Welcome to day three and the grand finale of a host of lovely authors picking their favourite reads of 2015. Fellow blogger Vicki and I have been overwhelmed with the wonderful and eclectic responses to this feature and it seems like a lovely way to finish off 2015 and head into 2016…
Today I have Rod Reynolds, John Connolly, Jane Casey, Sarah Bannan, Caroline Mitchell, Quentin Bates, Mason Cross, Jenny Blackhurst, Sharon Sant, Ragnar Jonasson, Sarah Pinborough, Helen Giltrow and Neil White telling us their ONE top pick for books they read in 2015.
Pop over to Vicki’s place http://off-the-shelfbooks.blogspot.co.uk/ to see who SHE has for you today!
Rod Reynolds, author of The Dark Inside, published by Faber & Faber in September 2015 (And incidentally my No 1 read of 2015!) chose:
A complex and engaging protagonist, an unusual and atmospheric setting, and prose to die for. More please!
When an elderly recluse discovers a corpse on his land, Officer Henry Farrell follows the investigation to strange places in the countryside, and into the depths of his own frayed soul.
Click here to Purchase Dry Bones in the Valley published by Faber in 2014.
Follow Rod on Twitter @Rod_WR and if you fancy trying The Dark Inside (oh yes you do!) click here
John Connolly, author of A Song of Shadows, published by Hodder in paperback in January 2016 (The Charlie Parker series being my favourite series ever in the history of books)
My pick of the year is a reissue, actually – or rather two linked reissues. THE UNFORTUNATE FURSEY and THE RETURN OF FURSEY, written by the Irish writer Mervyn Wall, were first published in the 1940s, and are masterpieces of Irish comic fantasy, even if the second is more downbeat than the first. At a time when Irish writers had largely abandoned the fantasy genre, Wall was one of the few who embraced it, albeit temporarily. Swan River Press in Dublin has reissued both books in beautiful new editions, and they now grace my shelves.
Originally published as two novels in 1946 and 1948, The Complete Fursey comprises The Unfortunate Fursey and The Return of Fursey. They are a blend of satire, comedy and fantasy set in the 10th century where Fursey encounters sorcery, demons, witches, Vikings and the wealthy Festus Wisenuts.
Click here to purchase The Unfortunate Fursey published by Swan River Press in 2015
Jane Casey, author of the Maeve Kerrigan series published by Ebury After the Fire published in 2015.
I’ve got about six different books of the year in different genres but my choice has to be a YA novel, All the Rage by Courtney Summers (which is actually coming out in January 2016 in the UK). Romy Grey is a rape survivor with no hope of getting justice since her attacker is the sheriff’s handsome, popular son. It’s beautifully written, searingly truthful and combines a profound understanding of teenage culture with a gripping storyline. Completely compelling.
The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.
With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women after an act of sexual violence, forcing us to ask ourselves: In a culture that refuses to protect its young girls, how can they survive?
Click here to purchase All The Rage published by Macmillan in 2015/Paperback 2016
Sarah Bannan, author of Weightless, published by Bloomsbury, paperback in March 2016
I read so, so many books that I loved this year, and so many of them by Irish writers – including Tender by Belinda McKeon, The Green Road by Anne Enright, The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray & Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann – but when asked to pick one book, I inevitably fall back on the utterly brilliant, eye-opening and beautiful One by Sarah Crossan. It’s a verse novel that is also a page turner, and it as heartbreaking as it is life affirming. The writing is pitch perfect, and not a moment or word is wasted. Although it’s marketed for young adults, I think it has a universal appeal, and I’ve been feverishly pressing it into people’s hands since finishing it earlier this year.
Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins, joined at the waist, defying the odds of survival for sixteen years. They share everything, and they are everything to each other. They would never imagine being apart. For them, that would be the real tragedy.
But something is happening to them. Something they hoped would never happen. And Grace doesn’t want to admit it. Not even to Tippi.
How long can they hide from the truth—how long before they must face the most impossible choice of their lives?
Click here to Purchase One published by Bloomsbury Childrens in 2015
Caroline Mitchell author of Time To Die published in 2015 by Bookouture
I knew from other reviews that there was a twist in the middle of the book, but I still didn’t see it coming. As others have said, I am now compelled to go back to the start and read the book again, knowing what I know. It’s so cleverly written, seamlessly flowing between characters, who all carry their own issues. I defy you not to read it in a couple of days, because you won’t be able to put it down.
A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?
In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.
Click here to purchase I Let You Go published by Sphere in 2014
Quentin Bates, author of Cold Steal and Thin Ice (published by Constable in March 2016), and translator of Ragnar Jonasson’s Snowblind & Nightblind (published by Orenda Books)
Kati Hiekkapelto’s the Defenceless was one of a few books this year that I couldn’t put down – Anna Fekete is a sharply drawn and entirely real character, and David Hackston’s translation does Kati proud.
When an old man is found dead on the road—seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair—police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complex case, she’s led on a deadly trail where illegal immigration, drugs, and, ultimately, murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life.
Click Here to purchase The Defenceless published in 2015 by Orenda Books
Mason Cross author of the Carter Blake thrillers published by Orion
A tense, gripping mystery in a unique environment – a nuclear submarine. Fantastic lead character, I can’t wait for the next one!
Two hundred metres below the surface,
she will have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
A sailor hangs himself on board a naval submarine. Although ruled a suicide Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, the Navy’s finest Special Branch investigator, knows the sailor’s wife was found brutally murdered only days before.
