Book Month: Dystopian fiction

Today I’ll be looking at some of my favourite dystopian futures in fiction.

Kicking off with Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, which I’m fairly sure most of you will have heard of, even if only for the movies.

I’ve only read the first book in the series, but thought was fantastic. I picked it up on Kindle, , and found myself grabbing ten minutes here, 15 minutes there to just get through a little more.

I got the book a few years before the film came out, and whilst they did a pretty good job (J-Law kicking ass as Katniss), the book is much, much better. Of course.

 

 

Next up is a more recent read. Claire North’s stunningly good 84K (Orbit)

What if your life were defined by a number?
What if any crime could be committed without punishment, so long as you could afford to pay the fee assigned to that crime?
Theo works in the Criminal Audit Office. He assesses each crime that crosses his desk and makes sure the correct debt to society is paid in full.
But when Theo’s ex-lover Dani is killed, it’s different. This is one death he can’t let become merely an entry on a balance sheet.
Because when the richest in the world are getting away with murder, sometimes the numbers just don’t add up.

84K is not an easy read, and at times I had to put it down to give my brain a rest from the complex interweaving of narratives – the now and the then melt into each other as sentences melt into paragraphs. This is a book which demands your attention, but rewards you oh so richly for it. I found myself struggling to find the words to try and convey just how good this book is.

Defender & Hunted, by GX Todd (Headline)

Look, I talked about these two books in my favourite sci-fi post the other day. The post-apocalyptic dystopia here is beautifully realised. It’s dark and brutal, and definitely not for the faint-hearted, but if you give it a chance, it’ll grab you by the hand and take you on a dust-soaked ride across the wilderness to some places you’ll not soon forget.

Everything About You, by Heather Child (Orbit)

Freya has a new virtual assistant. It knows what she likes, knows what she wants and knows whose voice she most needs to hear: her missing sister’s. 
It adopts her sister’s personality, recreating her through a life lived online. But this virtual version of her knows things it shouldn’t be possible to know. 
It’s almost as if the missing girl is still out there somewhere, feeding fresh updates into the cloud. But that’s impossible. Isn’t it?

Another book that went on the favourite sci-fi list, but also one which is just as at home here. The near-future setting of Everything About You definitely has dystopian written all over it. Chillingly plausible.

The Girl With All The Gifts, by MR Carey (Orbit)

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.
Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

It’s the characters which make this book so special. Melanie is wonderfully drawn and we see the crumbling world through her eyes. The ending is spectacular. There’s a good reason it made my books of 2017 list. The sequel, The Boy on the Bridge is just as good, but very different. It’s one of those books that you just inhale in a single sitting, then fall back and marvel at what you’ve just read. The Girl was good, The Boy was astonishing, and together they make one hell of a team.

The Feed, by Nick Clark Windo (Headline)

The Feed is everywhere. It can be accessed by anyone, at any time. Every interaction, every emotion, every image can be shared through it.
Tom and Kate use The Feed, but they have resisted addiction to it. And this will serve them well when The Feed collapses.
Until their six-year-old daughter, Bea, goes missing.
Because how do you find someone in a world devoid of technology? And what happens when you can no longer trust that your loved ones are really who they claim to be?

Another book which made my books of 2017 list. Splendid concept, beautifully and horrifyingly realised. Imagine having Twitter/Facebook/everything implanted in your head where every fact is mere nanoseconds away, where books are obsolete and society is addicted the ever-present rush of knowledge and has been for years. Now, imagine what happens when the Feed goes down. Superb. The opening chapters are a horrifyingly credible view of a future not too far away.

Saving the very best for last, we’ve got The Wolf Road, by Beth Lewis
Everything Elka knows of the world she learned from the man she calls Trapper, the solitary hunter who took her under his wing when she was just seven years old.
But when Elka sees the Wanted poster in town, her simple existence is shattered. Her Trapper – Kreagar Hallet – is wanted for murder. Even worse, Magistrate Lyon is hot on his trail, and she wants to talk to Elka.
Elka flees into the vast wilderness, determined to find her true parents. But Lyon is never far behind – and she’s not the only one following Elka’s every move. There will be a reckoning, one that will push friendships to the limit and force Elka to confront the dark memories of her past.

The Wolf Road is, quite simply, brilliant. Wonderfully written, with a superbly strong female lead the like of which I’ve not seen for a very long time. The story is told through her eyes, and she has a quite distinctive way of telling it – this takes a little getting used to, but you quickly come to love her tough talking, no-nonsense approach to life and the situations she finds herself in.

