FictionFan Awards 2016 – Crime Fiction/Thrillers

A round of applause please…

…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2016.

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 2015 and October 2016 regardless of publication date, but excluding re-reads. The books must have received a 5-star rating.


The categories tend to change slightly each year to better reflect what I’ve been reading during the year.

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 2016


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


Domestic thrillers continue to dominate the crime fiction market at the moment, and my distaste for them continues to dominate me! So this year I’ve been reading mostly police procedurals or thrillers, with a fair sprinkling of vintage crime fiction and some re-reads of old favourites. Despite the ongoing march of the misery-fest there’s still some great stuff out there, even if it’s not getting hyped as much as the latest “First-Person Present-Tense Grief-Stricken Drunk Girl in a Mini-Cab with a Red Coat and a Killer Twist”. And because I read more crime/thriller fiction than any other genre, it seems only fair to mention some of the books that didn’t quite make it on to the shortlist. All of these books were great reads, and I look forward to reading more from each of these authors in the future.



night blindNightblind by Ragnar Jónasson

It’s autumn in tiny Siglufjördur but it feels like winter is on the way. Ari Thór Arason, one of the town’s two police officers, is off sick with flu, so his colleague Herjólfur is on his own as he stands in the wind and rain outside an old, abandoned house a little way out of town, watching a light inside that seems to come from a torch. Summoning up his courage, he goes to investigate. It’s only when his wife reports him missing the next day that he is found, shot through the chest…

This is a cracking start to what turns into an excellent book. The combination of Jónasson’s great descriptive writing and Quentin Bates’ flawless translation create an atmospheric sense of the isolation of this small weather-beaten place on Iceland’s northern shore. Great plotting and characterisation too – all round, this is about as good as the police procedural gets.

Click to see the full review

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a rising manA Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

The corpse of a white man is discovered in an alleyway in an unsavoury part of Calcutta, and Inspector Sam Wyndham is assigned to investigate. It is 1919, and Wyndham has just arrived in India after recovering from injuries he received during the war, so he will have to depend for local knowledge on his two colleagues – Sergeant Digby, an Englishman with all the worst attitudes of imperial superiority and a grudge against Wyndham for getting the job he felt should be his own; and an Oxford educated Indian from a well-to-do family, Sergeant “Surrender-Not” Banerjee, so called because Digby finds his real name too difficult to pronounce.

Mukherjee knows his stuff for sure, and the picture he paints of Calcutta and the Indian political situation of the time positively reeks of authenticity. His British characters are equally believable and there are many references to Scottish culture that again have the ring of total truthfulness, and are often very funny. A great novel – hard to believe it’s a début. And I’m delighted that it’s apparently the first book in a series.

Click to see the full review

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open woundsOpen Wounds by Douglas Skelton

Davie McCall is a gangster with a moral code – he doesn’t hurt women, children or ‘civilians’. But that doesn’t stop him from hurting other people – badly, when they’ve done something that crosses one of his personal lines. He’s always felt in control of his violence though, until recently, when he suddenly found he was enjoying it. Now he wants out of the ‘Life’, but he’s scared – not of what his boss might do to him, but scared that he won’t be able to change, won’t be able to leave the desire for violence behind him. Meantime, he’s still working as a heavy for Rab McClymont, who’s not just his boss but an old friend. So when Rab asks him to lean on a man, Fergus O’Neill, at first Davie’s fine with that. O’Neill was convicted a few years back of a horrific burglary that involved rape, but is now out pending appeal and is publicly accusing Rab of having fitted him up for the crime. When Davie begins to believe that O’Neill may have been innocent, he still can’t believe that Rab would have been involved in a rape, even indirectly. So he begins to investigate.

This is genuine Tartan Noir, grounded in the real recognisable Glasgow of today. The book is set in Glasgow gangster culture and has a totally authentic feel to it. As well as giving a great sense of place, using mainly real locations, Skelton has a complete grip on Glaswegian “patter”, the humour that covers the harshness of life on the edges of society. Put that together with great characterisation and plotting, and this book takes its place amongst the very best of Scottish crime writing.

