FictionFan Awards 2014 – Crime/Thriller Category – Standalones & Book of the Year 2014

Please rise…


…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2014 in the Crime Fiction/Thriller Category – Standalones.

The last reminder of the rules for this year…


All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2013 and October 2014 regardless of publication date, but excluding re-reads. The books must have received a 5-star rating.


There will be Honourable Mentions and a Winner in each of the following categories

Factual – click to see awards

Genre Fiction – click to see awards

Literary Fiction

Crime Fiction/Thrillers – Books in a Series

Crime Fiction/Thrillers – Standalone Novels



Book of the Year 2014


For the winners!

I guarantee to read the authors’ next book even if I have to buy it myself!

For the runners-up!




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So, without further ado, here are this year’s runners-up and winner in




And here we go for the final category (hurrah!) for this year. It’s been a great year for original and well-written standalones, many of them with more than a touch of humour, black or otherwise. To be honest, any of these would make a fine winner, but only one can get the prize. So here goes…




life or deathLife or Death by Michael Robotham

One of the finds of the year for me, I’ve been loving Robotham’s Joe O’Loughlin series, and this standalone is equally good. Audie Palmer has been in prison for ten years for an armed robbery that went wrong. Although two of the gang died and Audie was arrested, the stolen $7 million has never been found. Since Audie’s brother is suspected of being the fourth gang member, everyone assumes he’s living a life of luxury somewhere and that Audie will get his share when he gets out. So why would Audie suddenly choose to escape, just one day before he’s due to be released? It seems he has made a promise that he must keep – but there are people who want to stop him. So not only is Audie running from the law, he’s in a race to fulfil his mission before he loses his life…

Click to see the full review

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Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

moriartyA brilliant ‘follow-on’ novel. There’s no sign of Holmes or Watson in this one but it’s set perfectly in the Holmesian world we know so well. It is the year 1891, just after Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty have fought their final battle at Reichenbach Falls. Our narrator is Frederick Chase, a Pinkerton man, in Europe on the trail of a criminal mastermind, one Clarence Devereux, who he believes is responsible for killing one of his colleagues.There’s constant excitement, terrifying peril, touches of horror, brilliant descriptions of London and enough humour to keep the tone light. The writing is superb, totally within character and as good as Conan Doyle’s own. The tone feels completely right for a Holmes book and the world of the book is absolutely the one in which Holmes lived and worked. And the only word I can find for the climax is awesome! So clever I read the last part of the book with a huge grin on my face, out of sheer pleasure and admiration.

Click to see the full review

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little liesLittle Lies by Liane Moriarty (aka Big Little Lies)

Trivia Night at Pirriwee Public Primary School in New South Wales doesn’t turn out quite as planned. We learn in Chapter 1 that the evening ends with a murder, but we don’t know the victim, the murderer or the motive. We are then whisked back six months to meet the various characters and follow the events leading up to the murder. It all begins on the day the mothers bring their five-year-olds along to the Kindergarten ‘Let’s Get Ready’ Orientation Day…

I loved this book. The mothers are brilliantly observed, completely believable – people most of us have met. They each have quirks and flaws, they can be annoying, but they’re also intensely likeable – you can’t help but feel that it would be so much fun to spend time with them. The writing is great, and the author keeps a perfect balance between the serious side of the story and the humour – like in real life, she allows her characters to have both happy and sad times, rather than burying them under a blanket of angst. So nearly the winner…

Click to see the full review

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Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch

Summer HouseAs the book begins we learn that Marc is being investigated for malpractice by the Board of Medical Examiners over the death of one of his patients, successful actor Ralph Maier. As he waits to learn the outcome, Marc tells the story of how Ralph became his patient and of how their families gradually became acquainted, culminating with Marc taking his wife and two young daughters to stay with Ralph’s family in his summer house, complete with swimming pool. Sexual attraction turns the house-party into a bubbling cauldron of hidden and not-so-hidden emotions, gradually coming to a boil as we move towards the shocking incident that’s at the heart of the story. Dark, funny and thought-provoking, in the end this is as much about the diseases of the soul as of the body, the two somehow tangled together in Marc’s mind. The pacing is perfect, the writing and translation are superb, and Marc is an unforgettable monster of a character. Brilliant!

