Problems viewing this? Click to view in your browser
Crime Club
Latest news and gossip from the world of crime fiction
Thursday, November 24 Issue 18

This is the time of year when we discover that even the hardest-boiled crime writers are not immune to the Christmas spirit: just check out my pick of this year's yule-themed titles, which range from the sublime (PD James) to the ridiculous (detectives who are actually cats). Still, Crime Club embraces them all in a seasonal hug. And continuing the good will, four top crime writers have shared their favourite books from 2016 with us, and two publishers — the mighty BBC and tiny independent Orenda —are offering you the chance to win some of their top titles. Crime Club: truly, it's the gift that keeps on giving.

I hope you are continuing to enjoy Crime Club. Email me at to let me know what you think.

Karen Robinson

■ Find previous issues of Crime Club here

Essie Fox picks her top historical crime

A Death at Fountains Abbey by Antonia Hodgson
Hodder & Stoughton, 2016
The third novel in Hodgson’s engaging series of historical romps based on the irresistible charm of the gentleman rogue Tom Hawkins. It’s 1728, and Tom travels to Yorkshire searching for the source of death threats being made against one of the country’s wealthiest men. A glorious Georgian mystery.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

The Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
Penguin, 2008

The first of Maitland’s accomplished historical novels set in bleak medieval England. A company of misfits travel north to escape the plague in this riveting mystery thriller steeped in superstition and despair.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
Random House, 2014

With sharp wit and captivating writing style, Evans gives us heart-warming humour and tragedy as we follow Noel, an evacuee from the London Blitz to the supposedly calmer St Albans. In Vee’s chaotic home, the boy soon finds himself at the heart of her crooked wartime charity scams. A delight.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

The Good Son by Paul McVeigh
Salt Publishing, 2015

Another gripping story told through a young boy: Micky Donnelly's growing up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. A richly drawn evocation of dramatic times where personal “troubles” are described with tenderness, set against the darkness of violence on the streets.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

The Last Days of Leda Grey by Essie Fox is published by Orion. Buy it here / Read first chapter

Essential listening

Mel McGrath recommends her favourite American crime podcasts

In My Favorite Murder, California girls Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark chat about real murders, and listeners — or “Murderinos” — send in stories about crimes in their home town. It’s sketchily researched and flirts with bad taste (the sign off is “stay sexy and don’t get murdered”) but never portentous or pretentious, and has reached number one on the comedy podcast charts.

Sword and Scale is a polished and sometimes visceral American series, expertly hosted by Mike Boudet, that uses primary source material — 911 tapes, police interviews — to tell the stories behind crimes and the legal processes in their wake. The podcast on domestic violence is jaw-dropping.

Criminal features 20-minute episodes hosted by Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer, who focus on a wide range of stories around crime with a calm and genuine spirit of enquiry. A teensy bit earnest, but insightful.

Actual Innocence contains social worker Brooke Gittings’s interviews with people wrongly imprisoned, such as Anthony Graves (pictured above) who was exonerated from Death Row in 2006. Often harrowing, it reveals the many ways the US criminal justice system routinely gets it wrong.

Secrets, Crimes and Audiotape showcases 25- and 45-minute murder mysteries performed by a full cast. The adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is wonderful. Leans towards political dramas; some episodes better than others.

Undisclosed was created as a response to Serial, to re-examine the Adnan Syed case. In season two, lawyers Rabia Chaudry, Susan Simpson and Colin Miller have moved on to the death of Isaac Dawson in 2000, supposedly at the hands of Joey Watkins. Lots of expert research and some great storytelling.

Mel McGrath is the co-founder of the Killer Women group of crime writers, Her psychological thriller Give Me the Child is published next year by HarperCollins

Alex Gray's books of the year

None but the Dead by Lin Anderson

For her latest adventure, forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod is joined in Orkney by Glasgow detective Michael McNab to solve recently-revealed murders in a community where people obviously know more than they are prepared to tell.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

The Dead Don’t Boogie by Douglas Skelton

Crime to make you laugh out loud, with a new hero, warm and witty investigator Dominic Queste, delving into the dark side of the west of Scotland. I look forward to reading more Queste adventures.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
Harvill Secker

A stunning debut novel set in India after the First World War that involves a London detective who has come to begin a new life in this British colony. The first in a series, it takes the reader to a country and a time past that are beautifully evoked.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