Click to see the full review

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daisy in chainsDaisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Hamish Wolfe is a prisoner, convicted of the murders of three young women. Maggie Rose is a defence barrister and author of several books regarding possible miscarriages of justice, some of which have resulted in the convicted men being released. Hamish and his little group of supporters on the outside are keen to get Maggie to take on his case. Pete Weston owes his promotion to Detective Sergeant to his success in catching Hamish, and he’s adamant that no mistakes were made.

This is Sharon Bolton at her twisty, twisted best, and her best is pretty brilliant! Bolton’s skill is not just in the plotting, great though that is. Where she really excels is in setting up an atmosphere of growing tension and dread, always helped by the settings she chooses. Her descriptive writing is fabulous – the lowering snow clouds, freezing cold and short dark days of her Somerset setting all adding beautifully to a scary sense of creepiness and fear. But there’s a healthy dose of humour which prevents the book from becoming too dark, meaning that it’s a truly enjoyable read even while it’s deliciously tingling the reader’s spine. This book so nearly won…

Click to see the full review

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Magpie Murders
by Anthony Horowitz

Susan Ryeland, editor for Cloverleaf Books, settles down happily to read the new manuscript from their star author – Magpie Murders by Alan Conway. Susan may not like the author, but she loves his books, a series of Golden Age style mysteries starring Atticus Pund and his sidekick James Fraser. But she will find that on this occasion the mystery extends beyond the book, and murder might have leapt from the pages into real life…

This is a fantastic take on a Christie-style murder mystery – country house, lots of characters all with secrets and motives, a nicely unpleasant victim so we don’t have to venture into grief territory, some great clues and red herrings, an intriguing detective in the German-born Pund, and a rather charming if intellectually challenged sidekick in James. It is in fact two books – the one involving Susan and “real” life, and the fictional book involving Atticus Pund and a gruesome murder in the village of Saxby-on-Avon. Like Christie, it gets that perfect balance between dark and light, depth and entertainment. Again, as with his take on the Holmes mysteries, Horowitz has shown how effectively he can play with these much-loved, established fictional worlds, always affectionately but always with an original twist that prevents them from being mere pastiche. Great stuff, that I’m sure will be enjoyed by any mystery fan.

Click to see the full review

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Next week: Best Literary Fiction Award

56 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2016 – Crime Fiction/Thrillers

  1. *standing ovation for the magnificent winner* Excellent choice, FF! There was some stiff competition, true, but there is surely not a better crime fiction novel this year – nay this decade – than the mighty Magpie Murders. Absolutely loved this book, as you know, and love Horowitz in general. He has a new Alex Ryder book out next year, I think, so perhaps the perfect opportunity to give one a go! Now, we just need him to write the actual Atticus Pund books – I really want to read them!

    • *throws giant bouquet at him*

      Yes, despite the ongoing angst-ridden alcoholic novel, there’s still a lot of good stuff out there, if you can find it. But Horowitz is special – he always does something original that makes his books stand out. I still haven’t decided whether to give his kids’ books a try – not really my kind of thing. You must let me know how you get on, if you read one. But yes – I think, in the spirit of crime fiction, we should abduct him and lock him in a damp cellar till he gets the Atticus Pund books written…

      • He really is very special – as you say, there is something so very unique about his writing. I can see Magpie Murders being hailed as one of the literary greats, long after we are all expired – like the great Agatha Christie herself! I must say, I’m not tempted by the kid’s books, I’m sure they are brilliantly done but just not my sort of thing. I loved Pratchett’s kid’s books and of course Oscar Wilde’s children’s stories, but for some reason his don’t appeal. Probably the kid-spy thing – it sounds quite annoying, to be honest 😉
        I will try and devise a cunning kidnap operation – that one about the school play sounds brilliant! WE WANT ATTICUS PUND! And how good would an Atticus TV series be?!

