Saturday, November 06, 2021

It’s the Best of “Times”

By Fraser Massey
In the run-up to the end of this hectic year, the teams of literary reviewers at London’s Times and Sunday Times have weighed in with a combined list of their 14 choices of what they contend are the best crime, thriller, and mystery novels published so far in 2021.

The results are slightly curious, because the two newspapers’ critics have also assembled a collection of their 18 favorite novels of the year regardless of genre. Among their choices in that latter category are four books that wouldn’t have looked at all out of place had they appeared amongst the crime choices. But none of them did, presumably to avoid repetition. There is no suggestion that the works on either list appear in any particular order of merit.

If you’re a subscriber to The Times, you can find the whole story here. However, as most Rap Sheet readers probably can’t get past the periodicals’ firewall, we’ll lay out the picks below. Let’s start off with those four crime-related yarns found on the overall favorite novels list:

A Town Called Solace, by Mary Lawson (Chatto & Windus [UK],
Knopf [Canada])
Mrs. March, by Virginia Feito (4th Estate [UK], Liveright [U.S.])
Billy Summers, by Stephen King (Hodder [UK], Scribner [U.S.])
A Lonely Man, by Chris Power (Faber and Faber [UK], Farrar,
Straus and Giroux {U.S.])

Now, here are the specific Crime and Thriller choices:

The Judge’s List, by John Grisham (Hodder [UK], Doubleday [U.S.])
April in Spain, by John Banville (Faber and Faber [UK], Hanover Square Press [U.S.])
The Dark, by Emma Haughton (Hodder [UK], Mobius [U.S.])
The Dark Remains, by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin (Canongate [UK], World Noir [U.S.])
1979, by Val McDermid (Little, Brown [UK], Atlantic Monthly
Press [U.S.])
The Plot, by Jean Hanff Korelitz (Faber and Faber [UK],
Celadon [U.S.])
Rabbit Hole, by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown [UK], Atlantic Monthly Press [U.S.])
The Girl Who Died, by Ragnar Jónasson (Michael Joseph [UK], Minotaur [U.S.])
The Passenger, by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz (Pushkin [UK], Metropolitan [U.S.])
The Last House on Needless Street, by Catriona Ward (Viper [UK], Tor Nightfire [U.S.])
The Last Snow, by Stina Jackson (Corvus [UK])
The Appeal, by Janice Hallett (Viper [UK], and expected to be published by Atria in the U.S. in January 2022)
The Coffinmaker’s Garden, by Stuart MacBride (HarperCollins [UK])
Slough House, by Mick Herron (John Murray [UK], Soho Crime [U.S.])

While the rest of these books saw their first publication during the last 10 months, Boschwitz’s The Passenger is actually a reprint. It was originally published in the States back in 1939 under the title The Man Who Took Trains, and as The Fugitive in the UK in 1940.

Given that the Times papers are touting these as the best general-fiction and crime-fiction picks “so far,” can we expect additions to be made in the closing two months of 2021? Stay tuned.

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