FictionFan Awards 2022 – Modern Crime Fiction/Thriller

Drum roll please…

…for this year’s nominees and winners of the annual FictionFan Awards of 2022.

For the benefit of new readers, and as a reminder for anyone who was around in previous years, here’s a quick résumé of the rules…

THE CRITERIA

All nominees must be books I’ve read and reviewed between November 2021 and October 2022 regardless of publication date, but excluding re-reads. The books must have received a 5-star rating.

THE CATEGORIES

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

This year, there will be Honourable Mentions and a Winner in each of the following categories:

Anthologies

Vintage Crime

Modern Crime Fiction/Thriller

Modern Literary Fiction

…and…

Book of the Year 2022

THE PRIZES

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!

Nothing!

THE JUDGES

Me!

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

MODERN CRIME FICTION/THRILLER

For the purpose of the Awards, “Modern” means anything first published after 1971. I’m reading far fewer contemporary crime novels and thrillers these days for reasons I’ve bored on about often so won’t reprise. However this means I’m being choosier about which ones I do read and still always manage to find some gems among the dross! Some of the nominated authors make regular appearances in my Awards shortlists, but a couple are new entrants…

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Still Life by Val McDermid

DCI Karen Pirie is busy on a case involving a skeleton which has been found in a camper van when a fresh body turns up in the waters of the Forth. As the head of Police Scotland’s Historic Cases Unit Karen wouldn’t usually be involved in a current investigation, but the corpse in question is James Auld, a man who had disappeared ten years before, suspected of murdering his brother Iain, and Karen had reviewed that case just a couple of years earlier. So Karen finds herself juggling both cases, with the assistance of her regular DC, Jason Murray, and DS Daisy Mortimer, seconded to the unit to help with the Auld case.

It’s still my opinion that the Karen Pirie series, of which this is the sixth, is the best work McDermid has done in years. In this one she tackles the issues of cross-border policing between Scotland and Ireland in the new post-Brexit world, and handles it very well. Daisy Mortimer is a new addition to the team, and a good one who I hope will become a recurring regular. I continue to look forward to seeing where this series goes next!

Click to see the full review

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The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Jess has left her job in England rather suddenly, and in a way that means it’s advisable that she make herself scarce for a while. So she tells her brother Ben that she is coming to visit him in Paris. However, when she arrives Ben is not there, and no one in the opulent apartment building where he’s been living seems able to tell Jess where he might be. All alone in a foreign country, the language of which she doesn’t speak, Jess sets out to find out what can have happened to Ben…

This is a fast-paced page-turner which I thoroughly enjoyed, despite it not being my kind of thing! There are no great descriptions or evocations of Paris, but for me that suited the style of story and kept the story rocketing along. The apartment building itself is very well depicted and has some lovely Gothic touches which help to ramp up the tension. I liked Jess as a character. She’s a bit out of her depth in this city where she knows no one and doesn’t know whom she can trust, but her love for her brother gives her the courage she needs to keep searching even when things get scary. The story touches on some serious topics, but lightly – this is an entertainment rather than a preachy “issues” book (hurrah!).

Click to see the full review

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Killing Rock by Robert Daws

Detective Sergeant Tamara Sullivan has decided to make her temporary transfer from London’s Met to the Royal Gibraltar Police permanent, but bureaucracy means that she must have a month’s break between the two jobs. She opts to spend the time looking after a friend’s small ranch across the border in Spain. The friend’s daughter is an Inspector with the Spanish police and the two young women immediately hit it off. So when cases arise in both Gibraltar and Spain, each of which seems to have a cross-border element, Tamara and Consuela find themselves putting their talents together. Meantime, Gus Broderick finds he might be connected to the victim in the Gibraltar case, so for much of the time he has to take a back seat and trust that Tamara will be able to clear his name.

This has a hugely complicated plot, but it all comes together very satisfactorily in the end. Sullivan is a likeable detective who plays by the rules, is intelligent, occasionally a little reckless but not too much so, and has a healthy social life and good working relationships with her colleagues. She’s developing into one of my favourite contemporary detectives. Broderick too is a professional, and he has the family life that Sullivan hasn’t yet, so between them they give a nicely rounded picture of normal life, and isn’t that refreshing in modern crime fiction! And the Gibraltar setting is great, and in this one we get to see some of the tensions between Gibraltar and Spain, and also how local people work well together across the border, leaving the politicians to do the squabbling.