We follow Elka on her journey across the post-apocalyptic landscape of Canada and the Yukon, where the ‘Big Stupid’ has pushed what’s left of society into the days of the Western and the Gold Rush. Beth Lewis shows a deft hand with turning up the tension as the hunt progresses and we find out more about our young heroine. I loved the way that her life with Trapper is revealed an inch at a time, each one providing a glimpse into what made her the fearless young woman she has become.

I found it incredibly hard to put down. It’s one of those books where you close it and just know that you’re going to be pestering others to read it.

This is me, pestering you. So, go read it.

There we go, some of my favourite dystopian books.  Have I missed any of your favourites? Have you read any of these?

As ever, I’d love to know what you think.

Book month: Sci-fi from the TBR pile

Right, yesterday we had some of my favourite sci-fi for Book Month on espresso coco. Today I want to share some of the sci-fi that’s sat on my TBR pile. Here are just a few of the books that I’m looking forward to reading soon. In no particular order, may I present for your consideration:


Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz
(Orbit Books, May 2018)
Paperback, review copy

Earth, 2144. Jack is an anti-patent scientist turned drug pirate, traversing the world in a submarine as a pharmaceutical Robin Hood, fabricating cheap medicines for those who can’t otherwise afford them. But her latest drug hack has left a trail of lethal overdoses as people become addicted to their work, doing repetitive tasks until they become unsafe or insane.
Hot on her trail is an unlikely pair: Eliasz, a brooding military agent, and his indentured robotic partner, Paladin. As they race to stop information about the sinister origins of Jack’s drug from getting out, they begin to form an uncommonly close bond that neither of them fully understands.
And underlying it all is one fundamental question: is freedom possible in a culture where everything, even people, can be owned?

Iron Gold, by Pierce Brown
(Hodder & Stoughton, January 2018)
Hardback (signed!), own copy

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?
And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever: 
A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.
An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.
And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Places in the Darkness, by Chris Brookmyre
(Orbit Books, September 2017)
Hardback, review copy

Hundreds of miles above Earth, the space station Ciudad de Cielo – The City in the Sky – is a beacon of hope for humanity’s expansion into the stars. But not everyone aboard shares such noble ideals. 
Bootlegging, booze, and prostitution form a lucrative underground economy for rival gangs, which the authorities are happy to turn a blind eye to until a disassembled corpse is found dancing in the micro-gravity. 
In charge of the murder investigation is Nikki “Fix” Freeman, who is not thrilled to have Alice Blake, an uptight government goody-two-shoes, riding shotgun. As the bodies pile up, and the partners are forced to question their own memories, Nikki and Alice begin to realize that gang warfare may not be the only cause for the violence.


Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers
(Hodder, July 2018)
Hardback (signed!), own copy

Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat.
Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened.
Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it.
Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong.
When a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:
What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?

Red Moon, by Kim Stanley Robinson
(Orbit Books)
Paperback, review copy

IT IS THIRTY YEARS FROM NOW, AND WE HAVE COLONIZED THE MOON. 
American Fred Fredericks is making his first trip, his purpose to install a communications system for China’s Lunar Science Foundation. But hours after his arrival he witnesses a murder and is forced into hiding.
It is also the first visit for celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu. He has contacts and influence, but he too will find that the moon can be a perilous place for any traveler.
Finally, there is Chan Qi. She is the daughter of the Minister of Finance, and without doubt a person of interest to those in power. She is on the moon for reasons of her own, but when she attempts to return to China, in secret, the events that unfold will change everything – on the moon, and on Earth.

Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway
(William Heinemann, October 2017)
Hardback (signed), own copy

In the world of Gnomon, citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ Every action is seen, every word is recorded, and the System has access to its citizens’ thoughts and memories–all in the name of providing the safest society in history.
When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. The System doesn’t make mistakes, but something isn’t right about the circumstances surrounding Hunter’s death. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector and a true believer in the System, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn’t Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter’s psyche: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game, and a sociopathic disembodied intelligence from the distant future.
Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding. In the static between these stories, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter–and, alarmingly, of herself. The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world.

The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu
(Angry Robot, April 2013)
paperback, review copy

When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it. He wasn’t. He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes. Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…

Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
(Allen & Unwin, November 2015)
Paperback, own copy

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

The TBR pile contains far more than these eight, but they’re the ones I’m most looking forward to. Have you read any of them? Thoughts, as always, welcome.
Which sci-fi books are *you* looking forward to?

