Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top 5 crime fiction debuts I enjoyed because they were murder most foul done so well

List by Tosca

Please note: This top 5 list has been transferred across from our Manukau Libraries website.

"Thrillers are like life—more like life than you are ... it's what we've all made of the world."
- Graham Greene

I'm an armchair detective at heart, whether it's tv series or books I fancy myself as Sherlock Holmes. Only with rings, bracelets and a pair of pink tartan shoes. There are a number of crime fiction series that I enjoyed following at first, only after a while they became formulaic, and I carried on reading them for no other reason than loyalty. But sometimes...sometimes, a debut novel comes along and reminds you of how it should be done.

The books below are all debut novels that made rather a big impression on me for various reasons.

The wrong kind of blood / Declan Hughes
After more than two decades away, private detective Ed Loy returns from L.A. to his hometown of Dublin for his mother's funeral. But his grieving soon takes an unexpected turn when his old classmate Linda Dawson pleads with him to find her missing husband, Peter. As if a worried wife with a seductive persona weren't enough to keep Loy occupied, his childhood pal turned small-time criminal, Tommy Owens, shows up on Loy's doorstep with a hard-luck story and a recently fired gun. When Loy finds an old photograph of his long-missing father on Peter Dawson's boat, and a corpse is discovered in the foundations of the local town hall, things begin to get personal. Then a murky property deal linked to the Dawson family not only threatens to expose the corrupt secrets concealed behind the great gates of the mansions on the hill, but also leads Loy to the land below, a violent underworld of drug dealing, extortion, and murder presided over by the notorious Halligan brothers, local purveyors of organized criminal mayhem. As he tries to lay the dead to rest, the case becomes a dark obsession, and Ed Loy finds that the truth of the present can only be fully understood by uncovering the secrets of the past, and that in Ireland, everything -- and everyone -- is connected.

Tosca's comment: A gripping read about a PI who comes home for his mother's funeral and finds an old friend and a mystery.

In the woods / Tana French
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

Tosca's comment: A beautiful cover to match the rather haunting story of a 20 year old mystery.

Sacrifice / S.J. Bolton
Moving to remote Shetland has been unsettling enough for consultant surgeon Tora Hamilton; even before the gruesome discovery she makes one rain-drenched Sunday afternoon... Deep in the peat soil of her field she is shocked to find the perfectly preserved body of a young woman, a gaping hole in her chest where her heart has been brutally removed. Three rune marks etched into the woman's skin bear an eerie resemblance to carvings Tora has seen all over the islands: in homes she has visited, even around a fireplace in her own cellar. As she uncovers disturbing links to an ancient Shetland legend, the unfriendly detective, her smooth-talking boss and even her own husband are at pains to persuade her to leave well alone. Is their concern genuine? Perhaps, for when terrifying threats start rolling in like the cold island mists it seems someone wants Tora out of the picture, once and for all.

Tosca's comment: Bolton made me appreciate how truly scary Shetland could be as a place to live when before I'd always seen it as simply a tourist destination. It still is, just one with more depth and spookiness thanks to this novel.

The hundredth man / Jack Kerley
A male torso found in the sweating heat of an Alabama night is assumed to be that of a murdered prostitute, killed in a moment of passion. However, Detective Carson Ryder sees something else: the deliberate placement of the remains, the lack of blood, the bizarre writing on the victim's skin.

Tosca's comment: Families are messy and inconvenient but oh! Kerley's rendition of dysfunctional families is brilliantly twisted.

Want to play? / P.J. Tracy also known as Monkeewrench / P.J. Tracy.
The slaying of an old couple in small-town America looks like a one-off act of brutal retribution. But at the same time, in Minneapolis, teams of detectives scramble to stop a serial killer striking again. When the two separate investigations converge, it seems an old killer has resurfaced.

Tosca's comment: Cliffhanger storyline! Although being a duo (mother/daughter writing team) may have something to do with being able to build the suspense so well.

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