        • I never got along with Pratchett – not even his adult books, I’m afraid. Yeah, it’s the spy thing that puts me off too – I can’t imagine me being able to get over the credibility thing. Hopefully, he’ll be concentrating on more adult books too. Haha! But your dear friend Hugh would be *whispers* too old to play James. Though maybe he could play Atticus…

          • He had better concentrate on the adult books! Although hopefully not quite as ‘adult’ as my dear friend Hugh’s books. I think he has served his time as a sidekick, he can step up and be Pund! Brilliant, FF! Even more exciting, it means we need a new Hugh Fraser to play -er – James Fraser. He needs to be dashing, a bit thick and say ‘Good Lord!’ a lot.

  2. Such a great group of crime novels you have there, FictionFan! Isn’t it great to have one of those years where, in the main, the crime fiction crop has been a good one? And you’ve reminded me that I must read Open Wounds and A Rising Man.

    • Yes, even when the misery novel is still dominating, there’s still plenty of good stuff out there, if you can find it! It’s always a hard category – so much to choose from. Both excellent choices – I must get around to reading more of Douglas Skelton soon. Thank goodness A Rising Man is a debut… one series I’m not behind in… 😉

    • Hahaha! I feel it’s only fair the authors should know up front they’re not in line for a huge cheque or a nice trophy – the honour should be enough! 😉 Oh, I think you might like Magpie Murders – it’s brilliantly written and so clever… and so much fun…

  3. Heard Mr Horowitz talking this morning about Magpie Murders. You’ll ne disgusted with me, but I didn’t actually know who he was and then he explained the book and I started planning when I would read and who’s get it from me at Christmas! He gave an amazing interview (Ryan Tubridy on Rte1 in Ireland if you want to look up the podcast) and said he’s put tv on the back burnrr as he NEEDS to write so many books. I pulled over and sighed in contentment at his attitude. Excellent excellant post by the by!:)

    • Oh, thank you – I’ll look up the podcast later! I hadn’t read any of his stuff either till a few years ago when he wrote a Holmes story – The House of Silk – and I loved it! He’s been mainly a children’s wirter till recently, but his few adult books have been great. And this one is particularly good, especially for anyone’s who’s a fan of the old-style murder mystery… so clever, and so much fun! 🙂

  4. Because I don’t know anything about crime fiction, I’m going to take your word for it and add the winner to my list – then it will be there for when the mood strikes me!

    • Hurrah! That’s great, because of all the books I mentioned in the post, the winner is the one I think would be most likely to appeal to you. It’s well written and clever and, most of all, entertaining. I do hope you enjoy it, when you get a chance to read it. 😀

  5. Such good choices here, FF, that I’m amazed you were able to select a winner! All of them sound positively wonderful — can’t tell, can you, that crime fiction/thrillers is my favorite category?!! And how refreshing to hear that one doesn’t have to write that angst-driven, first-person, present-tense drivel that some publishers seem so desirous of!

    • I was totally torn between the one that won and Daisy in Chains – I must have changed the post at least three times! Yes, crime fiction’s such a crowded market it’s not always easy to find the ones that aren’t angst-fests, but there’s still good stuff out there – and I’m betting these will still be in print long after all these “domestic thrillers” have ended up in the recycling bin… 😉

  6. You’ve picked one I haven’t read but have wanted to ever since your review! Love your list but I really do think you need more titles with girls, modes of transport and relations: husbands, mothers or even stepmothers work well I find 😉
    Don’t tell anyone but I think Daisy and Chains may top my list in this category but I still have a couple of weeks so who knows.

    • Oh, I do think you’d really enjoy Magpie Murders if you ever get a chance to fit it in! Especially with you being a Christie fan. Hahaha! I’m very proud of the fact that there’s not a single girl in a red jacket on any one of these covers! Someone really needs to write one about a wicked aunt though… there’s a real gap in the market there. 😉

      Daisy in Chains came so close to winning – I must have changed the post at least three times before I decided for sure to give it to MM. I toyed with the idea of making them joint winners, in fact, so I’ll be pleased to see it win on your list, if it does…

  7. I am eager to read this but will have to wait till JUNE when it’s published here in the U.S. 😦 Oh well, at least you’ve given me another title to add to my Top Ten Tuesday list for today (in progress – anticipated 2017 reads!)