The fictional town of Three Pines is at the centre of this latest tale in the Armand Gamache series, with an old map of the area providing some new information about the area. Penny is masterly in her plotting and description of place, but it is her characters that zing off the page.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre
Little, Brown

A missing husband and a wife who seems to have plenty of reason to wish him dead are at the heart of this twisty mystery, which won the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish crime book of the year.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Alex Gray is one of the founders of Bloody Scotland International Crime Writing Festival. Her latest book, The Darkest Goodbye, is published by Sphere. Buy it here / Read first chapter


Who Watcheth by Helene Tursten, translated by Marlaine Delargy

Soho Crime

The ninth Inspector Irene Huss investigation by this popular Swedish writer is a solid “people procedural”: we get perception and empathy towards victims, suspects, witnesses and police colleagues as Huss investigates an elusive and particularly nasty serial killer in Gothenburg.

The Dead Student by John Katzenbach

Head of Zeus

Moth thinks his psychiatrist uncle’s death was caused by murder, not suicide — but can he convince anyone else, let alone find the killer, between his trips to AA meetings and tumbles back into blackout binge drinking? It may help that the assistant district attorney shares his addiction. Darkly original Florida-based psychological gripper.

The Knife Slipped by Erle Stanley Gardner

Hard Case Crime

This hard-boiled 1939 gumshoe caper was meant to be the second of Gardner’s Cool and Lam series but remained unpublished until now. Narrated by investigator Donald Lam, and drawing an unforgettable picture of his tough-talking boss, Bertha Cool, this sexy, fast-moving tale of corruption and double-cross sports a specially-commissioned portrait of burlesque artiste Dita von Teese by Robert McGinnis on the cover.

★ STAR PICK ★ Finisterre by Graham Hurley

Head of Zeus

As the Second World War enters its endgame, what connects a shipwrecked U-boat captain holed up in a Galician village and an investigator at the top-secret US research station in Los Alamos? Tense, absorbing and faultlessly plotted, this thoughtful thriller weaves it all together.

The Eleventh Letter by Tom Tomaszewski

Dodo Ink

From a fledgling independent publisher, this first novel by a psychotherapist spins a tantalising tale, where a Harley Street doctor and his mysterious female visitor listen to tapes of testimony from a decades-old murder in Italy and ponder the questions that still hover around it. Intriguing, poetic and atmospheric.

What Remains of Me by AL Gaylin


When a veteran Hollywood star is found dead after an apparent suicide, suspicion falls on his daughter-in-law Kelly — she was jailed 30 years earlier for the murder of the victim’s film-director friend. As the past begins to unravel for Kelly, flashbacks reveal secrets about the seamy side of Tinseltown, building to a finale of plot twists that could give you whiplash.

★ STAR PICK ★ The Ashes of Berlin by Luke McCallin

No Exit Press

“There was nothing, just a suggestion of space bounded by heaps of ruins”: detective Gregor Reinhardt is in Berlin — post-war, pre-wall — where orphaned children run wild in the rubble, and local cops like him must manoeuvre with care as the Russians and Americans vie for supremacy. A double-murder investigation highlights the devastating costs, emotional, material and moral, of Hitler’s war.

Daniel Pembrey: the year's best debuts

Dodgers by Bill Beverly
No Exit Press

Part crime fiction, part coming-of-age story and part road-trip adventure. East is a young lookout for a Los Angeles drugs gang, forced to go cross-country to assassinate a judge. What will he do at the other end? It’s worth finding out. Dodgers won two 2016 Crime Writers Association awards, including the prestigious Goldsboro Gold Dagger for best crime book of the year.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Epiphany Jones by Michael Grothaus

A story that looks the scourge of international sex trafficking in the eye — often in a humorous way. The author understands well the film industry world in which the story is set, and while lead character Jerry can evoke very different emotions in the reader, he is never less than fascinating.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

The Two O’Clock Boy by Mark Hill

Enter DI Ray Drake, the flawed, sharply-drawn lead of this promising new series. Here he investigates murders connected to a former children’s home — and discovers how far people will go to keep a secret. The author has an unerring ability to give incidents a biting sense of reality. The ebook is out now, the paperback will come out next April.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

The Daughter’s Secret by Eva Holland

A 15-year-old girl ran away with a teacher, resulting in that man’s imprisonment — now he’s due for early release. I heard the author read an extract at this year’s Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival. Short readings rarely work but this one certainly did. The Daughter’s Secret is acutely observed and wrought with subtle tension.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Rattle by Fiona Cummins

