Traditionally, summer is when readers are supposed to reach for undemanding page-turners to take on holiday, but – as sales figures bear out – many people prefer meatier, more challenging fare. I have tried to suggest books to suit as wide a range of tastes as possible: the only thing that these crime and thriller titles have in common is that they are all, in their different ways, excellent reads.
Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown)
The 14th Tom Thorne mystery sees the detective pairing up with DI Nicola Tanner (Die of Shame) to investigate ‘honour killings’: a sensitive topic, delicately handled, with a perfectly executed and thoroughly unnerving twist at the end.
Dead Woman Walking by Sharon Bolton (Bantam)
After witnessing a murder from the sky, the sole survivor of a hot-air balloon disaster must flee for her life in this high-octane standalone: clever, fast-paced and utterly gripping.
The Hours Before Dawn by Celia Fremlin (Faber & Faber)
A welcome re-issue: first published in 1958, this tightly plotted and admirably concise psychological thriller about an exhausted mother whose baby will not go to sleep is essential reading for all lovers of domestic noir.
The Special Girls by Isabelle Grey (Quercus)
The third DI Grace Fisher novel is a tense, topical police procedural: a murdered doctor whose body is found near a summer camp for girls with eating disorders leads to a cold-case child-abuse investigation into an internationally-renowned professor of psychiatry.
The Dry by Jane Harper (Little, Brown)
Policeman Aaron Falk finds himself trying to untangle two crimes that occurred twenty years apart in this superb debut: solid storytelling, strong characterisation and a sense of place so vivid that you can almost feel the blistering heat of the small, parched Australian town where it’s set.
Quieter Than Killing by Sarah Hilary (Headline)
Powerful and chilling, the fourth DI Marine Rome novel is well up to the vertiginously high standard Hilary set with the previous three: expect murder, abduction and vigilantism as the beleaguered detective is forced to dig deep into her troubled past.
He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly (Hodder & Stoughton)
A young couple witness a horrific act and end up testifying in court – fifteen years later they are living in fear, under new identities: a deft exploration of complicity, betrayal and lives spiralling out of control adds up to a stand-out read.
Three Days and a Life by Pierre Lemaitre, trans Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press)
When Antoine is twelve years old, a series of events changes his life forever – and, no matter how he tries to escape it, the past is always threatening to catch up with him: French crime fiction at its best.
You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood (Michael Joseph)
Mahmood’s debut is an original take on a courtroom drama that puts the reader in the position of the jury: expect masterful ventriloquism and a vivid, authentic depiction of London’s gang culture.
Soot by Andrew Martin
Fletcher Rigge is given a months’ release from the debtors’ prison to discover the murderer of silhouette artist Matthew Harvey – failure will mean re-incarceration, possibly for life: a clever, intricate mystery, set in eighteenth-century York.
A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker)
Atmospheric and lavish, Mukherjee’s second novel more than lives up to the promise shown in his debut, A Rising Man: in 1920, Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee of the Calucutta Police Force investigate the dramatic assassination of a Maharajah’s son.
An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth (Wildfire)
How far will a mother go to protect her son? A woman is faced with an impossible choice in this tense, pacy and unpredictable psychological thriller.
Give Me the Child by Mel McGrath (HQ)
When child psychologist Cat Lupo takes in her husband’s love-child, she believes she’s doing the right thing, but looking after eleven-year-old Ruby proves unexpectedly challenging, and Cat’s life begins to unravel… McGrath’s first stand-alone is a mesmerising examination of paranoia and desperation.
Fierce Creatures by Gin Phillips (Doubleday)
A powerful, unsettling account of a mother and her four-year-old son locked in a zoo with gunmen on the prowl.
Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys (Doubleday)
Compelling, atmospheric tale of love, murder and dark secrets on an ocean liner in 1939, as Lily Shepherd journeys to a new life in Australia and finds herself seduced by the beautiful people onboard.
The Force by Don Winslow (HarperCollins)
Drug dealers, crooked cops and corrupt officials mix it up in Manhattan in Winslow’s latest epic novel: riveting, morally complex stuff, perfect for fans of Don DeLillo and Richard Price.
For fans of true crime, re-issues of two wonderful reads:
The Red Parts by Maggie Algren (Vintage)
Originally published in 2007, this incisive and moving literary memoir explores the murder of the author’s aunt, Jane Mixer, in 1969.
The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception by Emmanuel Carrere, trans. Linda Coverdale (Vintage)
Originally published in 2000, this French bestseller is an absorbing and very disturbing account of an individual who found it so difficult to admit his failure of a single exam that he constructed an increasingly elaborate fabric of lies, which led to murder.