Thursday, December 10, 2015

Books for Christmas Part 11: Do the Time, Read the Crime

Sherlock Holmes was originally going to be called Sherringford Holmes. Detective Inspector John Rebus' name comes from a word puzzle popular in medieval literature in which letters and pictures represent a surname. Jack Reacher's name came when Lee Child's wife, on being told he was giving up his job to become a writer, suggested he could always become a 'reacher' in a supermarket...

Where their names come from, the protagonists in crime and thriller novels become larger than the novels that spawned them. I bet if you close your eyes, you can see at least one of those characters as a living, breathing human being. That's the magic of the storyteller genius.

Here are our pick of favourite crime and thriller books out this year which will live in your imagination this Christmas. Enjoy.

A Study in Murder - Robert Ryan (£7.99)
128 years after he first appeared in print, Sherlock Holmes continues to enthrall and capture our imaginations unlike any other detective. Although plenty of different authors have written 'new' Holmes and Watson adventures in the meantime, few have been as brilliantly and imaginatively done as Robert Ryan's 'Dr Watson' thrillers.

This is the third in the series following 'Dead Man's Land' and 'The Dead Can Wait', and sees Dr John Watson being held in a notorious POW camp deep in enemy Germany in 1917, there as Medical Officer for the British prisoners.

With the Allied blockade, food is perilously short in the camp and when a new prisoner is murdered all assume the poor chap was killed for his Red Cross parcel. Watson, though, isn't so sure. Something isn't quite what it seems and a creeping feeling of unease tells Watson there is more to this than meets the eye. And when an escape plot is apparently uncovered in his hut and he is sent to solitary confinement, he knows he must solve the crime and escape before he is silenced for good. All he needs is some long-distance help from his old friend, Sherlock Holmes...

Crime at Christmas - C. H. B. Kitchin (£8.99)
We've loved the British Library 'Crime Classics' reissues, with their vintage cover designs and classic plots - so it's perhaps not surprising that other publishers are revisiting some of the 'forgotten classics' lying in their vaults.

'Crime at Christmas' has been re-issued by Faber & Faber, and features the stockbroker sleuth Malcolm Warren. It's Christmas at Hampstead's Beresford Lodge, and a group of relatives and intimate friends gather to celebrate the festive season. But their party is rudely interrupted by a violent death, and it isn't long before a second body is discovered. Can the murderer be one of those in the great house? A brilliantly witty and unashamedly old-fashioned murder mystery.
  
The Case of the 'Hail Mary' Celeste - Malcolm Pryce (£8.99)
Jack Wenlock is the last of the 'Railway Goslings': that fabled cadre of railway detectives created at the Weeping Cross Railway Servants' Orphanage. Sworn to uphold the name of God's Wonderful Railway, Jack keeps the trains free of fare dodgers and purse-stealers, bounders and confidence tricksters, German spies and ladies of the night. But now, as the clock ticks down towards the nationalisation of the railways Jack finds himself investigating a case that begins with an abducted great aunt, but soon develops into something far darker and more dangerous.

It reaches up to the corridors of power and into the labyrinth of the greatest mystery in all the annals of railway lore - the disappearance in 1915 of twenty-three nuns from the 7.25 Swindon to Bristol Temple Meads, or the case of the 'Hail Mary' Celeste. Shady government agents, drunken riverboat captains, a missing manuscript and a melancholic gorilla all collide on a journey that will take your breath away.


Carol - Patricia Highsmith (£8.99)
Therese is just an ordinary sales assistant working in a New York department store when a beautiful, alluring woman in her thirties walks up to her counter. Standing there, Therese is wholly unprepared for the first shock of love. Therese is an awkward nineteen-year-old with a job she hates and a boyfriend she doesn't love; Carol is a sophisticated, bored suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce and a custody battle for her only daughter. As Therese becomes irresistibly drawn into Carol's world, she soon realizes how much they both stand to lose...First published pseudonymously in 1952 as The Price of Salt, Carol is a hauntingly atmospheric love story set against the backdrop of fifties' New York.


Even the Dogs in the Wild - Ian Rankin (£19.99) - signed copies whilst stocks last
Some of our customers have expressed their 'surprise' at a new Rebus novel, but as Ian Rankin cheerfully states, Rebus never went away, he just retired. And like a lot of men, he found retirement didn't really suit him, and couldn't resist getting involved again...

This time his old partner DI Siobhan Clarke asks for his help, and Rebus is soon up to his necks in the gruesomely familiar: a dead lawyer, his old enemy Big Ger Cafferty, and all the time DI Marcus Fox is working with a covert team against one of Glasgow's most notorious crime families. This isn't going to end well... 


The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins (£12.99)
Many readers really enjoyed the unreliable narrator of SJ Watson's 'Gone Girl', and the shifting sands of amnesia and memory in Emma Healey's 'Elizabeth is Missing'. And if that sounds like you, you should really try this utterly compelling thriller about a woman who thinks she's witnessed a murder.

Rachel Watson travels the same route on the train, every day, and one particular house, with its perfect occupants, occupies her mind as a pleasant fantasy. But one day she sees something that drives her to become involved in these anything-but-perfect lives. Questions are difficult to unravel: what was she really doing there and who is really in danger? This is a very original, extremely chilling thriller that keeps you guessing until the very end. A real treat and a fantastic debut.


Tabula Rasa - Ruth Downie (£7.99)
There's nothing worse than getting into a series of books - and then realising you've just read the most recent and you are going to have to wait. Which is why we loved discovering the 'Medicus' series of crime novels set in Britannia under the Romans - the latest, Tabula Rasa, is number six in a series that is just waiting to be discovered. Ruth Downie isn't as well know as (say) Lindsey Davis, but this mystery story - packed full of details of Roman life, and set during the building of Hadrian's Wall - is satisfying, hugely enjoyable and just the right amount of quirky British-Roman humour!


Monsters - Emerald Fennel (£7.99)
We really debated whether or not this book should be in YA, but a) it's extremely black humour, and b) we reckon plenty of adults would enjoy it! This is a book about two twelve-year-olds that is definitely not for kids. As one reviewer admitted "it's very difficult not to overuse the word 'disturbing' to describe this book"

When the body of a young woman is discovered - murdered - in the nets of a Cornish fishing boat, most of the town's inhabitants are shocked and horrified. But there is somebody who is not - a twelve-year-old girl. In fact, she is delighted; she loves murders, and soon she is questioning the inhabitants of the town in her own personal investigation. But it is a bit boring on her own. Until another twelve year-old boy arrives with his mother, and they start investigating together. Oh, and also playing games that re-enact the murders. Just for fun, you understand...

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