Book month: Favourite sci-fi

Day 3 of Book Month and we turn our attention to the wonderful world of science fiction. I love sci-fi. Some of the first ‘grown-up’ books I read were science fiction – my dad was a huge fan and had a small stash by his bedside table and on a tiny bookshelf in his office at work.

I picked up Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat and was hooked. It’s a corking read which zips along without pausing for breath. The thing I love about old sci-fi books is that they’re short, skinny little paperbacks that you can get through in a couple of hours, but packed with excitement, adventure and really wild stuff. This is the story of Slippery Jim DiGriz, ace con-man, and titular Stainless Steel Rat, and his recruitment into the Special Corps, run by criminals to catch criminals. Who better to catch a thief than another thief? Brilliant.

Then there was The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, which ought to need no introduction. If you haven’t read it, what have you been doing with your life?

I read a *lot* of sci-fi in my teenage years. Dune was (and indeed is) fabulous (and possibly Dune Messiah and maybe Children of Dune, but please stop after that and especially before you get to Heretics of Dune which is just batshit crazy).

Then  in the late eighties (yes, I am that old) I discovered one Iain M. Banks, and Consider Phlebas Oh my. It introduced the term ‘space opera’ into my vocabulary and science fiction was never quite the same. I love all of his books, but if I had to pick a favourite it would have to be Against a Dark Background which is oh so very dark, and has the Lazy Guns, which are just completely brilliant. Excession is also a favourite, if only for the Ships squabbling.

Moving onto the mid-nineties and I came across a book marketed as ‘a cross between Blade Runner and The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. It’s neither one nor the other, but Michael Marshall Smith’s Only Forward is an entirely original blend of smart-talking protagonist, weird & wonderful situations and locations, holding together a dark, funny, unforgettable story. This is the book I’m most likely to recommend to you on any given day. You should also go read his other books too (including his latest, The Anomaly, written as Michael Rutger. Huge fun.) Spares is a very close second behind Only Forward in my book, and some of his short stories are utterly superb, very dark, scary, thought-provoking and funny. If you happen to come across a copy of his collected short stories, More Tomorrow & Other Stories, snap it up. It was only a short print run, but is a great collection. Failing that, go for What You Make It: Selected Short Stories, a shorter collection in paperback.

This post could easily turn into a series broken down by decade if I’m not careful, so let’s move quickly along.

Recently loved sci-fi, a short (hah!) list, in no particular order (other than that which I probably read them)

The Gone-Away World, and Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway. Just stunningly good. Angelmaker is:

“gangster noir meets howling absurdist comedy as the forces of good square off against the forces of evil, and only an unassuming clockwork repairman and an octogenarian former superspy can save the world from total destruction.”

The Red Rising trilogy (Red Rising, Golden Son and Morning Star), by Pierce Brown. I love these books, and have recommended them to more people than I could comfortably count, the vast majority of whom have gone ‘cor, they were a bit good, eh?’ I also met Pierce at the Hodder HQ Howler Party (namedrop) and he’s thoroughly awesome as well as being a bloody good writer. I hate him.

The Martian, by Andy Weir. Huge amount of fun,  I loved Mark Watney’s adventures on Mars, MacGyvering his way out of being stranded a long, long way from home. (Wasn’t so keen on Artemis, mind you, though it’ll probably make a cracking film if they get the casting right).

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers, and the sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit. Utterly lovely, heartwarming, heartbreaking science fiction of the finest kind.

Here’s Becky talking about her book. If you don’t want to read it after this…

Tracer, by Rob Boffard (plus books 2 and 3 of his Outer Earth trilogy, Zero-G and Impact).  Another author I’ve met in person! A very sunny day in Leeds, where I interrupted Rob and his publicist having lunch to get my book signed 🙂

Top bloke, fantastic writer and possibly the only author who does book reviews in rap form.

and launching a book into space to be the first author reading in space. SPACE!

Defender and Hunted, by GX Todd. Now then. I struggled with whether to include these in the science fiction section. As Gem herself will tell you, they’re pretty hard to classify – part horror, part dystopia, part this, part that. They are both brilliant though, but be warned, Hunted turns you inside out along the way. The plotting is intricately woven through multiple viewpoints, multiple strands and the characters, oh the characters we meet. They’re complex, layered, always fascinating, often frustrating, and sometimes infuriating, but so utterly believable, facing down challenge after challenge, and when you think they can’t possibly take any more…, and you are *not* ready for that ending.

