Friday, December 16, 2022

You can sod off, 2022, but leave the books please

 Abir Mukherjee


So here we are, staggering weak-limbed and dry-mouthed towards the finish line of another ridiculous year: 2022 – another corker of calamity – with those horsemen of the apocalypse, war, pestilence and err inflation stalking us like the last single guys at a party.


On the bright side, we’ve managed to avoid nuclear Armageddon for now, which is a positive for our species but possibly a negative for the planet in the long run. 2022 also feels like the year we finally turned the corner on covid – unless you’re Chinese and locked into your apartment for the umpteenth time, in which case I say, **** **** ****** ****** THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN CENSORED BY THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CHINA.


2023, you bright, shining, beautiful baby of a year on the horizon, I would hope to welcome you with optimism and cheer, as I have done every new year so far, but after the last three dumpster fires, I’m slightly nervous that you’ll trick me, like a new friend that you invite into your home who ends up being an arse, staying for twelve months, sleeping on your couch and drinking all your booze (even the good stuff you keep hidden from your wife’s relatives).


Camus and Sartre, writers every bit as talented as me, believed that the efforts of humanity to find meaning or rational explanation in the universe ultimately fail because no such meaning exists, and that given that we all die in the end, that all human endeavour is ultimately absurd. Far be it from me to disagree with a bunch of dead Frenchies, but I’d say that while the universe is undoubtedly absurd, while we’re here, we might as well make the most of it. Each person of course is free to choose how she or he makes the most of it, whether it’s sitting in your mum’s basement having pointless arguments with strangers online or buying Twitter and trashing it cos you’re an idiot man-baby billionaire. If neither of these is appealing to you, and let’s be honest, why would they? then the best place to seek succour in this absurd universe is within the warm embrace of a good book.


So here are some of the ones I’ve enjoyed the most during 2022.


Crime & Thrillers


The Accomplice – Steve Cavanagh

When the wife of a fugitive serial killer is arrested on charges of complicity in his crimes, lawyer, Eddie Flynn, is forced to defend her. As complete and perfect a thriller as you will read. Every chapter is the literary equivalent of being hit in the face with a frying pan. Just brilliant.

The Seeker – SG Maclean

Shona MacLean is a writer from the Scottish Highlands, and I have to say, one of the finest historical crime fiction novelists in the UK today. Set in the paranoid world of Cromwellian England of 1654, Damian Seeker is an investigator for the Lord Protector. Think of him as a 17th century Jack Reacher. The first in the series, The Seeker is charged with investigating the murder of John Winter, a general in Cromwell’s army. It should be an open and shut case, but all isn’t as it seems. Intelligent, atmospheric and pacy – this book is the gold standard for historical crime fiction.



Razorblade Tears – SA Cosby

A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.
Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

A wonderful take on middle American underclass - as good as I've read anywhere.


Bombay Monsoon – James Ziskin

Some guy called Ziskin wrote a book an American journalist, Danny Jacobs, who arrives in Bombay in 1975, just as Prime Minister India Gandhi plunges the world’s largest democracy into chaos by declaring a national state of emergency.


Amidst this crisis, Danny falls for Sushmita, the lover of the European in the apartment next door. His life is thrown into turmoil when a police inspector is murdered. Will he get out alive?


What can I say – this book is the real deal. Ziskin deftly manages the political upheavals and the chaos of India while giving up a wonderfully plotted and executed thriller. If you haven’t read him yet, now’s your chance. 



Non crime:

The Stasi Poetry Circle – Philip Oltermann

A great book on the real-life poetry group set up by members of the Stasi – East Germany’s feared secret police. Yes, I’m as shocked as you are.


How Civil Wars Start  (and How to Stop Them) Barbara F Walter 

An interesting book analysing the state of the US today in the context of other societies which have experienced civil wars. A rather sobering read. Maybe best read after a few drinks.


Money Men – Dan McCRum

The story of the Wirecard fraud. Wirecard was, until last year, the darling of the German FinTech industry, hailed as a European success story in a field dominated by US tech companies. It went from a small software house to one of the most valuable stocks on the German bourse. Except it was all a lie. Smoke and mirrors and shady accounting. One journalist, Dan McCrum of the Financial Times in London wasn’t convinced by the glitz and hype surrounding the company. When he started asking awkward questions, the company went after him, employing spies and co-opting the German financial regulator BaFin. Like the Elizabeth Holmes case in America, this is the byzantine true story of the power of big companies built on lies.


Ones coming soon


Strange Sally Diamond – Liz Nugent

One of the most original and spine-tingling books I’ve read in ages, Liz Nugent’s Strange Sally Diamond draws you in to the close, claustrophobic world of rural Ireland and the life of an emotionally withdrawn woman whose dark, hidden past is coming back to haunt her. Crackling with tension, this book with have you turning the pages late into the night. An absolute triumph.


The last dance – Mark Billingham

I’m reading this at the moment. The start of a brand new series from one of the all time legends of crime fiction, Mark Billingham. Murder and intrigue in Blackpool, the capital of the UK’s ballroom dance scene. Detective Declan Millar has a secret – when not investigating crimes, he’s cutting a rug on the dance floor. Still grieving the death of his partner, a double murder causes Millar to return to work. Can he find the answers where his colleagues have failed?


There’s a reason why Billingham has been a number one bestseller for more years that anyone can remember- it’s because he’s supremely talented. I am loving this so far. Full review to come soon.


Independence Square – Martin Cruz Smith

Haven’t read it yet, but I’ve just received a copy and Arkady Renko is one of my all-time favourite detective creations. This latest instalment will be my Christmas treat.

And that's it. Thanks for reading my posts this last year. May I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very very happy 2023.



James W. Ziskin said...

Great post as always, Abir. Thank you for the shout-out.

Some guy called Ziskin 😆

Anonymous said...

A great list and Razorblade Tears was an excellent read (as it the Seeker)

Catriona McPherson said...

In the name of the sweet baby Jesus - Derry Girls has entered my soul, you see - won't someone think of the TBR pile! MC and an HNY, Abir, Cx

Shona MacLean said...

0h, Abir, that's brilliant. Thank you so much. Will raise a glass to you, come Hogmanay, for a better 2023. All usual disclaimers should general and as yet unimagined awfulness ensue.