I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this London-based serial killer gripper. Written by a former entertainment journalist, it will take you deep into the mind of a collector-psychopath. Rattle is already attracting plaudits from such voices as Alison Barrow, the publisher-PR powerhouse behind The Girl on the Train. It’s out in January.
Buy it here / Read an exclusive extract

The Harbour Master by Daniel Pembrey is published by No Exit Press. Buy it here / Read first chapter

BBC Audiobooks giveaway

BBC Audiobooks is offering five Crime Club readers the chance to win a Christmas package of CDs that showcase Radio 4’s amazing range of crime genres. There’s Victorian police drama McLevy series 11 and 12 (Listen here), starring Brian Cox and Siobhan Redmond; courtroom drama with Maurice Denham as John Mortimer’s irascible barrister Rumpole (Listen here); and comedy drama in Charles Paris: A Decent Interval (Listen here) with Simon Brett’s sleuthing thespian played by Bill Nighy. Douglas Adams’s “holistic detective” Dirk Gently (Listen here) is played by Harry Enfield in two full-cast radio dramatisations that mingle comedy and sci-fi, and a documentary sheds new light on a crime fiction luminary in Agatha Christie Close Up (Listen here). To enter, email with your name and address and put CRIME in the subject line. Closing date: December 1.

Entrants will be added to the Penguin Audio monthly newsletter, keeping you up to date with new releases from the BBC

This year's best Christmas Crime

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by PD James
Faber & Faber
Four short stories originally commissioned by newspapers and magazines allowed James to display her talent for plotting and characterisation in a condensed format. They may be Christmassy, but they’re sure not cosy.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Murder Under the Christmas Tree by Ian Rankin, Ellis Peters, Arthur Conan Doyle, Margery Allingham and others
Profile Books

Collection of ten “classic” Christmas mysteries — so you might have encountered some of them already — from Father Brown to Cadfael to Holmes, with plenty of traditional Yuletide atmosphere, and Rebus to add a dash of no-ho-ho to the mix.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Crimson Snow: Winter Mysteries edited by Martin Edwards
British Library

A selection from the great names of the Golden Age — including Allingham, again, with a different story — and some of the era’s more neglected writers. There’s even a short play, featuring Holmes, Watson and Mrs Hudson (“Lor, Mr ‘Olmes!”) by eminent scholar and part-time crime writer SC Roberts, to perform with your loved ones.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

The Ghost of Christmas Paws by Mandy Morton
Allison & Busby
This is the fourth of the No 2 Feline Detective Agency series, so someone must like them, and yes, the sleuths are actually cats. Whimsy with Christmas bells on.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Fields Where They Lay by Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime

“Christmas is the happiest time of the year” falls firmly into professional burglar Junior Bender’s list of “richly proven bullshit” You can hardly blame him as the body count climbs while he tries to figure out who’s shoplifting all their presents from a Los Angeles mall. West Coast fun for the noir at heart.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens
That’s right, Puffin. This is Golden Age-style detective fiction for the younger generation, as Daisy and Hazel’s “Detective Society” seek a murderer in snowy Cambridge. Jolly good fun.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Sarah Ward: top translated crime of 2016

Icarus by Deon Meyer, translated by KL Seegers
Hodder & Stoughton

Afrikaans detective Benny Griessel’s investigation into the death of a celebrity entrepreneur takes him to the wine lands of the western Cape. A taut plot is augmented by the moving portrayal of a cop about to lose his hard-earned sobriety.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

The Dying Detective by Leif GW Persson, translated by Neil Smith
Black Swan

A retired police chief, hospitalised after suffering a stroke, hears from his neurologist that her clergyman father may have known the identity of a child murderer. Superbly plotted, it has Persson’s characteristic wry commentary on Swedish police department and family tensions.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Chameleon People by Hans Olav Lahlum, translated by Kari Dickson

A man staggers to the home of Oslo detective Kolbjorn “K2” Kristiansen and declares his innocence of a crime for which he is about to be arrested. Nodding to the style of Golden Age mysteries, the action plays out to Norway’s 1972 vote on whether to join the EEC.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

Why Did You Lie? By Yrsa Sigurdardottir, translated by Victoria Cribb
Hodder & Stoughton

A journalist investigating an old case attempts suicide, a couple returning from a house-swap discover their guests are missing and four strangers are trapped on windswept rocks. Sigurdardottir excels at pulling together three interweaving Icelandic storylines.
Buy it here / Read first chapter

A Climate of Fear by Fred Vargas, translated by Sian Reynolds
Harvill Secker

In the cult French thriller writer’s latest book, a group expedition in Iceland goes disastrously wrong and, years later, members of the party are targeted by a murderer. In her intelligent and quirky prose, Vargas's backdrop of a modern-day cult devoted to Robespierre feels wholly realistic.

