Welcome to Part 3 featuring 10 more of my favourite authors telling us what their favourite books of 2017 were.
Caz Frear: Caz Frear grew up in Coventry and spent her teenage years dreaming of moving to London and writing a novel. After fulfilling her first dream, it wasn’t until she moved back to Coventry thirteen years later that the writing dream finally came true.
She has a first-class degree in History & Politics, which she’s put to enormous use over the years by working as a waitress, shop assistant, retail merchandiser and, for the past twelve years, a headhunter.
When she’s not agonising over snappy dialogue or incisive prose, she can be found shouting at the TV when Arsenal are playing or holding court in the pub on topics she knows nothing about.
Rattle – Fiona Cummins. Dark, unflinching, yet surprisingly tender given the subject matter (a serial killer with the most macabre obsession). From the opening paragraph, it just felt so fresh and so different. I honestly can’t think what I’d compare Rattle to and that’s such a rare thing. The ending had me wringing my hands too (also quite rare as the temptation to tie things up in a neat bow is all too common) and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the follow-up, The Collector, which is equally spellbinding but one for 2018!
He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly. I’ve loved everything she’s everything written however He Said/She Said really took my admiration to a new level. Such an ambitious and relevant book, it tells the story of eclipse-chasers, Kit and Laura, whose lives are turned upside down when they become key witnesses in a rape trial. If you like beautifully written novels that mess with your head and stay with you long after reading, you will almost certainly love this.
Lying in Wait – LIz Nugent. Liz Nugent is a relatively recent addition to my ‘authors I rave about’ list. Her first novel ‘Unravelling Oliver’ was great but Lying in Wait is something else with it’s flawless characterization and bold, sometimes uncomfortable, storytelling. And what an opening line – ‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle but the lying tramp deserved it.’ So deliciously sinister – I love it!
Amanda Prowse: Amanda Prowse likens her own life story to those she writes about in her books. After self-publishing her debut novel, Poppy Day, in 2011, she has gone on to author sixteen novels and six novellas. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages and she regularly tops bestseller charts all over the world.
Remaining true to her ethos, Amanda writes stories of ordinary women and their families who find their strength, courage and love tested in ways they never imagined. The most prolific female contemporary fiction writer in the UK, with a legion of loyal readers, she goes from strength to strength. Being crowned ‘queen of domestic drama’ by the Daily Mail was one of her finest moments.
Amanda is a regular contributor on TV and radio but her first love is and will always be writing.
Nigel Slater ‘The Christmas Chronicles’
A book that landed in my hands before Christmas and is directly responsible for the lack of homemade gifts and my rather sparse tree decorations. Nigel Slater calls himself a cook that writes, with this book there is a strong case to suggest that actually he is a writer who cooks. Beautiful descriptions lovely pictures, a dive in and feel good winter fest.
Louise Beech – ‘Maria in the Moon’
A beautifully written book by the very talented Louise Beech. Catherine-Maria Hope is a woman who gets under your skin and lives in your memory. It is a heart rending read of one woman’s personal journey of love, loss and determination and a frightening insight into how we block trauma and build emotional walls.
R C Ajuonuma – ‘King Billy and the Royal Road’
I buy a lot of children’s books (one of the best bits of being an aunty). King Billy came to me via recommendation and I loved it. A beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated poetic adventure of Billy who lives like a prince with his mum but doesn’t know too much about people and places because she never lets him out. I loved this adventure as much as my nephew.
Alyson Richman: Alyson Richman is the author of The Lost Wife, The Mask Carver’s Son, Swedish Tango, and The Last Van Gogh. The daughter of a painter and an engineer, Richman’s novels combine a love of art and research, and have been published in more than ten languages. She lives in Long Island, New York with her husband and two children.
The Woman in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck, Deeply moving and compelling, The Women of the Castle is a heart-wrenching and hopeful novel of secrets and survival, a reckoning, and the astonishing power of forgiveness.
Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss. From the bestselling, twice Orange Prize-shortlisted, National Book Award-nominated author comes a vibrant tale of transformation: of a man in his later years and a woman novelist, each drawn to the Levant on a journey of self-discovery.
and The Light We Lost by Jill Santapolo. An epic love story about the heartrending decision that one woman must make…
She lives in North London with her partner and three (nearly) grown children, plus one very badly behaved dog.
Then She Was Gone (Lisa Jewell) I absolutely loved Then She Was Gone, the story of a woman trying to move on with her life years after her beloved younger daughter goes missing. I don’t know any other writer who could pull off such a dark, uncompromising storyline and still make it uplifting and warm and tender and funny. It works on so many levels – as a gripping psychological thriller, as a study of grief, as a tale of family redemption but it’s Lisa’s unerring ability to create real, breathing, living, flawed, yearning characters that’s the key to the novel’s success.
