This weekend I was asked by a friend to recommend what I thought was the best ever crime book. She has recently got back into crime fiction via way of Lisa Gardner and was asking what to read next. This is quite possibly one of the hardest questions I’ve ever contemplated (after do you want toffee or chocolate ice cream – always both!)
Even just asking for who I think is the best ever author would be tricky. Patricia Cornwell is definitely one of my favourites; however I would say that to do her justice you really should start with her first ever book to truly enjoy them. I’ve read her whole series a couple of times so know them pretty well. I think some of her books are good as stand alone stories but in my opinion the relationships between Scarpetta, Benson, Marina and Lucy are an integral part and one of the things that make them so popular.
Mark Billingham would definitely be in my top 5 authors. ‘Scaredy Cat’ was the first of his I read (his second Tom Thorne novel) and it was gripping. The writing was violent and gruesome, but the blood and guts were not gratuitous. A Lisa Gardner novel started this whole debate, and all her books are excellent. ‘Love you more’ was the last of hers I read, and there is a copy of ‘Catch Me’ sat in my pile which i’m dying to read (although as she is unfortunately not at this year’s festival it is just going to have to wait!)
One of the great things about this challenge has been that I’ve added a lot of new authors to my repertoire. John Connolly is definitely going into my top author list having just finished ‘The Burning Soul’ and I’m looking forward to tackling his back catalogue.
It might be easier to suggest the top male and top female writer, but then I love Tania Carver, a husband and wife duo who’s novel a ‘Cage of Bones’ is quite chilling, so where would they fit? Nicci French is another great male and female writing duo so maybe I’d need three categories but how can I narrow them down?
Looking thorough my notebook at the list of books I’ve read, I score them all out of five. One of the highest scores is for ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn so maybe that needs to go down as one of the best. But then the score is only on a par with all those already mentioned and Peter James. He is also high scoring, with his novels based around Brighton which have some completely unpredictable twists which are very exciting.
I think trying to suggest a favourite book, is a completely impossible task. Its like trying to pick my favourite band, or favourite ice cream flavour there are just too many to limit myself to one. It totally depends on what mood I’m in, and also what I last had/read. Often the latest book I’ve read is my favourite, until the next one anyway. Having been upstairs to look at my bookshelves there are too many ‘favourite’ authors I haven’t mentioned. So far I’ve just been looking at authors who’ve written books in the last couple of years, don’t even get me started on the likes of Agatha Christie, and of course I’ve not mentioned PD James, or Ruth Rendall.
It’s just not possible. Maybe I could do a top 20 books, but even then I don’t think I could narrow it down. There are so many great books I’ve read, and so many more I want to read that just thinking about it makes my head want to explode. So what about other people, if you had to recommend the ‘best ever’ crime novel for my friend to read next what would you suggest?