Ian Rankin Recommends His Top 5 Reads of 2019
Although famous as the undisputed king of Tartan Noir and the creator of DI John Rebus, Ian Rankin's rediscovered space-race thriller Westwind is a very different but equally compelling proposition this Christmas. Find out what books the crime maestro couldn't put down this year.
I'm hoping I might be unwrapping the latest novels from John le Carre and Robert Harris this December 25th. But if you are thinking of Christmas gifts I'd also suggest the following, which have been among my favourite reads of this year:
You could almost call Herron the 'anti' le Carre. He writes with great humour as well as tension about a group of spy misfits based in London, under the baleful supervision of their grotesque boss Jackson Lamb. In this instalment, the spies head to Wales on a fraught mission involving shady arms dealers and a member of the royal family.
Harper writes wonderfully evocative whodunits set in the glaring heat of the Australian outback. In this, her third book, a farmer is found dead on a parched piece of land. His brother needs to know why he died, but in doing so family secrets and old wounds will need to be ripped open. It'll keep you gripped to the last page.
I cannot believe the Booker judges missed this short, brilliantly evocative novel by one of our supreme storytellers. O'Brien's research is meticulous but she never allows it to overshadow her central character, a schoolgirl abducted in Nigeria and forced into marriage to a rebel soldier. When she eventually escapes, she finds her life back home to be no less troubled. This is an affecting and powerful story ripped from contemporary news headlines.
Kerr was a giant of the historical crime novel. This latest adventure for his hero Bernie Gunther was, alas, published posthumously. It fizzes with energy and ideas as we are taken back to Bernie's early days as a police officer in 1920s Berlin. Real historical events and characters flit across the pages as Bernie tries to discover who is murdering the city's prostitutes - and attacking homeless war veterans. A bittersweet, bravura close to what has been a superb series of books.
You probably won't have come across a character like the hero of this book before. Mary Shields is a parole officer in Glasgow with a chaotic lifestyle who finds her personal and professional lives spiralling out of control. Along the way Fitzgerald touches on the men's movement, new media and social issues, but it's the powerhouse central character who'll keep you reading and snorting with laughter. She's spellbinding - though I'm not sure I'd ever want to meet her!
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