Click to see the full review

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The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths

When Peggy Smith dies in her flat, nothing could seem more natural, since Peggy was a 90-year-old woman with a heart condition. But something doesn’t feel right to her young Ukrainian carer. Natalka had visited her earlier in the day and she had seemed in good health and spirits. However, the official verdict is natural causes and although Natalka and two other friends of Peggy express their doubts to the police, Detective Sergeant Harbinder Kaur sees no reason to think otherwise. Until, that is, the appearance of a mysterious man with a gun, who breaks into Peggy’s flat and steals a book…

In this second book in the Harbinder Kaur series, Griffiths is riffing on the mysteries of the Golden Age. It has a proper mystery with clues, a group of suspects, a trio of likeable amateur ‘tecs, and a touch or two of romance. Partly set in Shoreham, a small seaside town on the South coast of England, and with a fun road trip culminating in a visit to a book festival in Aberdeen, the tone is light, with lots of humour and plenty of warmth. There’s lots of hat-tipping to the Golden Agers, and indeed it is a Golden Age novel that is stolen from Peggy’s flat. An excellent entry in what is proving to be yet another hugely enjoyable series from Griffiths’ ultra-prolific pen.

Click to see the full review

* * * * * * * * *

FICTIONFAN AWARD WINNER 2022

for

BEST MODERN CRIME FICTION/THRILLER

The Dark
by Sharon Bolton

When a baby is snatched from its mother and thrown into the Thames aboard an inflatable unicorn, off-duty police officer Lacey Flint gives chase in her kayak. It soon becomes clear this terrifying incident is to be the first of many. DCI Mark Joesbury has been following the trail of a group of women-haters who have been communicating through the dark web, and had known that something was about to happen. Now he and his team know that the men involved are planning a campaign of terror, directed at women. And by getting involved in this first incident, Lacey has made herself a target…

The storyline is based on the idea of incels, which has become one of those words that gets bandied around these days, usually as an insult. However Bolton shows them not as a trivial group of disgruntled men who can’t get girlfriends, but as the basis of a seriously misogynistic movement with the aim of removing the hard won rights of women and returning them to a position of subservience within a new patriarchy. She does an amazing and terrifying job of showing how feasible such an organisation would be. Bolton also uses the idea of the dark web to great effect, showing it as a place where all kinds of organisations can group and recruit members, spread information and disinformation, and conspire to commit all kinds of criminal acts under the noses of the authorities but with them unable to identify the names or locations of the people involved.

However, Bolton knows how to get the balance right between this all too believable background and the main thriller elements that keep the pace hurtling along. When she’s on top form, there is no one to beat her, and she is most certainly on her top form in this one! Great book, great series! 

Click to see the full review

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Next week: Best Modern Literary Fiction

and

Book of the Year 2022!

42 thoughts on “FictionFan Awards 2022 – Modern Crime Fiction/Thriller

    • Oh good, I’m glad you enjoyed The Postscript Murders! I think it’s my favourite of the three books in the series so far. The Paris Apartment is really just light entertainment, but there’s nothing wrong with that when in the mood for it! Still Life is excellent – the whole Karen Pirie series has been very good so far, although occasionally she gets too embroiled in spouting pro-independence propaganda. But she controlled herself much better in this one!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Excellent choices, FictionFan! I’m not surprised to see Griffiths here; she really does write an excellent novel. And I want to read the Foley; I keep hearing it’s a fine read. I’m glad you’ve had a good year of reading when it comes to contemporary fiction!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Griffiths only just lost out to Bolton, but they’ve both become regulars in these Awards so no doubt the position will be reversed some year! The Foley is lighter, but I found it well written and entertaining and it has some lovely Gothic touches. Good to know there’s still plenty of good crime fiction out there!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A worthy list! I read the first Karen Pirie but didn’t get any further, not sure why. Lucy Foley’s first book didn’t do a lot for me, but perhaps I should give her another chance 😉 I love Robert Daws’ books and The Postscript Murders. I’ve yet to start the Lacey Flint series…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually think the first couple of Karen Piries don’t have the same feeling as the rest of the series. They feel like standalones somehow, but the later books settle down into traditional police procedurals, which I prefer. I didn’t much like The Guest List and probably wouldn’t have chosen to read another Foley, but I was sent this one unsolicited and ended up thoroughly enjoying it! It seemed better written and I liked the characters more. You must read Lacey Flint!!!

