 30+ books that failed to overcome the Raven’s harsh 40 page rule (if you haven’t grabbed me by then all hope is lost!), and the year comprised of both crime fiction and fiction in a ratio of 3:1.

2015 promises further great reads, and I can see the focus of my blog shifting more towards debut authors, and more crime in translation. I will also be participating in the TBR Double Dog Dare Challenge  from January to March in a vain attempt to conquer the summit of my mountainous To-Be-Read pile! There are some crackers lurking in there as yet unread…

So here for your delectation and delight are the Raven’s Top 5 reads of the year. A Happy New Year to you and hope 2015 is full of great new reads for you all!

 

spring5. Cilla & Rolf Borjlind- Spring Tide

Opening with the unsettling murder of a young pregnant woman at the time of the spring tide, twenty-four years previously and now designated as a cold case: a case which a young police trainee, Olivia Ronning, is designated as a summer project. The plot unfolds in a number of directions, bringing the reader into the world of contemporary Sweden and a series of brutal attacks on the homeless community, cold-bloodedly filmed and uploaded to social media sites, a series of attacks that the police are failing to solve. Slowly, the two cases become intertwined, as Olivia joins forces with ex-police officer Tom Stilton, who served with Olivia’s late father on the original spring tide murder investigation, but is now a member of the homeless community, with all the dangers this presents… With its wonderfully balanced mix of murder mystery, a host of fascinating and multi-faceted characters, and the essential social comment of Scandinavian crime fiction , this was an altogether satisfying read that genuinely kept me reading to the wee small hours…

 

few4. Nadia Dalbuono- The Few

A singularly impressive Italian set crime debut. The story focuses on Detective Leone Scamarcio, the son of a once powerful mafia figure. Scamarcio has turned his back on the family business and is on the Rome police force. He is handed a file containing compromising photographs of the Italian foreign secretary with male prostitutes, and soon after that is embroiled in the disappearance of a young American girl on holiday with her family. As the possible links between the cases are revealed, Dalbuono conjurs up a thriller that is dark, compelling and totally unputdownable, that will appeal to all fans of the more hardboiled Italian crime fiction. Impressive indeed, and with such a mesmeric central character, I see more great things to come from this author…

 

 

 mm3. Malcolm Mackay- The Night The Rich Men Burned

With my ardent admiration of Mackay’s previous Glasgow Trilogy, (The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter; How A Gunman Says Goodbye and The Sudden Arrival of Violence)  this standalone proved the equal of its predecessors in every way.  This crime novel put me in mind of a kind of twisted Bildungsroman, as it is heavily centred on the adverse fortunes of two young men, Oliver Peterkinney and Alex Glass. Both are paving their way in the seedy and violent world of Glasgow’s criminal community- a hotbed of violence and criminal rivalries. Completely unflinching in its depiction of violence the book never shies away from the stark realities of life within the criminal fraternity. Oddly dispassionate, with a spare and staccato prose style, Mackay once again illustrates his original and refreshingly different take on the crime genre. Not a comfortable read, and one that will cleverly play with your perceptions of, and attitudes to, the characters within its pages which, I for one, find a much more rewarding reading experience. An excellent read…

 

the-lying-down-room2. Anna Jaquiery- The Lying Down Room

Having talked interminably about how truly brilliant this book is since June, its inclusion in my Top 5 was never in doubt. This is a thought provoking and atmospheric debut, set in France, which opens with the brutal murder of an elderly woman to the soundtrack of Faure’s Requiem. The reasons for this murder, and the choice of victim, baffle Chief Inspector Serge Morel and his team. As more killings occur, Morel makes a connection between the victims and two individuals who distribute religious pamphlets in the suburbs. His enquiries are taken into the past, away from Paris into the French countryside, and eventually to the heart of Soviet Russia. It’s a superbly multi-faceted thriller that plays with your emotions, and preys on the mind long after reading…

 

getImage21. Pierre Lemaitre- Irene

After the pure pleasure derived from Lemaitre’s UK debut Alex (the second in the Verhoeven series) , I was relishing the release of this, the first book. Quite simply this book is terrific, in the first instance with the superb characterisation of the central detective protagonist, Commandant Camille Verhoeven, the diminutive but dogged police officer on the trail of an insidious serial killer, dubbed The Novelist.  I loved the balance that Lemaitre achieves between the stalwart doggedness of this character, the natural sarcasm and humour that arises from his character, and the utter fear that overtakes him as all that he holds most dear is threatened by this barbaric killer. Likewise, I was overawed by Lemaitre’s humility and reverential treatment towards other seminal works of fiction within the crime genre. It is quickly revealed that the killer- The Novelist- is recreating scenes from cult crime novels (be warned- some are exceptionally violent), and throughout the course of the book, Lemaitre also pays homage to some of the finest crime novels produced, with a reverential tone and an altruistic attitude to writers that is rarely encountered. And there’s a twist- brilliant in its execution- that knocked me sideways. Lemaitre’s  control of the narrative, plotting and characterisation is beautiful throughout , and with his more literary writing style, produces a reading experience that truly engages the reader and immerses you fully in the trials and tribulations of his protagonists. Quite simply- perfect…

 

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