Click to see the full review

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a pleasure and a callingA Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan

William Heming has always been fascinated by the lives of the people around him. Some might call him a stalker, but he wouldn’t call himself that. He just likes to find out all about people…without them knowing. So when he is given a job as an estate agent, what joy! The ability to poke and pry round other people’s houses; and better yet, to be able to copy the keys of the houses so that he can pop back when the owners are out – or even when they’re in…

If I had an award category for character of the year, Mr Heming would win hands down! This is a hugely entertaining read, both creepy and humorous. Twisty and turny all the way through, it kept me guessing right up to the end. It’s all handled with huge skill and a lot of humour so that the reader ends up completely ambivalent about the awful Mr Heming – laughing along with his wicked sense of humour even while condemning his ever-more extreme behaviour. Oh, it’s hard not to let this one win…

Click to see the full review

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 Entry_Island_JK (2)

Entry Island by Peter May

In the tiny community of Entry Island in the Gulf of St Lawrence, a man has been brutally murdered. The local police don’t have the expertise to investigate such a serious crime, so the Quebec Sûreté send a team to the island. Unusually for this French-speaking province, the islanders are English-speaking, so his Scottish descent means that Detective Sime Mackenzie is included in the team to carry out interviews. But when Sime (pronounced Sheem) meets Kirsty Cowell, the wife of the victim and the chief suspect, he is struck with an unshakeable feeling that he knows her…although they have never met.

Like the Lewis Trilogy, Entry Island has a double time-line – the present day investigation set in Canada, and a historical storyline set on Lewis. May’s books are always meticulously researched with a very strong sense of place. But since he started writing about Lewis this strength has taken on an extra layer – it feels as if he is really now writing with his heart as well as his head. He spent a good deal of time on Lewis while producing a Gaelic-language drama serial, Machair, and he seems to have absorbed the landscape and the community of this remote and weather-beaten island until it has become an integral part of him. In my opinion, this is the best book May has ever written and one of the best crime novels I have read – with an authenticity and depth of emotion that reduced this sentimental lowland Scot to tears on more than one occasion. A great book and a worthy winner.

Click to see the full review

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And now…

the nominees for the Book of the Year Award are…









Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson
by S.C. Gwynne

The first time a factual book has ever been my book of the year, but this is an outstanding biography, as readable as the best fiction. Well researched and clearly structured, the book balances the history and the personal perfectly, but what really made it stand out for me so much is the sheer quality of the writing and storytelling. Gwynne’s great use of language and truly elegant grammar bring both clarity and richness to the complexities of the campaigns, while the extensive quotes from contemporaneous sources, particularly Jackson’s own men, help to give the reader a real understanding of the trust and loyalty that he inspired. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for anyone to interest me in the minutiae of military campaigns, but I became absorbed by the descriptions of artillery and troop movements, supply chains and battle plans. Gwynne’s brilliance at contrasting the beauty of the landscape with the horrors of the battlefield is matched by his ability to show the contrast between Jackson’s public and private personas. If only all history were written like this – a superb book, and one that gets my highest recommendation – truly the book of the year.

Click to see the full review

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Thanks to all of you who’ve stuck with me through this mammoth awards feature – I may try to streamline it a bit in future years. I hope you’ve enjoyed it – I’ve enjoyed your company!

43 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2014 – Crime/Thriller Category – Standalones & Book of the Year 2014

  1. Oh, I loved Mr. Heming – it’s the kind of book that stays with you, no fireworks, just quietly sinister.
    But I haven’t read Entry Island, so I cannot tell if your choice of one over the other is justified. I love Peter May usually, though…


    • Mr Heming was great! I’d have loved to make most of these books a winner, TBH, and I suspect the Scottishness of the May pushed it ahead for me. Being about the Highland Clearances, and coming out during the upheaval of the Independence debate, it became a really emotional read for me…


  2. Marvellous choices, FictionFan! I couldn’t agree more with almost all of your nominees. And I’m not surprised at all at your choice of crime fiction standalone of the year and book of the year. Rebel Yell has been on my list since you reviewed it, and now even keener to read it.


    • A great bunch of standalones this year – I always love when there’s a bit of humour or a great character and most of these have one or the other. I do hope you’ll enjoy ‘Rebel Yell’ – I’ve become a bit evangelistic about it… (as you may have noticed! 😉 )


  3. Yay! This has been awesome. I am currently reading Moriaty, so a little disappointed it didn’t win, but this just gives me inspiration for my next ‘read’. I have loved the awards feature, always interesting and I have actually found myself getting a bit excited to find out who wins! Thanks, FF 😀


  4. No no no, you MUSTN’T streamline. We LIKE the long haul. I think you could have spun it out for a further week with the standalone crimes this week, in order to build up the nail-biting tension.

    Is there to be a presentation ceremony? Does Mr Gwynne know? Are Neil Gaiman and the rest now weeping bitterly, despite having been winners in their own category.

    Will Darcy be playing Stonewall Jackson in the film of the book?


