It was the year of crime

Updated: 29 December, 2019 08:30 IST | Vivek Kaul | Mumbai

If you like your who-dunnits, here are the top 10 titles from the goodbye-waving 2019, cherry picked by Vivek Kaul.

Illustration/Uday Mohite
Illustration/Uday Mohite

Even though I make a living by reading and writing on economics and finance, there is nothing I love more than curling up and reading crime fiction. Fortunately, this past year has been great for the genre. And, while I have loved at least 25 titles, I have whittled the list down to this top 10.

Black Summer By MW Craven

Black Summer By MW Craven

This is the second book featuring Detective Washington Poe. Many years ago, Poe had put a famous restaurant owner behind bars. The investigation he had conducted starts to unravel and Poe's career is on the line. The book isn't much of a whodunnit but a well-written howdunnit.

The Murder Mile By Lesley McEvoy

The Murder Mile By Lesley McEvoy

Forensic psychologist Jo McCready is in the race to stop a copycat serial killer who is trying to copy the murders of Jack the Ripper. While the book moves at an extremely fast pace, it is not for the faint hearted. It's by far the goriest crime book I read this year.

The Night Fire By Michael Connelly

The Night Fire By Michael Connelly

Connelly's lead character Harry Bosch has retired from the police, but he can't sit still. Along with Detective Renee Ballard, who works the night shift, he starts investigating a cold case which his mentor Jack Thompson, who has died, seemed to be obsessed with. The story line soon goes into multiple directions, but it all comes together beautifully in the end. Connelly's greatest strength is his knowledge of how the Los Angeles Police Department operates and that reflects well in the book.

City of Windows By Robert Pobi

City of Windows By Robert Pobi

There is a sniper on the loose, who is killing individuals working for law-enforcement agencies, on the streets of New York. Dr Lucas Page, who formerly worked for the FBI, is emotionally blackmailed to rejoin his former employer after his old partner is killed by the sniper. Page is a genius who can figure out things that no one else can and finally manages to track down the killer, after way too many people have been killed. Again, the murder details are gory.

The Whisper Man By Alex North

The Whisper Man By Alex North

Detective Inspector Pete Wills had caught the man responsible for killing five children, many years ago. He is brought in now to investigate a similar crime. The question is if he will succeed again. This was by far the most balanced crime book I read this year, striking the right note between a murder mystery and a detective operating in a social setting.

Mehboob Murderer By Nupur Anand

Mehboob Murderer By Nupur Anand

The book is a proper police procedural featuring Inspector Intekhaab Abbas and set during the Mumbai Monsoon. The plot has elements of a good Agatha Christie mystery along with inspiration from Maj Sjöwall Per Wahlöö, the grandmasters of Scandinavian Crime Fiction. This is a must read with an end which makes sure that you will definitely pick up the next book in the series. (Disclaimer: Anand and I are former colleagues)

The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup

The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup

Sveistrup is a screen writer who wrote the hit television series The Killing. In his first book, Sveistrup has all the elements of a good Scandinavian police procedural (the book was originally written in Danish). The gripping book is about a killer seeking revenge and always being one step ahead of the police. The murders are gory and described in detail. The killer leaves small dolls made of chestnuts and matchsticks, at the crime scene. Don't be surprised if you soon see a mini-series based on the book, on one of the OTT platforms.

Knife By Jo Nesbo

Knife By Jo Nesbo

Nesbo is a former economist and the reigning king of Scandinavian Crime Fiction (he writes in Norwegian). Harry Hole, Nesbo's lead character, is always in a mess. A notorious rapist is back on the streets and the first killer Harry put behind bars is out to get him. Along the way, Hole, as always, has to battle his own personal demons as well. Nesbo, like Connelly and Rankin, is a master of multiple story lines, which all come together in the end. And, as always, the book ends with a twist, which makes sure that you can't wait to read the next one.

The Lost Man By Jane Harper

The Lost Man By Jane Harper

Sometimes, crime is just an excuse to write about something else. In this case, Harper uses a crime, to explore what it is to live in the Australian outback. The book isn't much of a whodunnit and you know who the murderer is much before the big reveal comes. But Harper's writing and characters just pull you in. A typical slow burner.

The Reunion by Guillaume Musso

The Reunion by Guillaume Musso

Originally written in French, this is the story of three friends who return to their high school, 25 years after graduating. The trouble is that there is a body buried in their school building. And, as luck would have it, they are the ones who put it there. The story moves back and forth in a non-linear fashion and the twists just keep coming. It's a perfect adaptation material for Abbas Mastan.

Vivek Kaul writes on the economy and lives to read crime fiction. He is the author of the Easy Money trilogy

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First Published: 29 December, 2019 08:01 IST

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