Once again I have awarded a whole array of books the magic 5 stars which means whittling this down to a mere ten quite a task indeed, one that I have been pondering since the start of December in fact… so without further ado here are the ten books published in 2017 that I consider to have been truly outstanding and memorable reads.
For those who haven’t heard me endlessly wittering on about this book in 2017 this book sits on my historical novel shelf. Not only is it a brilliant piece of social history depicting life on a ship at the start of WWII, it has visits to far-flung places whilst encompassing a brilliant story with fabulous characters. The closed environment provides a somewhat combustible mix of characters, all bought brilliantly to life by the clothes they wear, their chatter over dinner along with how they chose to spend all their time while their new home, and life, inches closer – and there is a mystery – what more could you want?
And for those of you who haven’t heard, I have a cameo role in the novel following winning an auction run by Clic Sargent in 2016.
This book is one inspired by the true crimes perpetrated by Peter Manuel in 1950s Glasgow. It’s atmospheric tackling the weighty topics of innocence and guilt whilst brilliantly depicting a time and place in a way that shows off Denise Mina’s talents to the full. The storytelling is nuanced and assured with details oozing out of each sentence, not just about the crimes but about the characters, the essence of the lives they lived and the Glasgow of that age before the slums were cleared and Glasgow was cleaned up. While this isn’t a linear story telling, it is all the more captivating because we wait for the details; the half-eaten sandwich left abandoned at the murder scene, the empty bottle of whisky left on the sideboard for the police to find after the shock of the broken bodies left in the bedroom have been discovered.
Cyril Avery, the protagonist of this meaty book, has earned a place in my heart. The story which follows one man from shortly after conception until 2015. With its unusual structure, we sweep in seven-year intervals into his life and then onto the next meeting new and old characters along the way. A book that is funny and poignant which took me on a journey from delight to sorrow and back again in this sweeping saga set mainly in Dublin. A book of times and attitudes which is surprisingly uplifting.
You know you’re onto a good thing when you open a book and know before you’ve finished the first page that it’s a book to curl up with. In this story set in 1950s England we meet four sisters one summer, a year that will change their view of the world forever. This is a summer that will have repercussions for years to come as innocence is lost. The mystery at the heart of the book is the disappearance of Audrey, their cousin who vanished five years earlier but this is also a book with recurring themes from the bonds between sisters, the ghosts of the past who can cast shadows over lives, the difficulties in growing up with those relationships between friends and mothers all getting an airing. I closed this book with a tear rolling down my cheek.
I wasn’t sure what a mixture between true crime and a memoir would be like but this was a book that I picked up to feature in my excerpt post and simply couldn’t put it down again. When Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich joins a law firm in New Orleans as an intern, whose work is based on having death sentences overturned, she feels she is about to start the career she is supposed to have. The daughter of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti the death penalty. But all that turns when she watches a video of Rick Langley who has been convicted of killing a six-year-old boy, Jeremy Guillory. I’m not going to sugar coat it, the crime is awful but what shocks the author most is that she feels so strongly that Rick Langley should die for the crime he committed. She no longer believes what she thought she did and that has consequences on her life and the more she tries to understand why she draws parallels with her own life. This is a difficult subject but written with intelligence shot through it.
This ‘sliding doors’ scenario is a brilliant way to demonstrate a meaty moral dilemma.Two friends meet for their regular Friday night out at a bar in London and meet a man who is slightly too pushy, deciding to leave they part ways and Joanna walks home taking the route by the canal when she hears someone following her. Now ladies, we’ve all been there – unable to tell whether the threat running through your head is real or imagined. What happens next will change Joanna’s life forever. With sparkling dialogue which is entertaining yet realistic and faultless plotting this book had me captured right from the start and didn’t let me go until after I had turned the last page.
This series features my favourite genealogist Jefferson Tayte. Although the majority of the action happens in the present day the seeds of the action in Dying Games belong firmly in the past. In Washington, DC the FBI are interested in Jefferson Tayte, aka JT, so he breaks off his Scottish trip with his fiancée to return to answer their questions. A serial killer is leaving clues with a genealogical bent and it is now a race against time to stop any more people losing their lives. Steve Robinson has produced a real puzzle within this thriller! Or perhaps I should say lots of mini puzzles which require different aspects of genealogical research to solve. This will ensure that those readers who have hit a brick wall in their own family history research can put things into perspective; unless you are in the unlikely position of having to find a particular person’s details otherwise someone else may die!
In He Said/She Said the story moves backwards and forwards from 11 August 1999, the time of the solar eclipse, to fifteen years later when Kit is planning to travel to the Faroe Islands, chasing another eclipse and we learn what an impact that first meeting had on all four characters and the ripples haven’t decreased with the passing years. The story line is gritty, as may be expected from the title the heart of the matter is a trial for rape and the details of what happened are told from a number of perspectives. This is an involved and thoughtful tale, one that really did make me think and I’m delighted to report that Erin Kelly never forgets that she is writing to entertain her reader and she avoids bashing the reader over the head about rape, and the trials that all too rarely follow such an accusation. I believe it is a sign of a writer who has confidence, not only in herself, but of her readers to air the important issues this
Despite being no lover of sports and definitely not ice-hockey this book which centres round a small town in Sweden’s obsession with the sport had me captivated. Frederik Backman writes in a style that repeats phrases and themes from one section to another so when the book got tough, and it does, the stylistic flair kept the momentum going forward while the reader comes to terms with what has been revealed. There are issues galore and normally when I say that, I’m not being complimentary because it can feel as if the author is leaping from bandwagon to bandwagon. That isn’t the case with The Scandal where the issues in the book are tightly linked to the players on a personal level. The Scandal turned out to be thought-provoking, intelligent crime novel.
I’m not going to lie, I was drawn to this book by its striking cover but what I found within the pages exceeded my expectations by far. Olivia Sweetman is making her way to address all two hundred guests gathered at The Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons in London. All those people are amongst the jars of organs to celebrate the publication of historian Olivia Sweetman’s book, Annabel, a study of a Victorian woman who became one of the first surgeons, a woman who also had a sensational personal life too, captured within Annabel in her own words. But, all is not as it should be as we find out as this superior psychological novel unfolds and the intricate storyline full of fascinating detail will stay with me for a long time to come.
So what do you think? Have you read any of these titles or do you want to?
I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who have visited me here on my little corner of the internet, as well of course as the authors and publishers who have provided me with so many great books to read throughout the year. I look forward to discovering new places, people and dark plots in 2018 and do hope you will all join me on my journey.
You can check out my list of reviews written in 2017 here
Or perhaps you want to check out my Reading Bingo 2017 Edition or you can check out my look back over the past year reading and reviewing along with my goals for 2018 here.