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Editor Picks: Vanessa Radnidge’s 10 Best Crime Fiction Novels

I have always been a huge reader and somehow I lucked into a job that allows me to do my favourite thing … read! As a publisher at Hachette Australia I am also very lucky because I am able to work with fiction and non-fiction authors. My list is eclectic and so is my reading taste. But one thing I love more than most is a great crime novel. I blame Enid Blyton and all the Famous Five and Secret Seven books I grew up on. Asking me to list my ten favourite crime books is tough, because I find it hard to narrow it down and my thoughts may be different tomorrow. But here goes (I can’t rank them, that would be impossible):

 

IN COLD BLOOD – Truman Capote.

I read this in my twenties and could not put it down. I nervously picked it up again not long ago and read it again. Sometimes a book that you connected with doesn’t hold up years later, but this one did. I cried again for the Clutter family. A powerful exploration of a heinous crime that shows the very ordinary faces of evil and how anyone, even a quiet farming family in their own home in a small country town in Kansas, can be touched by it.

 

CLOSE YOUR EYES – Michael Robotham

I am a huge fan of Michael Robotham and I could have picked any of his books to put into this list. Joe O’Loughlin is one of my favourite ongoing crime characters but Vincent Ruiz comes a very close second; the fact that they are both found in Robotham books is testament to this writer’s talent. Be warned, once you read a Robotham thriller you will have to read more! This one broke my heart.

 

HADES – Candice Fox

This is the first novel by this Australian writer and the beginning is brilliant! It is another dark story of damaged people (some of them cops) and an absolute page-turner. We have some awesome crime writers in Australia, like Candice, and I hope more readers find them.

 

KINGDOM OF THE STRONG – Tony Cavanaugh

Yes, I am biased because I publish Tony, but even if I didn’t I would love his books. He is an incredible writer who I think rivals Michael Connelly in talent and in the creation of a damaged cop (or ex-cop) character that you want to read more of. Darian Richards is a compelling character and if you like True Detective (the first one!) or Michael Connelly you will love Tony Cavanaugh. And he is an Aussie!

 

THE LAST COYOTE – Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch is such a brilliant character and I hang out for the new Connelly every year. Unlike some other long-running crime series characters, Harry has never left me disappointed. The Last Coyote was the fourth Harry Bosch book and is still my favourite because this one explored the 30-year-old murder cold case of a Los Angeles prostitute. The victim was Harry’s mother. In Harry word’s ‘Everybody counts or nobody counts’.

 

SHARP OBJECTS – Gillian Flynn.

I know everyone raves about Gone Girl and yes, it is great, but Gillian Flynn’s debut novel is more memorable for me. She is an incredible writer and someone said this is ‘Hitchcock meets Stephen King’. What more could a crime lover ask for?

 

THE BROKEN SHORE – Peter Temple

I have just realised I have a thing for damaged cops with good hearts – Joe Cashin has to be on this list. Great story, great characters, and a writer at the top of his game. What’s not to love!

 

THE GODFATHER – Mario Puzo.

I read this so long ago but I still remember that I wanted the world to fall away so I could keep reading and not be interrupted. Such a brilliant evocative and powerful novel and though the actors from the film have now imprinted themselves on the characters in the book for me, the book is better than any of the films! Though the line ‘leave the gun, take the cannoli’ was improvised for the film, that spirit is in every page.

 

THE DEAD PATH – Stephen M Irwin

Okay, full disclosure. I published this book but, like Tony Cavanaugh, even if I hadn’t I would have this on my list. It is a crime novel and supernatural thriller and I am going to go so far as compare this book to the grand master, Stephen King. Stephen Irwin went on to create the television series Secrets & Lies which was made for Australian television and then re-made in the US – the American version stars Juliette Lewis (love her!). This is an absolutely riveting story that twists crime into a creepy, scary thrill ride by a sadly underrated Australian author.

 

THE SHINING GIRLS ­– Lauren Beukes

I read this book on the recommendation of a local bookseller and I am so glad I did. The hook line may put some off (it wouldn’t have lured me in on its own): ‘a time-travelling serial killer’ but it is so much more than that! It is a dark story and there are twists on nearly every page but this book has one of my favourite heroines ever, Kirby Mizrachi. A feisty, smart, determined woman who will never be a victim, no matter what happens to her. If you love Lizbeth Slander then you will love Kirby (I love her more)!

 

I could go on forever, Stephen King, Joe Hill, James Lee Burke, Patricia Highsmith, Elmore Leonard, Katherine Howell, Malla Nunn, Andrew Vachss, Lenny Bartulin, Stieg Larsson … so many great books , so little time.

 

Vanessa Radnidge is a publisher at Hachette Australia

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