The Dry (Jane Harper) The Dry is a tense, evocative murder mystery set in a small remote town in the Australian outback where it hasn’t rained in years. You can almost hear the flies buzzing, feel the relentless white-hot sun on your skin and the cracking of the parched ground underfoot as you turn the pages. City cop, Aaron Falk, returns to his heat-scorched home town to bury his childhood friend who, driven crazy by the drought, reportedly snapped, slaughtering his family and then himself. But as the unforgiving landscape slowly gives up its secrets, it becomes obvious that the case isn’t as clear-cut as it seems.
Good Me Bad Me (Ali Land) I’m a sucker for a morally ambiguous book, so this novel about the daughter of a female serial killer, constantly pulled between her own conscience and a kind of twisted loyalty to her monstrous mother, instantly appealed. As Annie/Milly tries to battle the demons her childhood has left her with, and to negotiate the dynamics of her dysfunctional foster family, the reader swings between pity and revulsion, watching the action unfold through our fingers. Can we really ever escape the past?
Gillian McAllister: I am an author. Everything But The Truth, my debut novel, came out with Penguin in March 2016 and I was absolutely terrified. I like my very orange cat, reading books in bed while it rains, taking baths so hot they turn my skin pink and that moment where you think ‘what if . . . ‘ and a novel idea is born.
You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood. I haven’t been so affected by a novel or a voice in years. A defendant gives his own closing speech in the witness box. Part first-person narrative, part monologue. A damn fine story, as well as an utterly unique voice.
Love Will Tear Us Apart by Holly Seddon – out in July. A domestic suspense novel with a love story at its heart, about a dark vow made between childhood sweethearts.
This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay I don’t often read much non-fiction but I recently spent an extremely happy week reading this in bed at night, trying to stifle my laughter with the duvet cover. Hilarious but also very moving, I highly recommend.
Steph Broadribb: Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at www.crimethrillergirl.com
Steph is an alumni of the MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens.
I’ve read so many great books this year that it’s really hard to chose a top three but, if I have to, the three standout books for me have been:
DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch – this techno thriller is an absolute gem of a read. College physics professor and happy family guy Jason Dessen is abducted, drugged and finds himself in a strangely futuristic laboratory where everyone seems to think they know him. As he pieces things together he realises that he has been kidnapped by himself – an alternative top scientist version of himself in another Chicago – who has discovered the secret of moving between realities and has now taken Jason’s life as his own. All Jason wants is to be reunited with his family, but can he find his way back to his own reality and, if he can, will he be able to remove the man who has taken his place? This high concept, super fast paced thriller took my breath away.
DARK PINES by Will Dean. Set in the frozen, snow-covered forests of rural Sweden this atmospheric, creepy thriller had me gripped from the first page. Intrepid reporter -Tuva Moodyson – sets out to solve a serial killer case that spans twenty years – a killer who shoots the men of the community during elk hunting season and removes their eyes. Reminiscent of Twin Peaks, this haunting thriller set in a community packed with strange and quirky characters is a total must read.
THIS IS HOW IT ENDS by Eva Dolan. The story of two women – Ella an uber blogger and social justice campaigner leading the political fight for the new generation, and her mentor Molly an influential, veteran warrior who has dedicated her life to the cause since the seventies. It’s a story of love, murder, secrets and betrayal. Beautifully written, utterly engrossing and heart-wrenchingly compelling, this is the only book that has made me cry this year! Packed with twists, turns and shocking revelations, this is a story that still stays with me months after I read the final page.
Rowan Coleman: Rowan Coleman worked in bookselling and publishing for seven years before winning Company Magazine Young Writer of the Year in 2001. Her first novel GROWING UP TWICE was published in 2002 and was a WHS Fresh Talent winner. Since then Rowan has written twelve novels, including THE ACCIDENTAL MOTHER, THE BABY GROUP, and RUNAWAY WIFE, which won The Festival of Romance Best Romantic Read 2012, The RoNA Epic Romance novel of 2013 and was shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year 2013 and is the book that inspired Rowan to release WOMAN WALKS INTO A BAR as an ebook (published 10th September 2013) with 100% of her royalties going to Refuge. Her Sunday Times bestselling novel THE MEMORY BOOK was a Richard and Judy Bookclub selection 2014, and Love Reading Novel of the Year, as voted for by readers. Her latest novel WE ARE ALL MADE OF STARS is out now. Rowan now lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, and large family of four children, including surprise toddler twins. Rowan is often quite tired.
The year kicked off amazingly with Good Me, Bad Me a fantastic twisty and compelling debut from Ali Land that is hard to beat when it comes to sheer freshness of voice and energy.
I have also been blown away by Together from Julie Cohen. It’s an intricate emotional love story like no other, told backwards, with a gut punch of a twist.
I absolutely love Calling Major Tom by David M Barnett – so a lovely story of hope and humanity, full of warmth and charm.
