The Best Crime Fiction of 2011

crime-best-of-2011 Nothing quite beats the spine-tingling tension of a fantastic crime read – where you literally cannot put down the book and keep reading until well after dark. For the next part of our annual best books round-up, we’ve asked Readings Monthly editor Jo Case and Fiona Hardy and Jason Austin from Readings Carlton to tell us about their best thrillers and mysteries of the year.

impossibledead The Impossible Dead
Ian Rankin
Known as ‘The Complaints’, policemen Fox, Kaye and Naysmith are the force’s least loved members: as Internal Affairs officers, everything they do is met with resistance. It’s no different – but a typically fantastic Rankin read – in the Scottish town of Kirkcaldy, where they’re sent to tackle the case of an officer whose own uncle turned him in. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton

cut2 The Cut
George Pelecanos
The Wire scribe George Pelecanos delivers another story of America’s seedy underbelly, following Spero Lucas, ex-military turned semi-private-eye – a man who finds things. Set on the originally mellow tail of drugs gone astray during a transaction, he inadvertently gets those close to him mixed up in what becomes a brutal situation. Punchy, satisfying and involving. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton

plugged Plugged
Eoin Colfer
A balding ex-Irish ex-soldier traverses the seedy side of New Jersey after the (equally seedy) doctor giving him hair transplants is abducted. To Colfer’s eternal credit, it’s amazingly funny and entertaining, while also being quite emotionally wrenching (both in the protagonist’s traumatised head and the characters around him), downright unexpected and gritty. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton

crime Crime
Ferdinand von Schirach
Borrowing from von Schirach’s life as one of Germany’s leading prosecutors, Crime is a fascinating, fictionalised look at why people commit the crimes they do. If you’ve ever wanted to know how the law sides with someone who cut their victim up and buried them in a garden, prepare to be floored – and sympathetic – when you read these tales. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton

sorry Sorry
Zoran Drvenkar
A group of friends start up a business apologising on behalf of companies, but when someone more sinister uses their skills – and manipulates them into covering up a crime – the lives of the group and those around them are at stake. Plumbing the depths of all the character’s motivations, Sorry is brilliantly written, genuinely chilling, and another German on this list. – Jason Austin, Readings Carlton

deluxe De Luxe
Lenny Bartulin
Channelling Raymond Chandler is Sydney bookshop owner Jack Susko, who – six days out of seven – will accidentally find himself in the middle of a crime and wisecracking for Australia. Called up and manipulated by a previous boss to deal with a complicated family situation Jack’s already extracted himself from once, this is a rollicking adventure from start to end. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton

zone Prohibited Zone
Alistair Sarre
In Woomera, a mining engineer is about to head off on holiday when instead he finds himself smuggling a beautiful refugee into the city – and away from the detention centre she’s escaped from. It’s a wild ride for poor ex-football player Steve West to suddenly become a different (and unpopular) type of hero in this gritty and politically charged novel, but it’s a ride worth joining him on. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton

invi The Invisible Ones
Stef Penney After Penney’s amazing debut The Tenderness of Wolves I was expecting big things for this novel and I wasn’t disappointed – one-third of the way in, it really kicks into gear. A highly readable story set in the world of gypsies in 80’s UK. I was thoroughly intrigued and entertained. – Jason Austin, Readings Carlton

suspectx The Devotion of Suspect X
Keigo Higashino
A cat-and-mouse tale between old friends. Ishigami is a mathematics genius and Dr. Yukawa, a physicist and police consultant. Ishigami has helped his next-door neighbour dispose of her husband’s body after a domestic altercation. Will they get away with murder? Intelligently written and with a fantastic twist, I can’t recommend this highly enough. – Jason Austin, Readings Carlton

crookedletter Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Tom Franklin
This gem, set in America’s South, is gripping, moving and will keep you guessing throughout. The past resurfaces for Silas, the sole law officer in small-town Amos, Mississippi, when someone tries to kill his childhood friend Larry, widely suspected of a local girl’s murder 20 years ago. Nothing is at it seems – least of all the connection between Silas and Larry. – Jo Case, Readings Monthly editor

Other ‘best of 2011’ lists:

fiona-hardy-picFiona Hardy sells books and talks too much to customers at Readings Carlton, and puts together Dead Write for the Readings Monthly. She blogs haphazardly about movies and books (and sometimes music) and you can follow her on twitter - @readwatchtweet.

jason Jason Austin is a buyer and bookseller at Readings Carlton. An avid painter, Scrabble player and reader, he enjoys long walks with nothing but the company of an iPod full of podcasts.
jo-case Jo Case is the editor of Readings Monthly and associate editor of Kill Your Darlings journal. You can follow her on Twiiter - @jocaseau.