Buy it here / Read first chapter

A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward is published by Faber & Faber. Buy it here / Read first chapter


La Plante walks: the creator of detective Jane Tennison, famously played by Helen Mirren in Prime Suspect, has parted company with ITV following speculation about disagreements over the portrayal of the young Tennison and the casting of Stefanie Martini (pictured left above, next to Mirren). Lynda La Plante was scripting Prime Suspect 1973, based on her book Tennison, about the detective’s early days in the force, but has now said that she’s “very sad” not to be involved any more. The writer has form when it comes to taking issue with TV adaptations, and voiced her objections to the original shows. “I would not have let [Tennison] be a drunk,” she said. “I thought she’d fought too hard. I didn’t want to see the final series.” Looks like she might not be watching the new show either, when it airs next year. Anyway, she’ll probably be too busy, having just ditched her publisher as well, leaving Simon & Schuster for a four-book deal with Bonnier Zaffre, who will publish Tennison: Good Friday (Jane takes on the IRA) next September.

Tea and crime: Agatha Christie famously stayed at the Pera Palace hotel in Istanbul, having arrived there — how else? — on the Orient Express. Next week the hotel hosts Black Week, its second annual celebration of the art of crime fiction, honouring Georges Simenon and with star guests including Philip Kerr, Mari Jungstedt and Ahmet Umit, Turkey’s leading crime writer. Crime Club readers booking in for the Black Week package between November 30 and December 4, from €325 for two nights, are offered a complimentary afternoon tea for two in the hotel’s opulent Kubbeli Saloon Tea Lounge. For details, call 00 90 212 377 4000, or email and quote The Times/Sunday Times Crime Club.

They love a murrderr: crime and thrillers are the most popular forms of fiction for Scottish readers, according to a recent survey which had 27% opting for them, with just 10% choosing sci-fi and 9% preferring to curl up with a historical novel. They’re a literate nation, the Scots, with 79% claiming to read for enjoyment. The survey didn’t say whether they favour home-grown talent, but with tartan noir writers including Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Stuart MacBride and Craig Russell to choose from, they’re spoilt for choice.

John Dugdale on The Chemist, the first adult thriller novel from Stephenie Meyer

Joan Smith's crime roundup

November's best thrillers, chosen by John Dugdale

Marcel Berlins's crime roundup

Giveaway: 20 Orenda crime novels

Since Orenda Books was founded in 2014, its mission has been to discover and publish crime and thriller titles, many in translation from around the world. In a spirit of festive generosity, the publisher is offering one lucky Crime Club reader the chance to win a complete set of all Orenda’s crime and thriller titles — some 20 books — plus a limited-edition proof copy of Steph Broadribb’s debut action thriller Deep Down Dead, out in January. Just email your name and address to, with BUNDLE in the subject line, to be in with a chance. Closing date: December 1.

Crime bestsellers

  1. Night School

    Lee Child

  2. Rather be the Devil

    Ian Rankin

  3. Betrayal

    Martina Cole

  4. The Whistler

    John Grisham

  5. Chaos

    Patricia Cornwell

  6. The Wrong Side of Goodbye

    Michael Connelly

  7. Cross the Line

    James Patterson

  8. Cold Blood

    Andy McNab

  9. The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories

    PD James

  10. Hidden Killers

    Lynda La Plante

  1. The Girl on the Train

    Paula Hawkins

  2. Love You Dead

    Peter James

  3. The Last Mile

    David Baldacci

  4. Never Go Back

    Lee Child

  5. Inferno

    Dan Brown

  6. Missing, Presumed

    Susie Steiner

  7. Cross Justice

    James Patterson

  8. The Crossing

    Michael Connelly

  9. The Secret

    Katerina Diamond

  10. Find Her

    Lisa Gardner