Christmas time is not only a time for joy and laughter, but it’s also a time to take a step back and slow down; enjoy some time to kick back and relax after what has, quite frankly, been one heck of a year. With that in mind, I’ve curated a list of Christmas-themed crime and thriller novels to get you in the mood for the holidays and for you to indulge in with your favourite tipple and a mince pice. These reads will have you gripped to the edge of your seat from Christmas Eve all the way to New Years day!
Whether you’re looking for a read for yourself, or a present for the crime fiction lover in your life, click the images to find out more – and try to shop indie if you can! If you’re after gift ideas for your writer friends, check out my Shop Small Gift Guide for writers, or why not give the gift of editing this year?
November is a number month with another author celebrating the most exciting of days: publication day! And this time it’s the turn of Mark Mannock and the third instalment in his Nicholas Sharp series: Hell’s Choir.
A goodwill visit to Sudan, what could possibly go wrong?
Former US marine sniper turned musician, Nicholas Sharp is performing as part of a cultural group representing the US. Suddenly caught up in the middle of a political coup, the leader of the American contingent goes missing, his security detail murdered. Communication with the outside world is cut off. It falls to Sharp and Greatrex to track their missing leader down. But then, things get a little complicated…
I have worked with Mark on a couple of the Nicholas Sharp titles, and I’m so excited to see how he has not only developed as a writer but also how the novels just get more exciting.
Somewhere between Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole, Nicholas Sharp may be a flawed hero, but you certainly want him on your side.
For an author, there is nothing that quite beats the thrill of publication day, no matter how many books are under your belt. And just such a momentous day is fast approaching for AJ Frazer and his timely eco-thriller, The Jagged Edge.
A madman hellbent on revenge. An ex-war correspondent – once lauded – desperate to find his old edge. And the countdown towards the end of the world as we know it begins.
A thriller with a conscience, The Jagged Edge does for climate change what John Grisham has done for the law, cutting to the heart of the biggest threat to humanity the world has ever seen.
I worked with AJ on this gripping race-against-time novel, ensuring the novel maintained the perfect balance of a pacy and entertaining thriller and a thought-provoking ecological warning.
AJ, welcome! The Jagged Edge isyour latest novel. Tell us a little more about it.
Mercurial madman, Victor Sagen, is hellbent on saving the world from escalating climate change. Sagen is convinced that the only solution is to launch a devastating cyber weapon, called Biblical, that will send humanity back to the technological dark ages. A once lauded ex-war correspondent, Dominic Elliston, is desperate to find his old edge. Through a series of heart-stopping events, he is dragged (willingly) into Sagen’s orbit and, ultimately, finds himself in a position to stop him from releasing Biblical. But the question even Dominic must ask himself is, should he? The answer will shock him.
Before I wanted to be an editor, I thought about pursuing a career in the law. Funny, no? However, my poor memory and terror of public speaking put paid to that quite quickly. But, if you think about it, the jobs aren’t that different. Now apologies to my lawyer friends if this is totally reductive, but if you think about it, really, all lawyers are just story tellers. Both the defence and prosecution are given the same building blocks – the facts – but it is their job to weave these together to present their client’s side, their narrative, their story, to win the case.
This is what fascinates me about legal thrillers and why I love to read John Grisham and Steve Cavanagh. But also why I devoured the debut novel by barrister Alex Churchill, THE NIGHT LAWYER.
Now as a devotee of all things crime, suspense and thriller, it’s no small wonder that LOST SOULS is my first Jonathan Kellerman title. He’s best known for his Alex Delaware series set in Los Angeles, but Kellerman has recently started working together with his son Jesse Kellerman on the Clay Edison series. LOST SOULS is the latest installment and sees Clay Edison, deputy coroner, faced with uncovering the mystery behind skeleton of a baby found in the grounds of People’s Park in Berkeley, California.
Kellerman and Kellerman write with a confidence ease that makes reading their prose a delight. I wasn’t sure about starting in the middle of the series, but, you know, it happens. And admittedly there are some aspects of the novel that might be easier to understand with prior knowledge of the series – such as the long list of named characters – but the clear and entertaining style of the authors means that this is only a small obstacle and one I mostly ignored as I was too intrigued by the story (It’s easy to get the gist of who they are anyway as the characterisation is so spot-on!).
After reading the novel, I’ve been intrigued to find out more about Clay and pick up the earlier books in the series – because if they are as entertaing as LOST SOULS, I’ll know I’ll enjoy it! Perhaps start at the beginning of the series, but I’d recommend you purchase them all at the same time as you’ll devour this nuanced crime series very quickly. 📚
LOST SOULS by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman (Arrow Publishing), available now as a paperback and ebook (Published as HALF MOON BAY in the US)
Across the world, a revolution is happening as people are coming together to protest against racism and promote anti-racism.
I want to do what I can by amplifying the Black voices of my first love: fiction. I am, of course, a specialist in all things crime, thriller and suspense so I wanted to share a list of some of the brilliant Black novelists writing in the genre to add to your reading lists and to-be-read piles.
The below is just a limited selection of the fantastic array of crime, thriller and suspense written by Black authors – I wish I could fit them all in – so I would urge you to check out the Crime Writers of Colour website as well as the Black Mystery Authors Directory to discover even more fabulous writers, and hopefully your next read.