Oh, and I also met Gem at Edge-Lit, and she’s also lovely. What is it with authors who write such dark stories being so utterly nice? There’s a blog post in there somewhere. Sadly I didn’t get a photo with her. Maybe next time…

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (Redshirts is also brilliant). I just loved this from the first page. Fast-paced, with funny dialogue which fizzes with snark and a glorious cast of characters. We’ve got grand Houses battling for influence with the Emperox, wormholes, sarcastic space captains, pirates, dukes and a glorious cast of minor players in the empire-spanning game of power.

Killing Gravity by Corey J. White (and Void Black Shadow). Dark. Oh so very dark. Bloody and brilliant, and bloody brilliant, these two novellas pack a mean little punch. Very highly recommended.

Killing Gravity is a kick-ass, whip-smart sci-fi short story/novella/novellette(?) which is a pure joy to read. It’s short, sharp and stunningly bloody, with a fiercely independent, void-damned spacewitch as the main protagonist. Echoes of Firefly abound, with a close-knit (albeit smaller) crew on a series of adventures as Mariam ‘Mars’ Xi goes on the hunt for vengeance. For such a short book, a *lot* gets crammed into the narrative.

The cast is refreshingly diverse and interesting, and it features what Warren Ellis described as ‘a cute space ferret of death’. Tell me you’re not intrigued!

Everything About You, by Heather Child. Last on the list, and by no means least. I met Heather at Edge-Lit for her dystopian futures workshop which was brilliant and fascinating, and not a little scary.

Everything About You is an unsettling, creepy techno-thriller which feels all too plausible. Echoes of Black Mirror abound as we follow the story of Freya and her new ‘Smartface’ virtual assistant. Technology has advanced to the point where you can have any personality installed you like, built up from the thousands of interactions that person had with others – emails, texts, voice. Except Freya has a new, bleeding-edge prototype and the voice of her missing sister, who vanished when they were teenagers.

The Smartface knows everything about you, everything you want, everything you need. It feels alive, it feels real. All of which is eerie enough, except that this AI seems to know things that her sister couldn’t possibly know…

 

Right, there we go. That got a bit on the long side, but hey, we’re all book lovers here together, right? What’s your favourite sci-fi book? Have you read any of my favourites? As ever, I’d love to hear what you think.

 

 

Book month: Favourite crime

Over the past couple of years I’ve started reading a lot more crime fiction than I used to, due mainly to this blog. I’d dabbled in the past, but never really got into it.

Early dabblings included Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels, the early of which are pretty good. John Grisham’s The Firm was (and indeed is) splendid, but perhaps is more of the thriller than straight-out crime. A friend introduced me to Kinky Friedman’s Crime Club, with its eponymous loft-dwelling, cigar-smoking, espresso-guzzling private dick for hire in NYC, with a great line in one-liners.

I think that one of the first crime books I reviewed on espresso coco was Gunnar Staalesen’s We Shall Inherit The Wind, from Orenda Books, kick-starting a love affair with Nordic Noir. I followed it up with Murder in Malmö, by Torquil MacLeod.

I think the book which really kicked off my love of crime fiction again must have to be Snowblind, by Ragnar Jónasson. I loved Snowblind, it was dark and atmospheric and wonderfully vivid in depicting life in a small coastal town in northern Iceland. You got a real sense of the place and the people who inhabited it. Followed up by Nightblind, Ragnar’s Dark Iceland series is fantastic, and I highly recommend it.

 

 

Next up is Black Night Falling, by Rod Reynolds
Black Night Falling is a dark and deeply atmospheric thriller and Rod evokes the time and place (Arkansas in the 1940’s) of the story beautifully and there’s a wonderfully gritty, noir feel. Rod certainly knows how to tangle a plot, expertly draping it with red herrings which leave you guessing. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

The Dry, by Jane Harper
The first book I read in 2017, The Dry is a gritty, superbly atmospheric crime noir where the heat and tension in the small tight-knit community practically ooze off the page and the pages demand to be turned. Jane Harper weaves a net of intrigue packed with twists and turns, secrets and lies more than the odd red herring along the way. There’s a deft sleight of hand going on as the plot unfolds leaving you thinking that you’ve finally figured it out, only for the cards to be turned over one by one and, of course, the lady has vanished.

Six Stories, by Matt Wesolowski
Six Stories is unlike anything I’ve read before. Told in the form of six episodes of a Serial-style podcast, we delve into the mysterious events at Scarclaw Fell twenty years ago when a young boy goes missing and is ultimately found dead.

Each episode is an interview with one of the group of friends who were there that evening, and Matt deftly weaves an intricate, multi-layered plot, letting us in on one secret at a time. And there are so many secrets…

It’s an astonishingly confident and compelling novel, all the more impressive for being a debut. Matt manages to capture the distinct voices of the cast of characters perfectly, with all of their teenage angst and worries, the shifting group dynamics and emotions.

