On World Book Night 2013, we recommend…

Tonight is World Book Night, a charity event promoting reading by giving out free books to underprivileged people in the UK, Ireland, America and Germany. We’re right behind that and encourage people to make donations to the cause at the WBN website. This year, WBN is giving out copies of 20 books in the British Isles and has a slightly different list of 32 books that are being distributed in the United States.

Trouble is, we don’t think WBN has picked out nearly enough crime fiction considering how popular the genre is. So we pooled the brain cells of all our contributors and came up with our own list of books for World Book Night 2013. We reckon these titles are an ideal place to start if you want to get into reading crime fiction – they’re both accessible and excellent in equal measure. We’ll start with two books that are on the WBN UK list – those by Sophie Hannah and Alexander McCall-Smith – but after that the recommendations are pure Crime Fiction Lover. Let us know your own favourite crime books by posting a comment at the end of the article.

littlefaceLittle Face by Sophie Hannah
From ancient Celtic mythology we get tales of The Changeling – an evil faerie creature found in the cot in place of a mother’s stolen baby. It reflects a primal fear of losing your child and unwittingly rearing somebody else’s, and Sophie Hannah focuses her attention on this in a modern context with her excellent psychological thriller Little Face, one of the two crime fiction novels to appear on this year’s WBN UK list. Published in 2006, it sees new mother Alice return home to her husband after her first night out following her baby’s birth. Husband David is there, but she’s convinced the baby she’s come home to is not hers. Hannah weaves a gut wrenching tale of mystery and manipulation that’s as bewitching as that Celtic folklore of old. The book marked the author out as a leading lady in the realms of the psychological thriller, and you can read our interview with her here. Purchase

No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall-Smith
This is the second crime fiction piece put forward by the folks at World Book Night UK for 2013. Set in Botswana, Alexander McCall-Smith’s No 1 Ladies series has proven to be a publishing sensation. Think of it as Miss Marple in a post-colonial context, in a community were old-fashioned politeness and propriety still matter. In this scenario, Precious Ramotswe founds a detective agency that helps ladies locate missing spouses or long-lost relatives. In the first of 13 books, she’s out to find a missing child. Although his novels are written with a light hand and cosy tone by McCall-Smith, mixing in a touch of humour, this first mystery is in fact partly based on the ritual murder of a 14-year-old girl that took place in 1994. Purchase

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Do you like mystery, romance or crime fiction with exotic elements? This compelling book combines those themes into a single enthralling story. Written in 1868, it describes the theft and investigation of the titular jewel from the perspective of no less than 11 different narrators, including the famous Sergeant Cuff. Collins’ unique brand of wonder and humour will engrave itself in your memory. If you’re interested in the history of detective fiction, this is one of the earliest (arguably the first) examples, but its unique charm should cut across whatever genre you usually prefer. In short, this book has something for everyone who likes to read! Free for Kindle

House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
Taking up where that crime fiction genius Arthur Conan Doyle left off, Anthony Horowitz sets his Holmes novel one year after the great detective is found dead at his home. Dr John Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ companion and biographer, narrates what he believes is one of the most sensational adventures yet. However, he has been unable to tell it until now, for reasons which become clear later on. Watson explains that the client in The Flat Cap Case and The House of Silk are inextricably tangled up, and it has always been his desire to set the details down and to complete the Holmes canon. Purchase

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Leemockingbird
Harper Lee’s 1960 classic tale of a physically impaired black man wrongly accused of the rape of a young white woman. Written in the first person, the story is told by a 10-year-old girl called Scout whose father, local attorney Atticus Finch, defends the man in perhaps one of the best courtroom dramas ever written. Set in America’s Deep South, it’s a hard hitting book that tackles some of the issues of the day, such as racial injustice, class, gender roles and loss of innocence. Atticus knows that his task is a difficult one but is determined to see justice done. It’s a book that transcends genre and is said to have contributed to social change in America during the 1960s. Purchase

The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

It’s goodbye Harry Bosch and hello Mickey Haller as top crime author Michael Connelly comes over all John Grisham and writes his first legal thriller. Haller is a lawyer at the bottom of the pile, plying his trade from the back of his Lincoln car and offering his services to con artists, drug dealers and drink drivers – until the biggest case of his life falls into his lap… and his life begins to fall apart. Mickey is a great character and one the reader will soon be rooting for. Forget the terrible film and get lost in the pages of this cracking tale. Purchase

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
On 15 November 1959, the four members of the Clutter family were brutally murdered in their home during a bungled robbery by two young men – Richard Hickock and Perry Edward Smith. What followed was one of the most famous manhunts in American history since Bonnie and Clyde. In 1966, Truman Capote published a book that looked at the crime and police hunt from two perspectives – the known facts, and that of the killers themselves. It’s a book that is both horrifyingly graphic, in terms of the crime itself, but written in such a compelling way that you just cannot put it down until you know the final outcome. Purchase