Barbara Copperthwaite: Barbara Copperthwaite is a cake-obsessed, nature-loving, bestselling author of psychological thrillers INVISIBLE, FLOWERS FOR THE DEAD, THE DARKEST LIES, and HER LAST SECRET.
Much of her success is thanks to her twenty-plus years’ experience as a national newspaper and magazine journalist. She’s interviewed the real victims of crime – and also those who have carried those crimes out. Thanks to people sharing their stories with her, she knows the emotional impact of violence and wrong-doing. That’s why her novels are dark, realistic and tackle not just the crime but its repercussions.
In her spare time, when not being press-ganged into throwing tennis balls by her dog, she can generally be found hiding behind a camera taking wildlife pictures.
SWEET PEA, CJ Skuse: Dripping with sarcasm and humour so dark it makes you wince, Sweet Pea brings a refreshingly different voice to the crime genre.
The main character, Rhiannon, is a serial killer with one-liners sharp enough to slice a throat, as she writes her private thoughts down in her diary. For the reader, that means enjoying guilty laugh-out-loud moments juxtaposed with gory crimes and everyday complaints about shopping, work and relationships.
I’m not going to write a lot about it, because the fun of this book is in discovering it for yourself. It’s shockingly good – but not one for the faint-hearted or easily offended. It did get a little repetitive, and my criticism is that it could have delivered even more punch to the story, but I found it unique, funny, and even containing some touches of sad poignancy. I LOVED this book!
SOMETIMES I LIE, Alice Feeney: If you need characters to be likeable in order to engage with a story, then this probably isn’t for you. You won’t like the characters, mainly because you won’t have a clue who is telling the truth, or who is telling a version of events that is totally warped to suit their means. Seriously, this book has so many twists it makes corkscrews look straight.
This is not a book to be gulped down in one fast sitting. If you’re to stand any chance of straightening out this twisted tale, then you’re going to have to sip it a little. You can’t skim it or skip over bits in your eagerness to reach the end – because if you do the end will make absolutely no sense. You’re going to have to think a bit (or a lot) with this book, because nothing, nothing, nothing is as it seems.
The skill of the author to manipulate the reader down so many false roads and cul de sacs leaves me full of admiration. It’s like holding a mirror up, thinking you’re looking at your own reflection, then having it wave back at you – THAT’S how surprising this book is, that’s how little you can take anything for granted.
Need me to sum up? Utterly compelling, skillfully woven, and it will haunt you for days after you’ve read it, wondering if you’ve got it straight in your head. But that’s the fun of it.
THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE, Louise Beech: Beautifully written, uplifting, tense, and incredibly moving, The Mountain In My Shoe is a gentle tale of great subtlety. Bernadette’s loneliness is palpable, and her husband casts a shadow over the entire book. But the star of the novel is Conor. I defy anyone not to fall in love with Conor, and want to adopt him themselves. A cheeky, clever lad with a sparkling wit and a unique way of looking at the world, he feels totally real.
The Mountain In My Shoe had me hoping for a happy ending, it had me on the edge of my seat at times, and wiping tears from my eyes at others. Every time I had to put it down, I looked forward to getting back to it. There is a warmth that runs through this tale, and the rays of hope stay with the reader afterwards. Brilliant.
Steve Cavanagh: Steve Cavanagh was born and raised in Belfast and is a practicing lawyer and holds a certificate in Advanced Advocacy. He is married with two young children. The Defence was chosen as one of Amazon’s great debuts for 2015, as part of their Amazon Rising Stars programme. In 2015 Steve received the ACES award for Literature from the Northern Ireland Arts Council. The Defence was longlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and shortlisted for two Dead Good Readers Awards.
Steve writes fast-paced legal thrillers set in New York City featuring series character Eddie Flynn.
Bone Keeper Luca Veste – gripping, chilling serial killer cracker.
Here And Gone Haylen Beck – a future classic of the thriller genre.
Susi Holliday Deaths of December – perfect Christmas crime.
Lisa Hall: Lisa loves words, reading and everything there is to love about books. She has dreamed of being a writer since she was a little girl – either that or a librarian – and after years of talking about it, was finally brave enough to put pen to paper (and let people actually read it). Lisa lives in a small village in Kent, surrounded by her towering TBR pile, a rather large brood of children, dogs, chickens and ponies and her long-suffering husband. She is also rather partial to eating cheese and drinking wine.
Sweetpea CJ Skuse – brilliantly funny and deliciously dark, this book features my favourite protagonist EVER
Genuine Fraud – E Lockhart. This is so cleverly written that I was in awe from the first page – I wish I’d thought of it myself!
All the Wicked Girls – Chris Whitaker. I loved this book so much – I was completely caught up in small town Alabama. Chris manages to make every character he writes come to life on the page.