Seven of the best new crime novels for 2019

Culture Features

01 Jan 2019

The Border by Don Winslow

The final instalment of Don Winslow’s brutal trilogy about Mexican cartels and America’s war on drugs promises to be one of the most attention-grabbing books of the year. The first two entries in the series, The Power of the Dog and The Cartel, tell the story of drug kingpin Adán Barrera and the DEA agent, Art Keller, hunting him down. The Border picks up the story with Keller facing the rise of new cartels, a heroin epidemic in America and politicians keen to keep the whole show on the road. With an approach that melds propulsive storytelling with journalistic rigour, both The Power of the Dog and The Cartel became instant classics. Here’s hoping Winslow has scaled the heights again. (Published on 28 February)

This Storm by James Ellroy

Ellroy remains a totemic figure in crime writing with Don Winslow being one of many novelists who cite his influence (‘I vividly remember reading LA Confidential when I was trying to become a crime writer and thinking, “This is how it’s done, this is what I want to be”’, he once said). This Storm is the second book in Ellroy’s second LA Quartet. 2014’s Perfidia, which kicked it off, was underwhelming, but hopefully this latest effort recaptures the old magic. A typically labyrinthine plot unfolding in Los Angeles in the wake of Pearl Harbour involves missing Japanese naval officers, a murder victim linked to an unsolved gold heist and, at the centre of it all, a young Dudley Smith, the notorious cop from Ellroy’s original LA epics. (Published on 30 May)

Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

Kelly’s previous book, He Said/She Said, was a page-turning smash hit about a crime that unfolded in the shadow of a solar eclipse. This follow up is sure to be another blockbuster. The story begins with a woman called Marianne arriving at a plush block of flats in Sussex, a building that was once a lunatic asylum and close to where she grew up. Dark memories are immediately triggered about a crime Marianne was party to as a teenager. The novel unfolds from here with an intensity that builds with every passing chapter and, as with He Said/She Said, there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing right up to the end (Published on 4 April)

November Road by Lou Berney

US author Lou Berney’s new book follows other impressive novels, including Ellroy’s American Tabloid and Don DeLillo’s Libra, in using the assassination of JFK for its own fictional ends. This one comes with plenty of hype attached. Stephen King has called it ‘exceptional’ – and he’s not wrong. In the aftermath of the president’s death, the New Orleans mafia boss who ordered the hit is cleaning house. One of his trusted lieutenants, Frank Guidry, flees town when he realises he’s next in the firing line, and the mob’s most remorseless killer is sent to track him down. While on the road, Guidry meets a woman who has left her Oklahoma home and deadbeat husband with just a handful of belongings and her two kids in tow. Seeing a chance to travel incognito, Guidry persuades her to join him on his journey to Las Vegas, with only Guidry aware of the danger stalking them. Berney’s prose is impeccable, by turns direct and lyrical, his characters are brilliantly drawn, and the denouement, when it comes, draws this road movie-style thriller to a close with a powerful emotional kick. (Published on 4 April; Kindle edition out now)

 

My Name is Anna by Lizzy Barber

In this novel by the winner of the Daily Mail’s First Novel competition, a young girl is snatched from a Florida theme park. More than a decade later, two estranged teenage sisters – one growing up in rural America, the other in north London – attempt to get to the bottom of what happened and who was responsible. With well-judged interweaving narratives and plenty of rich description, this is an absorbing and promising debut. (Published on 10 January; Kindle edition out now)

The Whisper Man by Alex North

Another crime novel arriving in 2019 off the back of a wealth of high praise is the latest offering from Alex North. The Whisper Man is about a widower and his young son moving to a village where memories of a serial killer who murdered five boys 15 years earlier are being stirred. Best-selling crime writer Mark Billingham has called it ‘terrifying and utterly heartbreaking’, while Stav Sherez, winner of the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2018 and Spectator Life contributor, tells me it could be one of the ‘biggest thrillers of the year’ (Published on 13 June).

 

The Killer in Me by Olivia Kiernan

Irish writer Olivia Kiernan is one to watch, with this her second book in the Dublin-set DCS Frankie Sheehan series. Sheehan, a brilliant female cop, faces a complex case as a man convicted of killing his parents and attempting to kill his sister, but who vigorously protests his innocence, is released from prison. A TV documentary revisits the case and arouses public sympathy, but when two bodies are found with apparent connections to the old murders, Sheehan must track down a killer and finally put the past to rest (Published on 4 April).


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