Blue Blood by Sara Blaedel
Originally released in English as Call Me Princess, Blue Blood introduced us to Louise Rick, creation of the Danish author Sara Blaedel. Several observers of the Scandinavian crime fiction scene are tipping her for big things as her series is translated into English book by book. Here, Susanne Hansson’s body is discovered in her flat, raped and beaten. Detective Inspector Rick soon finds that she met the culprit via a dating site and he could be using the service to target new victims. And in a side story, Rick has to deal with her overbearing mother. We gave the book five stars when it went by the title Call Me Princess in 2011. You read it first on Crime Fiction Lover. Purchase

Blood Rain by Michael Dibdin
This is the darkest and most thought-provoking of the Aurelio Zen novels. Zen has got the posting no policeman ever wants: he is sent to Sicily, the heartland of the mafia. You may think you have read it all about mafia clan wars and corruption in Italy, but this book will take you to a whole new level of nihilism and despair. There is so much going on there that Zen cannot understand or even pretend to resolve, yet there are wonderful comic vignettes and acute social observations which help to lighten the mood. Purchase

All Fall DownAll Fall Down by Louise Voss and Mark Edwards
This is the second in a series by Voss and Edwards and follows heroine Kate Maddox trying to find a cure for a new strain of Watoto, the virus that killed her parents when she was a child. Kate travels from Britain to LA where she joins a group of scientists who are in a race against time to find a cure for a deadly new new strain with a 99 per cent kill rate. What’s more chilling is that the virus was started by a group of damaged women who are determined to destroy humanity and enter what they describe as The Golden Age. To us, the Golden Age is something entirely different. Purchase

Death Watch by Jim Kelly
This 2010 book is the second outing for Jim Kelly’s King’s Lynn detective, Peter Shaw. Shaw is baffled by a case which involves the horrific death of a man in a hospital incinerator, and the mysterious disappearance of his twin sister, 18 years earlier. Old wounds open and new prejudices emerge, as Shaw and his saturnine colleague DS Valentine try to make sense of it all. This haunting and complex book blends the long shadows of the past with very clear and present dangers. Kelly combines a wonderful command of the psychology of place with the skills of the born storyteller. Purchase

Mildred Pierce by James M Cain
Mildred Pierce is not your conventional crime novel. Nobody gets murdered or tortured, there’s no carefully orchestrated heist, it’s just the story of a ‘grass widow’ in depression-era America trying to make a future for her children. But this is James M Cain, so there is menace aplenty, a pervasive sense of world weariness and lingering unease, largely thanks to Mildred’s daughter Veda, a spoiled, obnoxious, diva who Mildred dedicates her life to, pursuing her affection with obsession usually reserved for lovers. With this book Cain took noir into the domestic realm and showed that families can destroy each other just as effectively as any gang of double-crossing criminals. Purchase

On Beulah Heights by Reginald Hill
Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe series was popularised on television in the programme starring Warren Clarke, but the books are more than worth a look-in too, particularly this one. With water levels at a record low after a prolonged drought, the ruins of a little farming community which had been flooded many years previously to make way for a reservoir start coming to light. Three little girls had gone missing at the time, and Dalziel is still haunted by their disappearance and the unresolved case. As yet another child disappears, past and present collide in this eerily atmospheric and chilling tale of fearsome myths, the need for love, and dangerous memories. Purchase

Whiskey Sour by JA Konrath
Whiskey Sour introduces Lieutenant Jacqueline ‘Jack’ Daniels, who’s unlucky in love, but at work she always gets her man… or woman. She must solve a series of pretty gruesome homicides with the help of her very disheveled partner, and Konrath keeps the action coming, along with the laughs. His talent to put the humour in some pretty terrifying situations without veering into the absurd is one of the highlights of this series. Also be sure to check out the numerous short story collections featuring Jack. Purchase

The Cross Bones by Kathy ReichsCross Bones
Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code books played with what might have happened to the Holy Family after Jesus’ death, and based a mystery around this secret, invented history. Kathy Reichs cleverly did something similar with her 2005 mystery The Cross Bones, which sees her star forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan begin by helping investigate the murder of an orthodox Jew in Montreal, Quebec. Strangely, all the clues point her towards the Holy Land where she ends up attempting to determine the identity of an ancient skeleton discovered in a tomb in the rocky desert. Needless to say, some forces don’t want those bones dug up. Gripping stuff for those who like forensic mysteries with links to the past. Purchase

Close To The Bone by Stuart Macbride
Bones! Again? Aberdeen copper Detective Sergeant Logan Macrae is faced with a horrific and violent death which appears to be a copycat Soweto-style necklacing. While pursuing the killers, he must also trace two missing teenagers and puzzle out why someone is leaving small bunches of bones, like voodoo, outside his door. Aided and sometimes hindered by his scabrous boss DCI Roberta Steele and an over-zealous young assistant, Macrae lurches from one near-disaster to the next. This 2013 book is full of black deeds and even blacker humour, but is also shot through with a subtle sense of sadness and compassion. Read our review here. Purchase

