FictionFan Awards 2015 – Crime Fiction/Thrillers

A round of applause please…


…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2015.

In case you missed them last week, here’s a quick résumé of the rules…



All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2014 and October 2015 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

Genre Fiction – click to see awards

Factual – click to see awards

Crime Fiction/Thrillers

Literary Fiction



Book of the Year 2015




For the winners!


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

(NB If an author is unlikely to publish another book due to being dead, I will read a book from his/her back catalogue…)

For the runners-up!






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



Despite the fact that I’ve grown more and more unenamoured with a lot of contemporary crime, I’ve still had lots of good reads this year, though on looking back several of them are reissues of older books or have taken a slightly quirky approach. But simply because I read more crime than any other genre, this is still the section that is hardest to decide. So because the choice was so hard, I’ve decided also to list the nominees that didn’t quite make it into the final list. All of these books were great reads, and I look forward to reading more from each of these authors in the future.





the voices beyondThe Voices Beyond by Johan Theorin


Young Jonas is spending the summer on the island of Öland at the resort owned by his family, the Klosses. One night, he takes his dingy out onto the sea. Drifting in the darkness, a sudden shaft of moonlight shows a boat approaching and he doesn’t have time to get out of the way. He manages to climb aboard the boat before his dingy is sunk, but what awaits him there is the stuff of nightmares – dying men (or are they already dead?) on the deck stalking towards him and calling out in a language he doesn’t understand. This brilliantly atmospheric opening sets the tone for a book that combines a mystery in the present day with a story that takes us back to the USSR in the days of Stalin. Plot, writing, research, characterisation – all top quality, and it finishes off as atmospherically as it began. A great read – frankly, this could easily have been the winner.

Click to see the full review

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the zig-zag girlThe Zig-Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths


Set in Brighton post-WW2, this is a great start to a new series from the author of the Ruth Galloway series. Edgar Stephens and Max Mephisto served in a secret unit known as the “Magic Men” during the war. Now Edgar is a police detective and Max has gone back to his profession as a stage magician. When a dismembered corpse turns up, it has echoes of one of Max’s tricks, and as Edgar investigates it appears the solution may lie in their wartime past. Both place and time are done very well, with the shadow of the war still hanging over the characters and the world they inhabit. With an intriguing, complex plot, an interesting slant on a unique (and not entirely fictional) aspect of the war, some very enjoyable humour and a touch of romance, this is a great mystery of the traditional kind. And best of all, unlike the Ruth books, it’s written in the past tense.

Click to see the full review

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vertigoVertigo by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac


As Paris waits uneasily for war to begin, Roger Flavières is approached by an old college friend, Gévigne, who puts an odd proposition to him. Gévigne is concerned about his wife, Madeleine. She has been lapsing into odd silences, almost trances, and seems bewildered when she comes out of them. Gévigne knows she’s been going out during the afternoons but she says she hasn’t – either she is lying, which Gévigne doesn’t believe, or she has forgotten. Gévigne wants Flavières to follow her, partly to find out what she’s doing and partly to make sure she is safe. This is, of course, the book on which the Hitchcock film was based and, for once, despite my love for all things Hitchcock, on this occasion I think the book is better. Hitchcock’s decision to elevate the importance of the vertigo aspects, as opposed to the book’s study of the effects of obsession on an already weak mind, somehow makes his Ferguson a less complex and intriguing character than Boileau-Narcejac’s Flavières. And the ending of the book is much more satisfying than that of the film. An excellent read.

Click to see the full review

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you zoran drvenkarYou by Zoran Drvenkar


Back in 1995, a massive snowstorm brought traffic to a halt on the road between Bad Hersfeld and Eisenach. As people huddled in their cars overnight, trying to keep warm, The Traveler stepped out of his vehicle and worked his way along the line of cars, murdering the people inside. By the time the snowploughs got through, twenty-six people were dead and there was no trace of The Traveler. In the present day, Ragnar Desche has found the frozen body of his brother Oskar and is out to get revenge against whoever killed him and stole the massive stash of heroin he was keeping for Ragnar. And four teenage girls are worrying about the fifth member of their little clique who has been missing for nearly a week… This is a great book, written almost entirely in the second person through the eyes of each of the huge cast of characters in turn. Drvenkar handles this unusual technique superbly, forcing me to identify with each of them, however unlikely. It’s noir dark shot through with just enough gleams of light to keep it bearable, pacey and tense, grim and disturbing, no punches pulled – and quite stunning. I’m still not completely sure it shouldn’t be the winner…

