The Best Of Brit Grit 2016

marwick's reckoningWell, 10 of the best, anyway. There were a few other Brit Grit gems I also read in 2016 that I really enjoyed. If I had to pick one book to personify The Best Of Brit Grit this year, it would probably be Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark. However, in no particular order, here are 10 of the best …

Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark

Marwick is a broken man. Broken but not shattered. Marwick is a violent London gangster, an enforcer who has moved to Spain for a quieter life and who is eventually embroiled in drug smuggling, murder and more.

Published by Near To The Knuckle, Marwick’s Reckoning by Gareth Spark is fantastic. Like a Brit Grit Graham Greene it’s full of doomed romanticism, longing and shocking violence.

Beautifully, vividly  and powerfully written Marwick’s Reckoning is very highly recommended indeed.

thin iceThin Ice by Quentin Bates

A small-time criminal and his sidekick decide to rob a big-shot drug dealer. But things quickly go pear-shaped when their getaway driver doesn’t turn up. After kidnapping a mother and daughter, things spiral even further out of control.

Quentin Bates’ Thin Ice brilliantly blends a fast-moving crime caper worthy of Elmore Leonard with a perfectly paced police procedural. Great characters and tight plotting abound.

Thin Ice really is marvelous, and is very highly recommended.

after you dieAfter You Die by Eva Dolan

DI Zigic and DS Ferreira are back for a third outing in Eva Dolan‘s marvelous After You Die.

The mother of a disabled child is stabbed to death and the child is left to starve.  Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit are called in to investigate the murder and in the process DI Zigic and DS Ferreira uncover a lot of dirty secrets in a seemingly close-knit community.

Once again, Dolan paints a realistic and uncomfortable picture of the darker sides of British life but with After You Die the pacing is even tighter than in her previous books and she has produced a gripping, contemporary murder mystery that is highly recommended.

APRIL SKIES coverApril Skies by Ian Ayris

In ’90s London, John Sissons – the protagonist of Ian Ayris‘ brilliant debut Abide With Me– is out of the slammer and trying to get by, working at a market stall. When he loses his job, he gets a job at a door factory and his luck starts to change. But is it for the better?

Ian Ayris’ April Skies is marvelous. Full of realistic, well-drawn characters, great dialogue, sharp twists and turns,  and with a strong sense of place and time. Nerve-wracking and heart-breaking, tense and touching – April Skies is a Brit Grit classic.

the death of 3 coloursThe Death Of Three Colours by Jason Michel

Jonah H. Williams is cyber- crook, a wheeler and dealer on the dark web. He awakes from a typically heavy boozing session to find that his precious crucifix has been stolen by the previous night’s pick-up. And things spiral on down from then on as we encounter  Bill – a bent ex-copper, drug smugglers, AK-47s, Ukrainian bikers, suicide, paranoia, betrayal, lust, love, loyalty, friendship, romance, nihilism, more paranoia, The Second Law Of Thermodynamics, Santa Muerte – Our Lady Of Last Resorts, an owl, and a cat called Vlad The Bastard. And then there’s Milton …

Jason Michel’s The Death of Three Colours is just great. It’s a richly written, gripping, noir-tinged crime thriller that is full of lyricism, flights of dark fancy and cruel humour. His best book yet.

the shallowsThe Shallows by Nigel Bird

When naval  Lieutenant Bradley Heap goes AWOL with his wife and son, he stumbles into drug dealing, people smuggling and murder.

Nigel Bird’s The Shallows is a tightly written and well-paced crime thriller that is full of well-drawn, realistic characters.

Tense and involving, The Shallows is great stuff!

for-all-is-vanityFor All Is Vanity by Robert Cowan

Jack is a nice, normal guy with a nice, normal family who records the events of  his day to day life in a diary. Then tragedy strikes and Jack’s life spirals violently out of control.

Robert Cowan’s For All Is Vanity is a gem. Heartbreaking, funny and violent, For All Is Vanity is a gripping look at what happens when a good man who loses it all.

Highly recommended.

dark-heart-heavy-soulDark Heart, Heavy Soul by Keith Nixon

Konstantin Boryakov is back!

In Dark Heart, Heavy Soul, the former KGB anti-hero is reluctantly dragged into taking part in a heist which soon spirals out of his control.

Keith Nixon’s Dark Heart, Heavy Soul is the best Konstantin Boryakov novel yet. Nixon smoothly blends high-octane thrills with gritty crime fiction. Dark Heart, Heavy Soul is packed full of tension, action, humour, great characters, sharp dialogue and a hell of a lot of warmth too.

An absolute belter!

summoning-the-deadSummoning The Dead by Tony Black

The mummified corpse of a young child is found in barrel that had been buried in a field years before. DI Bob Valentine digs deep to unearth’ corruption, cover-ups and murder.

Tony Black’s Summoning The Dead is an atmospheric, engrossing, lyrical and  sometimes harrowing police procedural that packs a powerful emotional punch.

The characters are well drawn and believable, the plot is involving,  the pace is whip-crack and the result is eminently satisfying.

Fantastic stuff.

the dead can't talkThe Dead Can’t Talk by Nick Quantrill

Power, corruption and lies would be a suitable sub-heading for Nick Quantrill’s hard-hitting crime novels. In The Dead Can’t Talk, as in his cracking Joe Geraghty trilogy, Quantrill tells the story of a criminal investigation which digs below the city of Hull’s surface to reveal a dirty underbelly.

The Dead Can’t Talk introduces us to two new protagonists – cop Anna Stone and ex- soldier Luke Carver. They are brought together to look into a murder, and an apparent suicide but all is not as it seems, of course.

