By Russel D McLean
Yes, its the time of year where everyone does their "best of" lists of the year, so I figured I'm one for jumping on bandwagons and therefore give you my top 5 reads of this year (in no particular order and probably missing out one or two that I completely forgot about, but these are in my brainpan right now):
1) THE CRY - Helen Fitzgerald: Wow. Oh, wow. A devastatingly well written novel about a woman whose child is killed during a holiday and the aftermath of the terrible decision she may or may not have made. Its got a straight from the headlines hook, but Fitzgerald is such an exceedingly clever author that she never once judges her characters or their decisions, leaving the reader in the uncomfortable position of having to work out who to trust and who not to believe. Its a brilliant and unsettling novel that you absolutely have to read.
2) ONION STREET by Reed Farrel Coleman: Coleman's Moe Prager series is drawing to an end, which is sad news for fans of the conflicted and always intriguing wine-store owning hardboiled eye from Brooklyn. But this book - which skips to Moe's college years - is one of his finest adventures yet; a mix of recent history, character development and brilliant plotting that confirms Coleman's place among the greatest crime writers you might not yet have read. If you haven't read Moe yet, you really need to start. Now.
3) WOUNDED PREY by Sean Lynch. An unexpected entry for me as this one just kind of dropped through the letterbox. But with its Michael Connelly-esque feel and its brilliant understanding of the psychotic nature of its bad guy, this is one of the few serial killer novels I really enjoyed this year. Or indeed, ever (I'm not a big serial killer novel fan, so they have to do a lot to convince me) Lynch has a great future in the genre, and I'm glad to have got in at the ground level.
4) THE HARD BOUNCE by Todd Robinson. Another debut, and one I admittedly read a year or so ago (but it was just released this year - yeah, check the front pages, this one's got a blurb on it from me) - - but its a great read and Robinson has an authentically tough new voice. THE HARD BOUNCE is the kind of novel I love. Full of street level violence and barely any hero cops to be seen. Boo Malone is a brilliant creation and frankly I'm looking forward to whatever Robinson does next.
5) NOS4R2 by Joe Hill. Hill has been on my watchlist for a while. His HEART SHAPED box was a little too constrained by its King-esque conventions (and yes, Hill is King's son, but I didn't know that, then) but was very readable and great fun. HORNS was brilliantly good fun, although fell apart a little towards the end. Still, an original concept and even more assured writing. But NOS4R2 is brilliant. A sustained (and huge - we all know I usually don't like big novels) and thrilling novel that never quite does what you expect, it starts with a killer whose car takes him to his "inscape"; a place inside his own head he calls Christmasland. Our killer takes children to Christmasland in the belief that he is helping them. To do this he employs the assistance of a strange individual known as GasMask Man. Meanwhile, a girl discovers her own inscape and soon finds herself in the path of this monstrous killer. Nothing happens the way you might expect, and Hill creates an imaginative, epic horror that never once forgets about character or atmosphere. Its all a little surreal but very well conceived, and I admit to shivering more than once. I can't wait to see where Hill goes from here.