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  • Jo McCready

My five favourite crime writers

I’ve read crime novels for as long as I can remember. I read other genres too, but always come back to crime. I think crime stories, for the most part, are comforting; bad people do terrible things but in the end the world turns out okay. Sometimes it doesn't of course, but that’s okay too. Some of the best crime writers have unhappy endings. A friend of mine can’t read Liz Nugent for this reason but I love Liz’s writing, and her characters are full of depth and realism. I love hearing about other people’s favourite authors and books and am always on the look out for new recommendations. Perhaps someone will discover a new author by reading this list.

I read different types of books, and different types of crime depending on my mood and what I’m looking for in that particular moment. This means my top five list is quite eclectic, and it should be noted that it’s in no particular order.

1) Agatha Christie – One of the most celebrated crime writers, and for good reason. I’m sure most crime writers would include Agatha Christie, how could you not? I found Christie’s books in the children’s section of my local library (I’m not sure if this is normal or not) and I started reading them before the age of 10. I loved the sense of theatre in their formality and quickly became entranced with her ability to narrow her suspect list of colourful characters down until the killer was dramatically revealed. My favourite above all others would be ‘And Then There Were None’. Something clicked inside me when I read this book. I knew then, even at a young age, that it would remain one of my forever favourites and it solidified my future love of the crime.

2) Carl Hiaasen – Carl Hiaasen is a journalist from Florida who writes humerous crime novels. His books are based in Southern Florida and often have an environmental and political bent. My favourite, and first book I read, of his is ‘Skin Tight’ which centres around Private Investigator Mike Stranahan’s investigation of a negligent/corrupt cosmetic surgeon. The characters (in particular Skink and Chemo) in Hiaasen’s books are deliciously absurd, as are the situations they get themselves into. They do tend to make reappearances in other books and his books can feel very similar, but I will continue to read every Carl Hiaasen book that comes out.

3) Paul Cleaves – Such good writing and well developed characters but also very dark and quite depressing. I love every Paul Cleaves book that I read but I have to be in the right frame of mind and couldn’t read two in a row. That seems like a criticism, it’s not, it’s testament to just how much Cleave’s writing can get under your skin.

4) Jo Nesbo – I don’t even need to read the blurb, to know I’m going to get a good read with a Jo Nesbo book. It’s just guaranteed. Easy to read, his writing is dependably good. His Harry Hole character is the typical tortured and troubled detective. You know exactly what you are getting with these books. I also enjoy reading about the different governmental structures in unfamiliar countries. Nesbo deals well with this as his Norwegian Harry Hole investigates cases all over the world. My favourite Jo Nesbo book, however, would be the stand alone ‘Headhunters’. It has an unusual premise for a book, dealing with corporate headhunting and art theft. A friend recommended it to me as she thought I’d love it, and I did.

5) How am I supposed to pick only one more, there are so many – Candice Fox, Stieg Larssen, Val McDermid, Adrian McKinty, Ian Rankin, Quintin Jardin, Michael Connolly, Anne Cleaves, Denise Mina, Vanda Symon, Minette Walters, Sue Grafton, Jeffrey Deaver, Camilla Lackberg, Michael Robotham, William McIlvanney, Liam McIlvanney and Jonas Jonasson (who isn’t necessarily classed as crime but his plots revolve around criminal acts). I was even partial to Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson, back in the day. It’s difficult to make my final choice, two of my all-time favourite writers wrote crime – Ken Follett and Michael Crichton but it’s not their crime thrillers that I enjoy. I love Follett’s historical novels and Michael Crichton’s science fiction/technological thrillers. I can’t choose, you’ll just have to accept that full list as my number 5!

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