    • It’s ridiculous that it’s not out over there for so long! So unusual too – what are the publishers playing at?? Still, at least it means you’re guaranteed a good read next summer. Oh no – these 2017 lists have been playing havoc with my willpower all day… I’m dreading reading yours… 😉

  8. All of your nominees look awesome. I loved Out of Bounds and Daisy in Chains. I’m excited to read Coffin Road it’s on my TBR pile at the top. I was going to look up Magpie Murders but since I’m in the US apparently it doesn’t come out until June…bummer:(

    • If you loved those two, I’m certain you’d love the other finalists too then! It’s so annoying that Magpie Murders isn’t out over there yet! But it’s definitely one to look out for when it finally does arrive. I really enjoyed Coffin Road, but Peter May has turned up in my awards lists so often I thought I’d give some other authors a chance for once. Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

      • Ok, I’ll take a look at all your nominees since you said that! Peter May and Peter James are 2 authors I’ve never read and are the very top of my list to start reading in 2017

        • Peter May has been one of my favourites for years, and he’s producing some of his best stuff at the moment so it’s a good time to get to know him! *whispers* I didn’t enjoy the one Peter James book I read, though. But he has a huge following, so hopefully you’ll get on better with him than I did… 🙂

  9. I don’t break my books of the year down by genre, but if I did Magpie Murders would definitely win in this category! I did enjoy Daisy in Chains too, though.

    • I have to ‘cos I just find it too difficult comparing the different genres. I loved Daisy in Chains nearly a much as MM – in fact, I changed my mind more than once about which of them should win. But in the end, Magpie Murders just edged it… 🙂

    • It’s a great book! Have you read his Holmes books? I loved them too – he’s great at doing these without them feeling like pastiche. And Val McDermid is always good – I loved the early Tony Hill books, but being tired of serial killers, I’m really pleased this new series is more traditionally police procedural.

  10. Ah well your winner is one of only two in your list that I read (I think I read A26 but it could even have been another Garnier) But I definitely give the thumbs up to Magpie – one we both enjoyed, even if, by virtue of being a crime fiction fan aficionado, you probably enjoyed it even more than I did as you will have got every joke and reference, whereas I probably missed most of them. He was on Radio 4 recently. Helpfully, I can’t remember where. It might have been Broadcasting House or Saturday Live. He sounds as jolly good fun as his books

    • Well, you picked the best one to read – the Horowitz, that is – so you should get a special reader’s award, I think! I did love all the references in it, but one of the things I thought was so clever about it was that it still works perfectly well even for someone who’d never read an Agatha Christie. His author pic always looks as if he has a twinkle in his eye – I reckon he’d be fun to have at the fantasy authors’ dinner… so long as he resisted the temptation to try out one of his fiendish plots on the guests…

      • Absolutely (high enjoyment even if you DON’T have a through grounding in years of read and re-read Christie) So I was blissfully unaware of what I was missing, whilst, simultaneously knowing that I would be missing something. He managed I think to tip little winks to readers in the know, without leaving the rest of us feeling resentfully stupid!. Well, I think everyone would want to sit next to him at the fantasy author’s dinner – or at least within hearing distance.

        • I felt the same about Moriarty too, which I know you felt went too far towards violence etc. It was the way he wove all the little Holmes references in, again without them being necessary to understand the book. I do love him… I wonder if he can dance… we may all end up fighting over him! However, hopefully he’s too busy working on writing all the Atticus Pund books to attend parties…

  11. LOVED Daisy In Chains and A Rising Man, which may well make it on to my Top Ten – like last year, expect it’s arrival around mid-January, mainly because I haven’t written reviews of all my choices – this has been a very messy year, health-wise, for me and my Mum! I’ve never read Magpie Murders, although I was swithering over treating myself to it over Christmas… I may yet do so!

    • Sorry to hear about you and your mum – hope you’re both well on the road to better health for 2017. I think you’d love Magpie Murders, so I say treat yourself! Yes, I think A Rising Man is one fo the best debuts I’ve read – can’t wait to see how the series develops… 😀

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