Since I told our esteemed editors that I’d do a round up of some of the recent crime fiction published by HWA members, I’ve become overexcited and overwhelmed by the number of superb books that have published this year. It has, at least, made my Christmas shopping a bit easier, but my kindle has overloaded, the book shelves are cracking and I’m accosting strangers on the street with recommendations. Here are a few favourites.
The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson (Hodder and Staughton) is on the Richard and Judy list, won the CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger and deserves all the praise it has received. Tom Hawkins is trapped in debtors prison in 1727 and must solve a murder to save himself. There is a palable sense of threat and fear in the novel which achieves a remarkable sense of its place and people with a light touch. A pitch perfect setting and a gripping plot to keep everyone up and reading late.
The Strangler Vine by MJ Carter (Penguin) is a beautifully assured offering, full of texture and colour. It is 1837 and a reluctant William Avery is dispatched from Calcutta to find a missing author. He is forced to travel with Jeremiah Blake, a man of dubious allegiance. Blake sheds the trappings of colonial ruler at the first opportunity while young Avery clings to them, making for a beautiful character study as well as a ripping yarn.
The Silversmith’s Wife by Sophia Tobin (Simon & Schuster) is another debut which is a pleasure to read, this time in 1792. The secrets of the characters are teased out in a book which is both psychologically acute and a full and fascinating portrait of the time in which is is set.
EXPERTS AT WORK:
The Silent Boy by Andrew Taylor (Harper Collins) Also set in 1792, The Silent Boy plunges the reader straight into the horrors of the French Revolution. From there we follow the boy of the title to Charnwood House in the English countryside. As always Taylor’s work is beautifully written with an engrossing mystery and characters that remain fully alive in the imagination long after you have closed the book.
England Expects by Sara Sheridan (Polygon) I’ve only just discovered Sara Sheriden’s Mirabelle Bevan mysteries and am now racing through her back list. This, the third in the series sees Mirabelle and her partner Vesta investigating the death of a racing journalist. 1950s Brighton, brilliantly evoked, is the backdrop for this very satisfying, classic detective story full of smart and vivid characters.
Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie (Bloomsbury USA) This, the sixth in Downie’s series about the 2nd century medic, Gaius Petreius Ruso, sees her hero on the northern frontier of the Roman Empire where a great wall is being built. But is the wall build of blood as well as stone? Human, satisfying and meticulously researched, Downie’s series is always a pleasure to read. Full of wit, action and warmth.
Imogen Robertson‘s fifth Westerman and Crowther mystery Theft of Life and her Parisian set mystery Paris in Winter are also available.