Best Crime of 2008 by Elvis McBeth

Cold In Hand by John Harvey

Cold In Hand by John Harvey

Here we go again, another year older and deeper in debt, literally, if you believe everything you read in the papers. But there are still a lot of great crime novels out there to keep your mind off the credit crunch this winter, so stick around and check out these winners with me.

Kicking off the list in fine style is the latest D.I Faraday novel, The Price Of Darkness by Graham Hurley (Orion H/B £9.99) It all starts off with what looks like a professional hit on a property developer with an interest in an M.O.D. site in Portsmouth which could yield rich pickings if turned into residential homes.  Then a government minister is assassinated. What’s the connection? Also, there’s a problem with ex-copper and Faraday’s old sparring partner Paul Winter who is now working for Bazza Mackenzie, Pompey’s leading crime lord. But has he really left the side of the angels? As I’ve said before, Hurley just gets better and better, and this book is his best so far.

Another writer who rarely disappoints is Jonathan Kellerman, and his new novel , Obsession (Michael Joseph H/B £14.99) featuring psychologist Alex Delaware is no exception. A patient from the past shows up at Alex’s office to try and discover what terrible  secret her mother tried to divulge on her death bed. With the assistance of cop buddy Milo Sturgis, Alex delves deeply into what turns out to be a plot involving the great and the good of Los Angeles high society and the dregs of the city’s low life. A read-in-one-go book.

The same could be said for Eye Of The Beholder by David Ellis (Quercus H/B £14.99) where, again, the past throws up secrets that were better hidden, as attorney Paul Riley discovers that the case that he has built his career on may not have been all it seemed. A serial killer brought to justice fifteen years previously could have had accomplices, as more grisly murders in his style are perpetrated, and the killer has Riley in his sights. Edgar Award winner Ellis delivers the goods from the first to the last page.

Twenty-five years ago, fourteen year old Cynthia Bigges’ family just vanished one night, and twenty-five years later she’s none the wiser as to what happened to them. It was a cause celebre for a while, then forgotten, but not by her, or the man she subsequently married. Then a cold case TV show  highlights her story and suddenly it’s front page news again. People are being murdered left, right and centre, and that’s not all. Mystery piles up on mystery in a striking debut, No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay (Orion H/B £9.99) If you admire the novels  of Harlen Coben, then this book should be top of your Christmas list.

When Joe Denton, disgraced ex-cop gets out of prison, he finds he’s not welcome back in the town he used to police. His wife and daughter have fled. His mother and father can barely stand him near them, and his old colleagues want him dead or gone, or preferably both. He’s attacked, and then wrongly accused of rape, but Joe just won’t leave things alone, as his life appears to resemble a car crash in slow motion. Violent, but with an edge of graveyard humour, Small Crimes by David Zelserman (Serpents Tail P/B £7.99) shows the author to be the natural successor to Jim Thompson, which as far as I’m concerned can be no greater accolade.

Fans of John Harvey, and there are many, will celebrate the resurrection of Charlie Resnick in Cold In Hand (William Heinemann H/B £12.99) Charlie is now living in harmony with D.I. Lynn Kellogg,until she gets shot and is blamed for the death of a young black girl. Resnick is called into the case which causes some aggro at home, but worse is to come. Much worse, and he goes into decline. Understandably. But eventually all comes clear and he manages to find some peace in a far-off country. Harvey writes what are definitely in the top three police procedurals in the UK, filled with humanity and understanding of the human condition, plus a few sharp words on our immigration policy. No wonder he’s collecting so many awards these days. 

What could be a better time to disappear off the face of the earth than in New York in the aftermath of 9/11? This is the premise of the latest, and finest novel so far featuring Detective-Superintendent Roy Grace by Peter James (Dead Man’s Footsteps -Macmillan H/B £16.99) as the Brighton based copper travels to the Big Apple to investigate the last days of a local businessman who just doesn’t seem to be as dead as he wants the world to believe. Cracking, with a real sting in its tail. 

As Los Angeles burns around them, Elvis Cole and his buddy, Pike roam the city, looking for proof that, seven years ago, the pair didn’t provide tainted evidence that freed  a guilty man on a murder charge, leaving him able to kill and kill again. Crais is among the best of the best, and Chasing Darkness (Orion H/B £12.99) proves it once again. Elvis (Crazy name, crazy guy) has definitely not left the building!

And finally, a reprint that’s been a long time coming but has been well worth the wait. Homicide-A Year on The Killing Streets by David Simon (Canongate P/B £12.99) first published in the early nineties is the big,  fat true crime masterpiece featuring the Baltimore police force that begot the wonderful TV series Homicide-Life On The Streets that begot The Wire. Need I say more?

Happy new year.

My Favourite Novel by Mark Timlin

 

The Big SleepTHE BIG SLEEP by RAYMOND CHANDLER

The Big Sleep is Raymond Chandler’s masterpiece. The best crime novel ever written bar none. Almost single handedly Chandler invented the genre of the hard drinking, hard smoking, hard loving, sharply dressed, first person, private detective, with a wisecrack for every occasion, and a bullet for every bad guy and gal. Over the last seventy years his hero Philip Marlowe has been the template for dozens of crime writers. Just think Ross Macdonald, John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker,  Derek Marlowe, Alan Sharp, Timothy Harris, Roger L. Simon, Robert Crais, and yours truly, plus loads more. (Not all first person I admit, but well in the Chandler groove, and if you don’t know any of these authors, Google them)

The novel opens with a paragraph that has been quoted time and time again as a classic of the genre. I don’t intend to reprint it here, just read the book if you haven’t already. And if you haven’t shame on you.

Simply, the plot of the novel is that a rich old man with two beautiful daughters who make Paris Hilton look tame, is being blackmailed. Enter Marlowe, who cuts a swathe through the Los Angeles demi monde, and solves the case quick fast.

Great plot, great characters, great atmosphere. Just the greatest.

Rarely out of print, Penguin put out a new paperback edition in 2005.