Susan Hill manages to tackle an extremely delicate and dark subject in her latest Simon Serrailler novel when, in an undercover operation, Detective Constable is sent to a psychiatric home that rehabilitates convicted paedophiles. Although it is an initially difficult read due to the nature of the crimes involved, The Soul of Discretion is an enthralling, gritty and emotional book, with fully drawn-out, complex characters.
Why it stands out: Touching on sensitive subjects that aren’t usually brought up in crime fiction, The Soul of Discretion is both raw and compelling.
Black Noise is a book that has really brought crime fiction into the 21st century. The second instalment in the ‘Studio’ series puts unlikely heroines against London’s dark crime underworld when videos of torture and murder are uploaded to YouTube (something you wouldn’t ever come across in an Agatha Christie novel!). Lia is a graphic designer (not a detective), but joins forces with Mari, who runs a private crime fighting organisation, as they take matters into their own hands.
Why it stands out: Bringing crime fiction up-to-date, Black Noise centres around social media and internet uploads for a contemporary twist on a detective novel.
Blood Drama – Christopher Meeks
If you’re a fan of books with unlikely pairs, then Blood Drama is a crime novel that will capture you from the very beginning. Ian Nash and Aleece Medina couldn’t be more different, yet somehow they find themselves working towards the same goal: to find a gang of bank robbers. Nash and Medina are hugely entertaining characters, in a book that is very much a character-driven novel.
Why it stands out: Blood Drama draws the reader in with its characterisation of the most improbable duo, both of whom are loveable, entertaining and flawed in their own unique ways.
Gone Girl has made an appearance under many ‘top’ lists over the last couple of years, and had to feature under the title of ‘standout crime books’ too. Many say it has revolutionised domestic thriller novels, with a plethora of books in its wake being described as “the new Gone Girl”. The narrative is shared between the leading married couple, Nick and Amy, allowing the reader insights into both sides of the gripping story. When Amy goes missing on their fifth anniversary, Nick is the prime suspect; and because the narrative switches throughout the book, so will your allegiance.
Why it stands out: Gone Girl is a book that gripped the nation. A psychological crime thriller like no other, the story is told from two points of view, allowing the reader to get into the heads of a bitter husband and a psychotic wife.
Nesbo, author of the internationally best-selling ‘Harry Hole’ series, has managed to produce an equally-as-electrifying stand-alone novel with The Son. Sonny, who is now 30, has been in prison since the age of 18 for a crime he didn’t commit; he confessed to the crime in order to receive an uninterrupted supply of heroin. Sonny then becomes the centre of a vortex of corruption and makes a brilliant escape in order to hunt down the people responsible for the crimes he has paid for. As if this wasn’t gripping enough, there is also an aura of mystification: Sonny appears to have the touch of a miracle worker.
Why it stands out: Nesbo has created a truly memorable main character with Sonny; despite his actions, the reader wants him to prevail. Unlike a typical crime thriller, where the impetus to keep reading is to solve the mystery, here you care so much about the character that you’ll want to see the outcome for him.
I Am Pilgrim is different from many other crime novels in that it doesn’t rely on plot twists or red herrings to misdirect the reader, but is utterly captivating nonetheless. In some ways, it is an old-fashioned detective novel, where the reader is presented with all the clues and can either attempt to solve the puzzle or wait for ‘Pilgrim’ to reveal the answers. The plot is clever and intense, with meticulous pacing and fully-developed characters, proving that Hayes is a master of the page-turning thriller.
Why it stands out: I Am Pilgrim is a long book, but one that you could read in one sitting, given the chance. Hayes is a veteran of the movie business, so the pacing, suspense and high-intensity chapters are some of the best we’ve come across in recent years.
Which crime fiction books have really stood out to you over the past five years? We’d love to hear your choices in the comments box below.