Lucie Whitehouse is the author of Keep You Close, a crime thriller we adored – check out our review here! She has written three other novels, The Bed I Made, The House at Midnight and most recently Before We Met, described by the Observer as ‘nail-biting, spine-tingling’ and by the thriller writer Kate Mosse as ‘spectacular’. Lucie gave us her top 5, unputdownable crime reads – you can click on the titles or covers below for more information!
A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine
LW: Barbara Vine was the alter ego Ruth Rendell invoked for her darker, more psychological novels, any of which I would recommend. She combines compelling plotswith fine writing – to open A Fatal Inversion is to step into an East Anglian heatwave in 1976 and immerse yourself in the mounting unease at Wyvis Hall, the secluded country house that Adam inherits and opens to a group of aimless and – in one case – disturbed young people. Ten years later, the bones of a woman and child are found in the animal cemetery at the house but Vine’s elegant plotting keeps you guessing almost to the end whose they might be. This is such a rich novel – the details and characterisation are beautiful and eerie.
Garnethill by Denise Mina
LW: If Barbara Vine is my favourite psychological crime writer of the generation before mine, Mina is my contemporary favourite. I rationed her backlist but I’m now in the unhappy position of having read everything she’s published. Garnethill was her first novel and the first in a trilogy featuring Maureen O’Donnell, a former psychiatric patient, abuse survivor and alcoholic who discovers her married lover murdered in the sitting room of her Glasgow flat. Unremittingly dire as this sounds, Maureen is a riot – hilarious, full of life and guts. Like Vine, Mina excels at capturing place as well as the inner lives of her characters, many of whom are the sorts of people who don’t get paid much attention in real life, let alone fiction.
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
LW: I’ve long been a Graham Greene fan but even though Brighton Rock is perhaps his most famous novel, it was actually one of the last I read. I might have read it many years earlier had I not happened to start it on a deserted railway platform late at night and been so freaked out by its atmosphere of menace that I had to stop. Pinky remains for me one of the most frightening characters in fiction: the book could be subtitled ‘Portrait of the Psychopath as a Young Man’. Again, place is beautifully captured here, in all the seedy glamour of a British seaside resort. Greene is brilliant at depicting cruelty; the scene where Rose’s parents essentially sell her to Pinky in their hovel of a home is painful to read.
Nemesis by Jo Nesbo
LW: My sisters-in-law are huge crime readers and I have them to thank for pressing the early Harry Hole novels into my hands. After reading five or six of his books, I know to expect fireworks but Nemesis was my first, and the complexity of Nesbo’s plotting really knocked me for six. I felt as if I had a matryoshka doll in my hands and each painted shell came off only to reveal another inside. Though Harry Hole fits the ‘alcoholic, jaded detective who can’t help sabotaging his own life’ stereotype to a tee, he is still a standout character, largely (for me, at least) because of his loyalty to the people he loves as well as his stellar crime-solving skills.
Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
LW: Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache books are my sisters-in-law’s next prescription for me and in return, I have urged this, Susie Steiner’s first DS Manon Bradshaw novel, on them. Set in Cambridge, England, it centres on the disappearance of Edith Hind, a graduate student at Cambridge University whose complicated love life is just one of the leads that Manon’s team has to follow under increasing pressure from her well-connected parents. For me – and I suspect many others – the joy of this book is the characterisation. I loved Manon from the brilliantly disastrous date that opens the book and I’ve been looking forward to more of her ever since.
Read more about Lucie and her book Keep You Close here!