    • I could do Best Character, Best Cover, Best Font Size, Best Chapter Titles… and string the whole thing out for months!

      There will be an awards ceremony, complete with champagne and chocolate. Unfortunately I forgot to send the invites out, so I’ll just have to consume it all myself…

      D’you know, I think that’s a stunningly brilliant idea!!! I’d love, love, LOVE to see a movie of this book – and my Darcy in a uniform…and on horseback… Oooh, just off for a wee lie down!


      • Sighs. I just had my frock cleaned in readiness as well (unsightly champagne and chocolate stains all down the front as I dribbled when I fell asleep during boring speeches at another, yet another awards dinner)


  5. Please don’t even consider streamlining this highlight of the great books you’ve read over the year. Thanks for reminding me of all the great crime thrillers of the year although I still need to read the Michael Robotham which is waiting patiently for me. I’m very impressed that Rebel Yell won the book of the year too.


  6. My shield is on the blink! Mayday! Mayday! When you first reviewed “Big Little Lies” I put myself in line at our library (I’m still 71st), so I may need to get this one at the store. But I’m also inclined to get Moriarty, A Pleasure and a Calling, and Rebel Yell. Oh dear.


  7. Great choices. I agree that the May does beat “Moriarty”, but only by a whisker. And I’m definitely going to read “Rebel Yell” – perhaps Santa might like to put it in my stocking (Hint! Hint!).


  8. So many goodies on your list! I haven’t read any of the titles so far, but I’ve added quite a few to my TBR list and I’m hoping to start getting copies soon. 😀


  9. You have some great nominees in the standalones- personally Life or Death was my favourite and I really want to read Big Little Lies (you may have persuaded me to buy this book :)) Pleasure and A Calling was great, the Peter May I have not read…I had so much trouble limiting my list of “bests” , I will post it soonish…I ended up with a best contemporary and best crime fiction and still had huge lists. Keep up the great work FF. Are you having a Christmas break?


    • Any of these could have won. Little Lies is brilliant – I’m sure you’ll love it. And if you get a chance to read the Peter May book, I think you’d probably like it too.

      I know – trying to work out the ‘bests’ is really hard. That’s why I end up with so many different categories. I’m looking forward to seeing your choices…

      Thanks, Carol! Yes, I’ll take at least a couple of weeks off, I think. I need some time off anyway to build up a stock of reviews again. You?


      • Enjoy your break – I too need a bit of time to catch up on some reading. I think I will be posting less often (and a lot of books on my TBR aren’t published for a few months so cant post reviews til closer to the publication date) It has been a busy few weeks in Mandurah and will be busy once we get back home with Christmas approaching.

        Have a wonderful Christmas. xxx


        • I’ll still be posting over the next couple of weeks but probably not so much and then a complete break over Christmas and the New Year. I seem to have spent the last few months running behind with reviews – I’m determined to get back to being ahead!

          You too, Carol – and a great New Year! 😀


  10. What a great list! I desperately want to read that Herman Koch one since I read The Dinner. I love his style. I need to start looking at my top books of the year. It’s been a great reading year and it’s going to be hard narrowing it down.

    A great post!


    • I’m the other way round – I still haven’t read The Dinner. I’ve been planning to for months! I know – it’s really hard to decide on the best – that’s why I end up with so many! looking forward to seeing your picks… 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I loved the humour in the book, even though it was black and warped most of the time. Must move The Dinner up the priority list! I always love people’s end of year lists – reminds me of any that I’ve missed…


  11. I’m with Cleo and Lady Fancifull – don’t streamline! I’ve so looked forward to each award category (even if it has played havoc with my TBR list!) Plus you read such a varied selection of books that it would be unfair to judge them against each other. I just wish I could get through as many as you! I have A Pleasure And A Calling, and (Big) Little Lies, although I haven’t got round to them yet – also I’ve got The Dinner, Herman Koch’s predecessor to Summer House With Swimming Pool. I started it just before we moved, so that’s another one to track down…from what little I’d read, it was very witty. I must make more of an effort with Peter May, so I’ll try Entry Island at some point too.


    • Thanks, crimeworm! I think you’ll enjoy both Little Lies and A Pleasure. I haven’t read The Dinner yet either – it’s been on my Kindle for months. Peter May’s Lewis Trilogy is great – I’d be tempted to suggest you read them before Entry Island, to get a feel for the Lewis setting. But Entry Island is a standalone if you preferred to start with that one.


  12. Of course you’d put your dad on the list! Isn’t fair, you know. Obviously biased.

    And this professor can’t understand why it’s pronounced that way. Maybe it was supposed to be “Slime”.


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