Suspect by Robert Crais
With every new release Crais is a fixture on the bestseller lists. He writes with a knowledge of the genre that appeals to crime fiction lovers, but retains the accessibility to interest the casual reader. He is probably best known for his Elvis Cole thrillers but his standalone books are just as good. Suspect is his latest, and tells the story of an LAPD officer trying to put his life back together after his partner is shot whilst on duty. Helping him find the killer is Military Working Dog Maggie who needs a new handler after hers was killed in Afghanistan. Read the book and find out for yourself why our contributor DeathBecomesHer gave it five stars. purchase

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Does this one even need an introduction? With two million copies sold, a Hollywood film in the offing, and a place on The Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist, Gone Girl has certainly struck a nerve with readers. On the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary Amy Dunne disappears, leaving her husband Nick behind to face the fear and eventual suspicion as their outwardly perfect life is excavated in the full glare of the media. Told in an expertly worked dual narrative this twisty thriller is a merciless examination of a bad marriage, its manipulation and lies, gamesmanship and petty tortures – in short, matrimony as asymmetrical warfare. Purchase

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
This is the first of a series that will see the sixth book, The Last Word, published this year. The series focuses on the Spellman family and is narrated by the black sheep, Isabel (Izzy). She works for her family’s PI business, Spellman Investigations, and has a knack for attracting, and making, trouble. She can’t keep a boyfriend and her snooping is legendary, but then again, snooping is in the Spellman genes. You’ll laugh yourself silly following Izzy and her dysfunctional, but loving, family as they solve cases and cause trouble. Purchase

With no oneWith No One As Witness by Elizabeth George
Lovers of complex crime novels will find nirvana in the Inspector Lynley series. With No One As Witness is among the best, and stands out because of the care and attention to detail lavished on each character as the plot twists and turns like a corkscrew. This is a very special serial killer whodunit by an author at the top of her game. A great introduction to readers new to Lynley and his faithful sidekick Barbara Havers – but a book that will also keep die-hard fans fully engaged. Purchase

Storm Damage by Ed Kovacs
This features Cliff St James, an ex-cop and martial artist who is trying to make ends meet in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Before Katrina hit, a local bar owner was found dead and his daughter wants help in finding his killer. She seems to be hiding something, but St James is determined to find out who killed Tiki Hut Sam, even if it means tangling with some of the most powerful people in New Orleans. People don’t like Cliff, and they hate him nosing around in their business. This is a great start to a brand new series from an established suspense writer! Read our review herePurchase

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie’s 1941 novel has been adapted for radio, and even appeared in comic book format, but it was the big screen rendition starring Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot that introduced the Belgian detective to a whole new generation of crime fiction readers in 1982. Drab, Northern European settings are left behind as Christie transplants the locked-room mystery format to an exotic island paradise. Eight guests are there, along with Poirot, who must question one of them about a fake jewel. But things get a lot more serious when glamorous Arlene Stuart Marshall is found strangled on the beach. It’s full of intrigue and tension as an at-first-baffled Poirot uses his little grey cells to eventually lay a trap for the killer. A great one if you want to get back to the Golden Age. Purchase

Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum
Fossum is justly considered the queen of Norwegian crime writing. Part of the Inspector Sejer series, Bad Intentions is a typically well-crafted and thoughtful exploration of the aftermath of a death. Jon, Axel and Reilly, three friends sharing a terrible secret, are staying at a frozen lake when Jon commits suicide. Axel and Reilly appear perfectly grief stricken, determined to fob off Sejer and have the secret die with Jon, but maintaining the facade takes a toll and eventually somebody will have to crack. Read our review here. Purchase

Savage Season by Joe R Lansdale
The series debut for Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. Individually they couldn’t be further apart. Hap is a white heterosexual pacifist who protested against the Vietnam War, whilst Leonard is a black, homosexual veteran with a predilection for vanilla cookies and violence. But together, they make about the best buddies in crime fiction. Savage Season is full of ribald humour, profanity and violence. Hap allows himself to be led around by ex-flame Trudy in search of some missing money and Leonard has to follow Hap to stop him getting killed in the process. Anyone tired of Hap and Leonard is tired of life. Purchase

A Lily of The Field by John Lawtonlily
This magnificent book almost sprawls across the years, from pre-War Vienna to the hell of Auschwitz, from the atomic bomb tests of New Mexico to the bruised and battered streets of 1948 London. It re-introduces that most enigmatic of policemen, Freddie Troy, with his fierce intelligence, aristocratic ways and his fatal attraction to beautiful women. He must try to solve the puzzle of what a beautiful but mentally scarred Hungarian cellist is doing among London’s Eastern European exiles. This is a brilliant, brutal and often heartbreaking story of breathtaking scope and imagination. John Lawton is a national treasure, and this may be his best yet. Purchase

We produced a similar list for 2012 – you can check out last year’s recommendations here. What are you recommending on World Book Night? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 Comments

  1. Kristopher Reply

    Excellent list of books. I will certainly seek out the few that I have not read.

    Nice to see _With No One As Witness_ listed for Elizabeth George. It is by far my favorite from that series.

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