Click to see the full review

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Lamentation by C.J. Sansom


It is 1546, and an increasingly ailing Henry VIII has swung back to the traditionalist wing of the church – in fact, some fear he might be about to make amends with the Pope and take the country back to Catholicism. The constant shifts in what is seen as acceptable doctrine have left many sects, once tolerated, now at risk of being accused of heresy. And, as the story begins, Anne Askew and three other heretics are about to be burned at the stake for preaching radical Protestantism. At this dangerous time, Henry’s last Queen, Catherine Parr, has written a book, Lamentations of a Sinner, describing her spiritual journey to believing that salvation can be found only through study of the Bible and the love of Christ, rather than through the traditional rites of the Church. Not quite heretical, but close enough to be used against her by the traditionalists. So when the book is stolen, Catherine calls on the loyalty of her old acquaintance, Matthew Shardlake, to find it and save her from becoming another of Henry’s victims. And when a torn page turns up in the dead hand of a murdered printer, it’s clear some people will stop at nothing to get hold of the book…

I have long held that Sansom is by far the best writer of historical fiction, certainly today, but perhaps ever; and I’m delighted to say that this book is, in my opinion, his best to date. A huge brick of a book, coming in at over 600 pages, and yet at no point does it flag. Like the earlier books, this one is completely immersive – the length of it is matched by its depth. The fictional aspect is woven seamlessly into fact, and the characters and actions of the real people who appear in the novel are consistent with what we know of them through the history books. The combination of the personal and the political is perfectly balanced, and Sansom never fails to take the consequences of events of previous books through to the next, meaning that the recurring characters continue to develop more deeply in each one. There’s always a long wait between Shardlake novels, but they are invariably worth waiting for. And as England moves on to dealing with the aftermath of Henry’s death, I very much hope that Shardlake will be there to lead us through it…

Click to see the full review

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Next week: Best Literary Fiction Award

44 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2015 – Crime Fiction/Thrillers

  1. Oh, these are excellent choices, FictionFan! I can see how any of your HMs could have won, too. So glad you enjoyed Lamentations as much as you did; Sansom writes a great historical novel, no doubt.

    • Always a difficult choice, but Sansom really won as much for the whole series as for this book alone. I’m always sorry it’s so long between books with him, but it’s understandable given the sheer amount of research he must have to do. But I loved the Theorin and the Drvenkar just as much really…

    • I love historical fiction – don’t know why I don’t read more of it actually. The Shardlake novels are brilliant – a worthy winner! *laughs* You did! Congratulations! We should steal you a trophy!

      Me too – good Nordic name! I think I want to be a Viking…

      • Yes, please. But not a gold trophy. Maybe titanium one? You must read more about the Crusades and Knights and all that. And trebuchets! I love all that stuff.

        You? A Viking?! *laughs* Might work because of appearance, but I don’t know. Plus, if you change the name a bit…you get…Ringer!

        • I got you a lovely chocolate one… but I ate it – sorry! I can’t think of any books about the Crusades – can you? I wonder of Sir Arthur wrote any…

          Why not?! You seem to forget I’m a warrioress, sir! But if I was Ringer then I’d have to go about killing horrid little kids… *ponders deeply*

          • Nah, I can’t. There has to be some, though. I was just given a DVD of the 300 Spartans. It has this chap named Richard Egan in it. Made in 1961. Should be good.

            Well, Vikings lived tough lives, you know. You’d…have to go hunting!

  2. This(your winner) of course is the only one I’ve read,(though I may have read the Hammett, many years ago, whilst under the influence of one who loved those old Americans and got me reading Chandler enjoyably.