      Like

  3. I liked The Postscript Murders a lot. I haven’t read any Val McDermid in quite some time. She is so inconsistent. She has written some of the best crime fiction around but then she has also written quite a bit that seems just whipped off. I haven’t read much in her Karen Pirie series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about Val McDermid and had actually stopped reading her a few years ago. But she seems back on form in the Karen Pirie series, although I know I’m biased because I enjoy the Scottish setting. Elly Griffiths is the same for me actually – I think some of her stuff is great, but other times I end up disappointed. I think she might be too prolific – sometimes the books feel rushed. Not The Postscript Murders though, which I loved!

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s the Gibraltar setting of the Daws books that makes them stand out – that and the fact that the main characters are both likeable. The Lucy Foley is well written light entertainment, perfect when you want something that keeps you turning the pages!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t remember you liking The Paris Apartment enough for it to be an honorable mention! (I listened to it and was quite entertained by the many narrators)

    I think I already added a couple of these to my wishlist. If not, I definitely need to add the Bolton now that it’s an award winner!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, you are quite right! In fact, I struggled to find enough books I’d loved to make up a shortlist – I find so much modern crime disappointing these days. So a couple of these maybe wouldn’t have made the shortlist in a better year… but then I’m sure that’s the same with the Booker shortlist! 😉 Bolton is definitely worth reading. She can be variable, but when she’s good, which is most of the time, she’s excellent!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m really behind on Bolton’s other books but caught up on Lacey Flint, so I can’t wait to read The Dark. But it doesn’t look like it’s been published in paper form in the US – although I can find some used copies on Amazon. Hmmm. Wonder why?

    I need to try McDermid. We have lots of her books at my library.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is odd! I wondered if it had maybe been published under a different title over there but looking at Amazon US I can’t see a different title listed. I hope it comes out sometime soon – it really is excellent!
      McDermid can be quite variable. Her Tony Hill books are very gruesome serial killer books – too strong for my taste. And some of her standalone thrillers aren’t great. So if you decide to try her I’d definitely go for one of the Karen Pirie series. They all work as standalones, so there’s no real need to read them in order.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m reading so little of it these days I’m actually finding it hard to come up with shortlists each year, but happily I had given these five the full five stars! Both the McDermid and the Daws are very good and in each case it’s the setting that is their strength – Scotland and Gibraltar respectively. Haha, if I get any more annoyed with politicians, I may have to curb my criminal tendencies… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Debbie – it’s a fun way to look back at some of the best reads of the year! I’m finding that in crime the same authors are showing up every year now – I’m clearly not being daring enough!

      Like

    • I’m reading less of it every year, to the point where I struggle to put together a decent shortlist some years now. But Sharon Bolton appears often, and I thought The Dark was great – one of her best! Glad you enjoyed it too!

      Like

    • Ooh, yes, you must add Bolton! The Lacey Flint series has got better with every book! McDermid is a long-time favourite of mine, though her Tony Hill books are way too gruesome for my taste. But the Karen Pirie ones are great!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t think I ever read modern thrillers but the Elly Griffiths and Bolton are tempting, although the Bolton sounds a bit too terrifying perhaps – also your advice re Val McDermid is good to remember as I keep thinking I should give her a go!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read very few of them myself these days. In fact, I struggle to fill a shortlist some years! But most of these are favourite authors, so fairly safe bets! Yes, McDermid can be very gruesome in the Tony Hill books, so I tend to steer clear of them and warn people to approach with caution! But her Karen Pirie series is very good and not too dark.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m glad The Postscript Murder was good as I gave that to someone in her secret santa last year! The Gibraltar one sounds interesting, too. And the winner is something I’d be too feeble to read but sounds important. A great selection!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a really entertaining book with some very likeable characters, so none of the grimness that so often goes with modern crime fiction – I bet your friend enjoyed it! The Dark is darker (ahem!), but very good, and the Gibraltar-set one, Killing Rock, is another that would maybe be considered at the lighter end.

      Like

  8. I could have this wrong FF, but you’ve read quite a few Sharon Bolton before right, and typically enjoy her? I don’t recall this review the first time around of this book, but it sounds really good. The whole incel movement is quite terrifying, I wonder if this book was based on what happened here in Canada – a man drove a van into a crowd of women on a sidewalk, later it turned out he was part of an incel group and did it on purpose as an act of terrorism. Horrible stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I usually enjoy Bolton a lot, though occasionally I find she goes off form a bit. But when she does her next book usually makes up for it! Goodness I hadn’t heard about that incident – how awful! It’s a growing problem, the whole incel thing, and I’m not sure we’re taking it seriously enough as a society.

      Liked by 1 person

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