Now Dan must enter the cramped confines of HMS Tenacity to interrogate the tight-knit, male crew and determine if there’s a link.
Standing alone in the face of extreme hostility and with a possible killer on board, Dan soon realises that she may have to choose between the truth and her own survival.
The pressure is rising and Dan’s time is running out…
Click here to purchase Tenacity published by Headline in 2015
Jenny Blackhurst author of How I Lost You published by Headline in 2015
It was so atmospheric, you could smell the salt in the sea and hear the waves crash against the cliffs. I was holding my breath for the last 30 pages! Brilliantly plotted and emotionally crushing – I cried more than once and it made me want to hug my boys and never let go
In such a small community as the Falkland Islands, a missing child is unheard of. In such a dangerous landscape it can only be a terrible tragedy, surely…
When another child goes missing, and then a third, it’s no longer possible to believe that their deaths were accidental, and the villagers must admit that there is a murderer among them. Even Catrin Quinn, a damaged woman living a reclusive life after the accidental deaths of her own two sons a few years ago, gets involved in the searches and the speculation.
Click here to purchase Little Black Lies published by Transworld in 2015
Follow Jenny on Twitter @JennyBlackhurst and if you fancy trying How I Lost You click here
Sharon Sant, author of Dead Girl Walking published independently in 2015
It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever read, and I was fascinated by how the elements that really shouldn’t work together, did. It was also full of humour and just wonderfully clever. I would love to see it made into a film and I can’t wait to continue the series.
My name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – We do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. And that, as they say, is where the story begins.
Click here to purchase Rivers of London published by Gollanz in 2011
Ragnar Jonasson author of Snowblind and Nightblind published by Orenda Books.
Runaway by Peter May. Wonderfully written by one of the current masters of crime fiction
In 1965, five teenage friends fled Glasgow for London to pursue their dream of musical stardom. Yet before year’s end three returned, and returned damaged.
In 2015, a brutal murder forces those three men, now in their sixties, to journey back to London and finally confront the dark truth they have run from for five decades.
Follow Ragnar on Twitter @ragnarjo and visit his website here
Sarah Pinborough author of 13 Minutes published by Gollanz in 2016 and various other novels. Also one of my favourite authors, she writes with a truly unique style.
Only Ever Yours.. a Handmaid’s tale for the modern generation that will linger with you long after you finish reading
frieda and isabel have been best friends their whole lives.
Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate.
But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to remain perfect becomes almost unbearable. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty – her only asset – in peril.
And then, the boy arrive, eager to choose a bride.
frieda must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known.
Click here to purchase Only Ever Yours published by Quercus in 2014
Helen Giltrow, author of The Distance, published by Orion in 2015
How did I get to 2015 without reading Don Winslow’s epic tale of the Mexican drug wars, The Power of the Dog? Published a decade ago, it passed me by completely until a chance tweet this summer had Mark Hill, Rod Reynolds and Stav Sherez all recommending it to me. Astonishing in scope and scale, and one of the all-time great crime novels.
The prequel to The Cartel, and set about 10 years earlier, The Power of the Dog introduces a brilliant cast of characters. Art Keller is an obsessive DEA agent. The Barrera brothers are heirs to a drug empire. Nora Hayden is a jaded teenager who becomes a high-class hooker. Father Parada is a powerful and incorruptible Catholic priest. Callan is an Irish kid from Hell’s kitchen who grows up to be a merciless hit man. And they are all trapped in the world of the Mexican drug Federación. From the streets of New York City to Mexico City and Tijuana to the jungles of Central America, this is the war on drugs like you’ve never seen it.
Click here to purchase The Power of the Dog published by Vintage in 2006
Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenGiltrow and if you would like to try The Distance click here.
Neil White author of The Parker Brothers Trilogy published by Sphere. And still my 2nd favourite author 🙂
Hardly a new one, first published in 1970 with the title Jack’s Return Home and subsequently made into a film starring Michael Caine (I’m not going to mention the Stallone version). I was asked to read it in order to have an online conversation about it, with Nick Quantrill, a longstanding fan of the book, and I was instantly transported back to the north I remember of my childhood. Industry and grimy glamour, of fur coats and tall chimneys, Players No 6 and dark bitter. Small town big men and incessant gloom. The book is noir but firmly of the North.
As much as prose can be beautiful when it’s flowery, it is often best when at its most simple. Take the opening line, spoken from the viewpoint of a man on a train heading north. The rain rained. As apt as it is right now, it sums also those days when it is not even worth looking out of a train window, because there is just incessant rain outside. There is a line later in the book, where a door in a club is as one that looks like it leads somewhere. Like a lot of noir, it says so much without seemingly saying anything at all.
The plot of the book involves the return of Jack Carter to his native north from his new home in London, where he’s become some underworld big shot, and how he deals with the small town big timers he comes across, settling old scores. It’s very much of its time, gangland meets black and white kitchen sink drama, but that is all part of its charm, because it records a north that is disappearing, thank goodness, but it is good to to be reminded of it.
Click here to purchase Get Carter published by Allison and Busby.
We hope you’ve enjoyed these amazing book suggestions by some of our favourite authors. And that, as they say is THAT. What a FANTASTIC year for reading this has been and 2016 is shaping up to be even better if that is possible!
Watch this space for another feature soon to give you the heads up on some tales to watch out for in 2016. Vicki and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a VERY Happy New Year!
We’ll both be back in 2016 with more book reviews, author interviews and author guest posts.