    But, oh that Shardlake. Terrifying, heartbreaking, absorbing. I shivered, shook and wept. The Shardlake also was, for a long, long time the only book listed in the ‘A Book That Scared You’ category in the wretched PopSugar. Which was rather amusing, as I read (or abandoned reading) quite a handful which were SUPPOSED to scare the reader, but were just, in my opinion, juvenile attempts to shock, with no idea how to construct for suspense. But the Shardlake had me sweating away in anxiety imagining life in the time of that man with the hard and piggy eyes, built like a battleship and just as implacable. I think Wolf Hall, book and TV adaptation, Shardlake and Alison Weir’s The Lady In The Tower have all conspired to make me very very afraid of a man who fortunately died 500 odd years ago. And of course, as Samson makes Shardlake like a dear dear friend to the reader, we are terrified FOR him. And, just think, he had no chocolate to help him through his own terrors

    • I actually think I preferred the Shardlake to Wolf Hall, which is high praise indeed! I always feel they get a bit overlooked (the Shardlakes, that is) by being categorised as historical crime. They are, of course, but they’re also so much more than that, and I feel this one was even better than the others – though I think I’ve felt that about each one. Next year is definitely going to include some re-reading for me and the Shardlakes will be high on the list… I’m actually quite intrigued to see what I think of the early ones now – it’s so long since I read them.

      Otherwise, the “books of the films” have been some of my favourite crime reads this year – Vertigo, Maltese Falcon and Psycho. So much so, I’m thinking of maybe making that a little feature next year if I can think of enough contenders…

      Of course, all these plans depend on me stopping taking so many new books for review…

        • Yes, it might be fun – I’ll need to see which other of Hitch’s films are based on books… not that I’d be sticking rigidly to him, but he did tend to pick books I’ve enjoyed.

          Me too! And funnily enough, despite all the hoohah about Wolf Hall, Lamentation has just about the same numbers of reviews on Az, and a higher star rating. I wonder why you never really hear bloggy people discussing them…

  3. Such outstanding selections! I do marvel at your ability to choose a winner, FF. I can see myself drawing a title out of a hat because any of these could have won.

    • Haha! I must admit my choices often feel as if that is how I picked them! I genuinely rarely know which has won until I start typing the post – even at the end of this one, I swayed back and forwards between the eventual winner and ‘You’ for ages… But, yes, all of these are great books and would have been worthy winners!

  4. I love Maltese Falcon (both the book and the film). It’s such a classic hardboiled novel. I really ought to reread it sometime. I’ve been trying to revisit Chandler’s Marlowe series in recent years, so maybe I should add some Hammett to the mix.

    • I loved all the “books of films” I read last year – the Maltese Falcon, Vertigo and Psycho. That’s the only Hammett I’ve read, and the only Chandler is The Big Sleep. I really must try to make space to read more of them both sometime… somehow!

  5. As always you had some excellent contenders which just highlights that all crime fiction isn’t similar at all – you have a great mixture of the sub-genres. Although I haven’t read any of CJ Sansom’s novels he is on my massive TBR! Good to see The Zig-Zag Girl in the honourable mentions too!

    • An odd batch this year, but all excellent! Sansom is great, but I warn you, every single one of the books is massive. Lucky he only produces one every few years really! Yes, I’m glad Elly Griffiths got in – despite all my moaning about the present tense in the Ruth books she’s still one of my favourite authors…

    • I think they’re brilliant – just wish he wasn’t so slow! Though with the amount of research he must have to do, it’s understandable. I’m going to try to re-read some of them next year.

  6. Thanks for the nudging reminder. I’ve just downloaded Dissolution to start my Shardlake journey; I’m looking forward to it.

    • Oh, I’m planning to re-read them soon so I’ll be starting again with Dissolution too. One of the few times that both LF and I rate a series equally highly – that must mean it’s good… musn’t it? Hope you enjoy – please let me know what you think of it.

  7. I am tempted to write my “best of 2015” but I have a couple of books sitting here I just need to read and/or review as I know they will be great and might just deserve a mention in my list – when to stop reading and start judging – that is my problem…Some great reads on your short list (and very likely I read some of these because of your recommendations – thank you) I think you need to do a Best of Australian Fiction next year please.

    • That’s why I run the year from November-October – it lets me do the round-up in time for people to buy the books for Christmas, should they feel inspired by any of them. I’d love to do an Australian fiction award, but lots of the books don’t turn up over here, or else they are ridiculously over-priced. I’ve got several books on my TBR from you and other Aus reviewers that I’ve been waiting for ages for the price to drop on. *sighs*

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