Six Stories is dark and disturbing in places, with an unsettling feeling of dread creeping up as you delve further into the story and the events on Scarclaw Fell.

The Man Who Died, by Antti Tuomainen

Next up is another Orenda author. Antti Tuomainen, King of Finnish Noir and owner of some quite splendid shirts. The Man Who Died is a departure from his usual Helsinki Noir, and is a sheer delight. Perhaps he has created a new genre, Mushroom Noir?

It’s delightfully different – here we have a man who knows that he’s been (or being) poisoned, and sets out to solve his own murder. The cast of suspects is fairly short, and Jaakko does like making lists. Could it be his wife? The strange characters at the shiny new mushroom processing plant in town? Or the Japanese clients?

Jaakko follows the trail around town as he investigates, coming across a whole bunch of fabulous characters who wouldn’t be out of place in an episode of Fargo. The humour in The Man Who Died is layered and oh so very dark and exactly the way I like it. Superb.

2. Tall Oaks, by Chris Whitaker

May 2017 and I find myself with a copy of Tall Oaks on my kindle (blame falling firmly on the shoulders of @lizzy11268) I settled in for a story of a small town and a missing child, thinking that I’d read stories like this before.

How wrong I was. Tall Oaks is a beautifully wrought tale of small town America, shot through with a deft line in wit and with what were to become some of my favourite characters in a book, ever. Manny and Abe, I’m looking at you.

The characters in Tall Oaks all have their story to tell, and what stories they are. There’s a real depth to these people, quirks, secrets and lies playing out over the days and weeks following the disappearance of three year-old Harry.

The sense of small town America seeps through the pages of this book and I was surprised to find out that Chris Whitaker is, in fact, British – born in London and living in Hertfordshire and yet has captured the feel of the town so brilliantly. What’s even more astonishing is that this is a debut novel – the writing, plotting and characterisation are confident and accomplished.

Utterly brilliant.

I said at the time “if this is just the start of Chris’s writing career, I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.”

What Chris came up with next turned out to be my favourite crime book of 2017. And that, my friend, was a phenomenally strong field.

All The Wicked Girls, by Chris Whitaker

I thought Tall Oaks was good. Tall Oaks *was* good. Great, in fact. How could Chris top that? The bar had been set pretty high.

All The Wicked Girls is so utterly brilliant, though in a different way to Tall Oaks. I’d struggle to pick one to recommend to you if pressed, and would probably insist that you just buy both and thank me (or rather thank Chris) later.

It’s deep and complex, harrowing and heartbreaking, a story of a young girl’s hunt for her missing sister in a small southern bible belt town. Chris Whitaker does small-town America really really well, and the town and townsfolk are pitch perfect. As with Tall Oaks, All The Wicked Girls is a character piece, and what characters they are – from the distraught parents to the fire & brimstone preachers, the harried cops and Raine’s unlikely partners, Noah and Purv.

Much like Manny and Abe from Tall Oaks, I loved the three kids, each with their own secrets, each trying to make it in their own version of the world.

All The Wicked Girls sits firmly alongside Tall Oaks in my books 2017. As I said earlier, don’t make me choose – buy both and settle down for some of the best storycrafting you’re likely to see for a long time.

One book came along soon after which just blew my socks off. Ladies and gentlemen, may I cordially present one of my favourite books, no matter what the genre.

The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is, to put it simply, one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s fabulously mind-twistingly clever, with a high-concept plot, a host of splendid, characters and a delightfully Christie-esque setting. It’s a book which demands that you pay attention, and rewards you handsomely for doing so. You know who dies from the title itself, but unlike your common or garden whodunnit, you follow the course of a day many times over, from different viewpoints as our protagonist tries to solve the question of who killed Evelyn Hardcastle, and more importantly, why.

I’m in awe of the plotting at work here – multiple characters interwoven across a day and the rooms and grounds of Blackheath. It’s been compared to Agatha Christie meets Inception, but it’s so much more than that – throw in a dash of Quantum Leap, and a smidgeon of Cluedo, topped off with a light dusting of Groundhog Day. I can picture the author in a room with a large map and a ball of red string, laying out the timelines.

Look. It’s genius. Just go and order yourself a copy. The hardback comes with maps, and who doesn’t love a good map in a book?

And so, here are a few of my favourite crime books of recent years. Have you read any of them? I’d love to know what you think, and am always up for any recommendations!