Dorothy Koomson is the award-winning author of 15 novels and has been making up stories since she was 13 when she used to share her stories with her convent school friends. Her published titles include: Tell Me Your Secret, The Brighton Mermaid, The Friend, When I Was Invisible, That Girl From Nowhere, The Flavours of Love, The Woman He Loved Before, Goodnight, Beautiful and The Chocolate Run.
Her next novel All My Lies Are True is out in July.
Eric Jerome Dickey
Eric Jerome Dickey is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels as well as a six-issue miniseries of graphic novels featuring Storm (X-Men) and the Black Panther. Originally from Memphis, Dickey now lives on the road and rests in whatever hotel will have him.
Angela Henry was once told that her past life careers included spy, researcher, and investigator. She stuck with what she knew because today she’s a mystery writing library reference specialist, who loves to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations. She’s the author of five mysteries featuring equally nosy amateur sleuth Kendra Clayton, as well as the thriller The Paris Secret. When she’s not working, writing, or practicing her stealth, she loves to travel, is connoisseur of B horror movies, and an admitted anime addict. She lives in Ohio and is currently hard at work trying to meet her next deadline.
Rachel Howzell Hall
Rachel was born in Los Angeles, California fifteen days after Paul McCartney announced the split of the Beatles. As a child, she kept a pen in her hand, writing everywhere—in notebooks, on loose-leaf paper, in her big brother’s prep-school yearbook and on the back of church bulletins. But never on walls, buildings or freeway overpasses. That is graffiti.
In 2002, her debut novel, A QUIET STORM, was published by Scribner to great notice, including reviews from O Magazine and Publishers Weekly, with a starred review from Library Journal and also chosen as a “Rory’s Book Club” selection, the must-read book list for fictional television character Rory Gilmore of The Gilmore Girls.
Walter Mosley is one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. He is the author of more than 43 critically acclaimed books, including the major bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 23 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel. His short fiction has been widely published, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The Nation, among other publications. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy and PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He lives in New York City.
Although not strictly thriller, as a teenager I loved Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, so couldn’t great a list without it.
An award-winning British author and dramatist, Malorie Blackman is a major voice in children’s publishing, holding the post of Waterstones Children’s Laureate from 2013 to 2015. She is best-known for her bestselling novels Noughts & Crosses series as well as Pig Heart Boy, Thief,Cloud Busting, Boys Don’t Cryand Chasing the Stars. The fifth novel in the Noughts & Crosses series, Crossfire, was published in August 2019.
Yesterday, I read a fascinating article by American novelist Ben Winters. I had the pleasure of working with Winters briefly whilst I was at Penguin Random House and found his unique predicament intriguing.
The article, published on Slate.com, is discussing how the global pandemic of coronavirus and COVID-19 has basically screwed the plot of his new book, The Quiet Boy. It begins in January 2020 and hurtles towards a finale in July 2020 – in a music festival. Well, that’s not happening any more . . .
So it got me wondering how writers and namely the plots of fiction novels have been affected by the pandemic. It must be soul-destroying to have worked so hard, giving up months if not years of your life to curate the perfect plot line, create the characters that you need and finesse the timeline just so until you have a novel that you’re truly happy with . . . for a global pandemic to make it no longer relevant.
But my question is, does it matter? The role of fiction isn’t about facts. As the dictionary defines it, fiction is ‘the type of book or story that is written about imaginary characters and events and not based on real people and facts’. Of course, the best inspiration comes from the world around us – and no doubt the market will be flooded with coronavirus diaries, novels, etc. (Although I question whether there will be a market for them after we emerge blinking in the sunlight post-lockdown – we don’t want to go through that again *shudders*.) But, what better excuse than the world going a bit bananas around us to make use of this fantastic tool that we have hidden deep in our brains: the imagination. There is no better time to let our minds wonder and think of what-if and how-about.
Winters has a point when he says that ‘Right now, we are in the middle of total and utter upheaval. What reader will accept that my characters blithely go about their business in Los Angeles in the spring and summer of this year we’re in?’ Perhaps we should have more faith in our readers. Every day, fiction asks us to suspend our disbelief and fall headlong into a world that isn’t real, not based on fact, the product of the workings of someone’s mind. Yes, it looks a little like the world we live in, but the fiction form is prism not a mirror, twisting the light of the real world into a kaleidoscope of colour – otherwise the sci-fi and fantasy genres would already be in deep water!
With this in mind, over the weekend, I had the delightful experience of kicking my heels up and devouring Rebecca Serle’s smash-hit novel In Five Years. The whole concept of the novel taking a classic interview question – ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ – and twisting it on its head. The novel is all about how no matter how much we try to plan our ideal lives and how we see ourselves in five, ten, even twenty years time, life has a funny habit of getting in the way. Serle’s characters begin in 2020 and happily work, live, love their way through to 2025 (when it starts getting a little pear-shaped), no mention of pandemic in sight. Of course, when Serle wrote her manuscript, COVID-19 hadn’t reared its ugly head, but the novel is no worse off for it. In fact, it might even be an added strength as it reminds us that although the world looks less than peachy at the moment, we’ll get through it, whatever happens.
Admittedly, there might be a new couple of new courses on the syllabus for future literature students – Pre, Post and COVID Literature – but I’m excited to see what new writing this situation brings us, and whether authors choose to engage or not – some already having voiced their claims of not touching the topic with a barge pole, Anne Tyler and Harlan Coben being among their number. I feel for Winters, who has decided to push the events of his novel back to 2019, but whether you choose to set your next writing project in a world affected by COVID or not, I think the readers are willing to welcome you with open arms. To be honest, we’re just thankful for something to read!