Christmas gifts that are just deadly
Myles McWeeney picks the best reads to set the heart racing
A terrific year for the legal genre saw writers like John Grisham return to form with The Confession (Orion stg£18.99 hbk), a scary edge-of-the-seat legal battle to save the life of an innocent young black man within days of being executed in Texas, and Michael Connolly whose latest courtroom drama, The Reversal (Orion stg£18.99) sees his oddball defence lawyer Mickey Haller become a prosecutor in an attempt to send a released paedophile sex-killer back to death row.
John le Carre defies his years with the fresh and beautifully crafted Our Kind of Traitor (Viking stg£18.99 hbk), as does the iconic chronicler of dirty deeds and death in the Louisiana bayous, James Lee Burke, with The Glass Rainbow, which leaves the reader wondering is this the last of detective Dave Robicheaux?
For fans of Lee Child's restless hero Jack Reacher, 2010 was a signal year in that two ace thrillers featuring the avenging former military policeman were published. In 61 Hours (Bantam stg £7.99 pbk), his attempt to save the life of a brave woman puts him head-to-head with a professional killer who never misses, while in Worth Dying For (Bantam Press stg£18.99), Reacher runs up against the cruel and violent Duncan family who are harbouring a dreadful secret and will kill to protect it. On the Irish front, Stuart Neville's stunning Collusion (Harvill Secker stg£12.99 trade pbk) is a gripping trope on the enduring legacy of the Troubles, and Ken Bruin's bravura The Devil (Transworld Ireland stg£8.99 pbk) takes alcoholic private detective Jack Taylor into Stephen King territory with considerable success.
Some of the most gory crime fiction today is being penned by female writers. Broken by Karen Slaughter (Century stg£18.99 hbk) successfully brings together her two different series heroes, Grant County, Georgia, forensic investigator Dr Sara Linton and investigator Will Trent, the main protagonist in her Atlanta-based thrillers. Here she delivers an edgy tale of small town corruption and mistrust, and the growing attraction between Linton and Grant is subtly handled.
Another star female thriller deliverer is Lisa Gardiner. Her Live to Tell (Orion stg£12.99 hbk) sees hardened Boston detective DD Warren shattered by a series of multiple murders committed on her patch. In a profoundly uncomfortable tale, someone is killing entire families and staging the murder scenes to make it appear as if each father killed his family before killing himself. Patricia Cornwell's Port Mortuary (Little, Brown stg£18.99 hbk) is a welcome return to form for Dr Kay Scarpetta, here forced to investigate her own staff.
On the home front, Faithful Place by Tana French (Hodder & Stoughton stg£12.99 trade pbk) is highly recommended. French's third thriller is a compelling read set in the Liberties which sees Dublin Garda Frank Mackey forced to revisit his past and his dysfunctional family when a suitcase belonging to his girlfriend who disappeared mysteriously 20 years previously is found. Dubliner Jane Casey pulled off the often difficult feat of bettering her first book, The Missing, with The Buring (Ebury Press stg£6.99). First-generation London-Irish detective constable Maeve Kerrigan is determined to bring a serial killer to justice to the ribald amusement of her male colleagues. Acutely observed characters make this stand out.