MY SOUL TO TAKE by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
This Icelandic thriller is cooler than most from the get go. Where else could you find a ballsy Reykjavik lawyer with little time for nonsense called upon to investigate a haunting at a plush but doomed new age hotel on the wild Icelandic coast? A gruesome murder kicks off single mother Thora’s stay at the hotel, and that’s before she hears the soft wails of a baby in the night….
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE by Stieg Larsson
Maclehose Press, £16.99
The late Stieg Larsson’s Milennium trilogy has become a mega bestselling franchise since the author’s death. Another Scandinavian heroine forms the dark and magnetic core of the books; Lisbeth Salander is violent, tough, sexually voracious, man-hating and terrifyingly brainy. In this, the second in the trilogy, she is wrongly implicated in a triple murder, and uses her anger, acuity and astonishing hacking skills to get to the bottom of a sinister plot.
THE SCARECROW by Michael Connolly
Connelly has produced truckloads of well-regarded crime novels, but his latest is one of his best yet. The second of Connelly’s books to focus on Jack McEvoy, an LA-based journalist, The Scarecrow sees McEvoy attempting to bring in a hard-hitting social crime story worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, only to uncover a conspiracy from the heart of the digital age.
THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters
Feel the goosebumps creep up on you as the tale of the depleted Ayres family, once rich aristocracy, gets steadily more chilling. Living out their impoverished life in the ruined grandeur of a Warwickshire mansion, the Ayres start to be psychologically – then physically – tortured by grotesque and inexplicable happenings. There’s a presence in the house, and its angry. But why? Their doggedly rational doctor and aspirational friend Faraday makes for a frustrating and sinister narrator. A masterpiece.
WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel
Fourth Estate, £18.99
The extraordinarily talented Ms Mantel has written a show-stopper of a Tudor novel here, with Thomas Cromwell – controversially – as the hero. His harsh childhood raises sympathy and a warm heart is revealed later on. The book doesn’t lack for high-jinx from the court of Henry VIII either, but it’s the retelling of history from the perspective of one of its black sheep that is the masterstroke here.
GONE TOMORROW by Lee Child
The Coventry-born daddy of the contemporary thriller, Child (nee Jim Grant) draws on his early days as a lawyer in the gritty criminal thrust of his Jack Reacher books. This one sees the doughty New York ex-cop in over his head with a terrorist network, beginning when he spots a suicide bomber on the Subway. Tense, well-written and impossible to put down.
TURBULENCE by Giles Foden
Faber & Faber, £16.99
A D Day novel with considerable intellectual meat on it, we follow narrator and scientist Henry Meadows back to his youth. In preparation for the D Day landings, Meadows is sent by the Army to extract a formula for weather prediction from a reclusive Scottish metereologist, and meets with dire resistance. This failed encounter sets him on a downward spiral, retold years later as the narrator attempts to sail an iceberg to Arabia. Original and beautifully done from The Last King of Scotland author.
THE OUTLANDER by Gill Adamson
Taking the imagination as far away from the realm of the sunny beach as it’s possible to go, Adamson’s much-lauded debut book is set in the freezing wilds of the Rocky mountains at the start of the 20th century. Telling the story of a woman desperately fleeing through the mountains, it’s a story that’s as utterly gripping as it is beautifully told.
A MOST WANTED MAN by John Le Carre
The old master of thriller-writing has produced another corker with this one, a typical mix of the heart-racing and the real. A disgruntled, whisky-slugging British employee of a Hamburg bank becomes involved in a trust fund opened by a deceased Chechen Muslim terrorist. Now his son wants the cash. A sexy lawyer forms the third in the triangle as they plunge deeper into world of Hamburg’s militant Muslim underbelly. This is truly the newspaper reading, thinking person’s gripper.
HOMICIDE by David Simon
First published in 1991 in the US, former journalist Simon’s book has returned to the limelight in a new edition that follows in the wake of his groundbreaking TV show, The Wire. It covers similar ground – policing the mean streets of run down, racially tense Baltimore – and is seen as a classic of factual crime writing. So good it spawned a pre-Wire TV series of its own, the long-running Homicide: Life on the Streets.