Top Crime Fiction Picks for Autumn
Top Crime Fiction Picks for Autumn
Here’s what to read as the darker nights draw in. By Julie Anderson.
First, One by Eve Smith (Orenda Books, £9.99) published in July this year. Smith has an admirable track record of producing thought-provoking speculative fiction set in the near future which is thrilling to read, and One is no exception. In a London ravaged by climate change, Kai, our female protagonist, works as a ‘baby reaper’ enforcing the strict one-child policy of Britain’s totalitarian regime. Then she discovers she has an illegal sibling of her own and her world begins to unravel, leading her to uncover terrible, state-sponsored crimes. Terrific world-building in an all-too-believable future and plenty of twists along the way, this is also an emotional rollercoaster, with its central character gradually engaging with the sister she never knew she had. Highly recommended.
Some fabulous historical fiction – Chasing the Dragon by Mark Wightman (Hobeck Books, £9.99) published on 12th September. This is the second book featuring Inspector Betancourt of the Marine Police in 1940s Singapore, although it’s easily read as a standalone. Wightman’s first in the series was listed for a host of prizes, including a CWA New Blood Dagger and Scottish Crime Debut of the Year – Chasing the Dragon will doubtless be similarly successful. Betancourt is an engaging protagonist, a serani, or Kristang creole, who solves the darkest of crimes despite the interference of his European superiors. On this occasion he doggedly pursues the murder of an American academic whose government would rather it passed unnoticed. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the depiction of 1940s Singapore, but I can tell you that it is thoroughly convincing and totally immersive. I hadn’t read Wightman’s debut before this, but I certainly will now.
‘True crime’ is a popular genre, and a fascinating historical true crime book was published at the end of August, One-Armed Jack by Sarah Bax Horton (Michael O’Mara Books). Only in hardcover as yet, so £18.99, but it’s a fascinating reassessment of one of the most famous cases of them all – Jack the Ripper. Bax Horton is the great-great granddaughter of one of the policemen who worked on the case in 1888, and she uses her ancestor’s notebooks to construct a fresh analysis of the crimes. She builds up a picture of the killer, his psychology and methodology, including how he escaped each crime scene, and she names a perpetrator, a man suspected by police at the time. You can also hear Bax Horton speak about the book and the case online as part of the 2023 Clapham Book Festival (in partnership with Time & Leisure) on 19th October.
Another writer at this year’s festival is Southfields based Ivy Ngeow, who’ll be discussing her thriller online on 17th October. The American Boyfriend (Penguin Random House, £12.99) is published in September. Her protagonist Phoebe is a Balham single mum, escaping a dead-end job to holiday with her boyfriend in his glamorous Florida vacation house, only to find herself and her teething child there alone, robbed of their money and documents and dependent on friendly locals for their needs. The boyfriend is suspiciously absent and, shortly after he eventually arrives, a Brit ex-pat who helped Phoebe is found dead. Full of unsuspected twists and turns and told in a variety of voices, The American Boyfriend keeps the reader guessing. Join Ivy and me to discuss it online on 17th October.
Finally, some Icelandic Noir in translation, Eva Bjӧrg Ӕgisdottir’s You Can’t See Me translated by Victoria Cribb (Orenda Books, £9.99). A powerful and wealthy Icelandic family is celebrating an anniversary in an isolated futuristic hotel, surrounded by a blackened landscape of lava, cliffs and icy ocean. We learn about each family member, their interwoven history, hopes, weaknesses and secrets as events unfold, yet we know from the outset that there has been an unnatural death. Fans of Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime, will not be disappointed as the story unfolds. Bjӧrg Ӕgisdottir has already won the CWA New Blood Dagger and been listed for a variety of other prizes and this continues her ‘Forbidden Iceland’ stories. The press publicity describes it as ‘Succession’ meets ‘And Then There Were None’ and that’s a pretty good description.
Julie Anderson is a Clapham-based crime writer. Her latest novel Opera (Claret Press, £9.99) was long-listed for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2023. You can follow her on Twitter at @julieandersonwriter (@jjulieanderson) / X (twitter.com)
Join Julie and Time & Leisure online on 17th and 19th October 2023 as part of Clapham Book Festival. Tickets available from 1st September at Clapham Book Festival Tickets Autumn 2023 – Payhip