Quantrill again gives us a perfectly paced criminal investigation but the tension is greater and the twist and turns are tighter this time. The characters are all typically well drawn, most notably the city of Hull itself. This is a novel of deceptive breadth and scope.

The Dead Can’t Talk is the start of what is sure to be another great social-realist crime fiction series from Nick Quantrill. Highly recommended.

Recommended Read: Thin Ice by Quentin Bates

thin ice.jpgA small-time criminal and his sidekick decide to rob a big-shot drug dealer. But things quickly go pear-shaped when their getaway driver doesn’t turn up. After kidnapping a mother and daughter, things spiral even further out of control.

Quentin Bates’ Thin Ice brilliantly blends a fast-moving crime caper worthy of Elmore Leonard with a perfectly paced police procedural. Great characters and tight plotting abound.

Thin Ice really is marvelous, and is very highly recommended.


Guest Blog: What’s Next In International Crime Fiction? by Quentin Bates.

Q-(Tony)9721Nordic is mainstream these days. It’s not that long since Nordic crime fiction was strictly a minority genre, at least in English. It’s not the same in Europe, where German publishers in particular have been rather more ready to translate obscure fiction from the chilly north.

Until a few years ago a smallish band of connoisseurs appreciated translations of Sjöwall & Wahlöö and a few other obscure writers who never made it anywhere near a bestseller list in Britain or the US.

Then came Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, followed the Wallender books and finally by Stieg Larsson’s trilogy that took the world by surprise and by storm. Who would have expected it? I won’t say too much about Stieg Larsson’s work, partly because The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is still only halfway to the top of my to-be-read pile, along with so much else.

Since then we have had The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge, and a bunch of other stuff that has come out of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, on top of the flood of books by Nordic authors snapped up with indecent haste by publishers hearing the rattle of a bandwagon disappearing into the distance.

C2tBcoverThen there’s the tiny band of Nordic pretenders, not even half a dozen of us who write Nordic crime stuff but without being born-and-bred Scandies ourselves; James Thompson, Michael Ridpath, Jan Costin Wagner, Torquil Macleod – and me.

I’m wondering if Scandi crime fatigue started to kick in? Have you seen someone rolling their eyes at the sight of yet another middle-aged Swedish detective or a hard-drinking Norwegian private eye or a Faroese sweater? Has Nordic peaked?

I don’t think it has yet, and I hope not… I have one of these of my own coming out in a day or two, and a good few more ideas simmering on the back burner for future reference. Some us live in terror that crime readers will tire of Nordic mysteries in the face of what looks dangerously like overkill. Not that the flow of Nordic crime yet shows any sign of abating – quite the contrary. While every Swede who has ever set finger to keyboard appears to have been translated, there are Norwegian, Icelandic, Danish and Finnish crime writers, plus a solitary Faroese, who haven’t yet been graced with a translation yet.

So what comes next? The truth of the matter is that there is stacks of good stuff out there that hasn’t caught on yet. We’ve heard of Emerald Noir, the emerging wave of Irish crime fiction writers, who have the big advantage that they don’t need translating. The same applies to Aussie crime, and proper gritty old stuff it is as well.
Germany is a huge and hungry market for crime fiction, as shown by the vast swathes of English, American and Nordic crime fiction translated in to German. But who knew that there’s a whole raft of homegrown German crime fiction that isn’t translated into English? Maybe it doesn’t translate well? I don’t know.

Then there’s the French. France loves les polars, and they’re starting to cross the Channel, some brought to us by the same canny publisher who brought us Miss Smilla, Wallender and Lisbeth Salander. Napoleon’s Grande Armée stopped at Boulogne, turned around and marched off to Austerlitz instead, but the French crime writers aren’t letting La Manche stop them.

It’s time to think ahead for untrodden ground. Chilean crime? Difficult, but worth thinking about. Mongolian murders? Maybe not. Ulan Bator’s bloody cold and it’s a long way to go for research. Nigerian Noir? Sounds good, but it’s unlikely a fiction writer could even come close to topping reality there. North Korea? Let’s not even think about that one.

In fact it’s hardly possible to put a finger on a relatively accessible part of the world that hasn’t had a detective of its own at some point. Not to worry. I have a few aces up my sleeve. Chad, Turkmenistan and South Georgia all look like fertile ground, so I’d better start doing some research.

On second thoughts, scratch South Georgia.

This post first appeared at NOIR NATION.

I interview Quentin Bates here.

Short, Sharp Interview: Quentin Bates

PDB: Can you pitch CHILLED TO THE BONE in 25 words or less?

If you don’t want your wife to know you’re being blackmailed or find yourself embarrassingly dead, mind where you put it to start with…

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

I’ve been reading books by Jakob Arjouni, a German writer of Turkish origin, who died not long ago, tragically young. Dark, fast stuff. Also books by Dominique Manotti, a French writer who has a few books translated into English. Dead Horsemeat and The Lorraine Connection were both excellent. I daren’t start the others as I know that’s a day gone and I have stuff to do at the moment.

On the box, Engrenages (Spiral) is bloody brilliant, streets ahead of anything I’ve seen for a long time. Laure Berthaud gives Sara Lund a real run for her money, and for my money Laure has the edge.

Music, I’m already mourning the imminent passing of the unique and magnificent Wilko Johnson, who has just finished the farewell tour he organised when he found out he was suffering from cancer and had just weeks to live. A giant of a man.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

I hope so, but probably not. It’s not easy to read something these days without looking at the nuts and bolts of how it’s put together. Although with something that’s really, really good, you just get swept away with it and don’t think about the mechanics until afterwards.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

No. Well, not at the moment. As things are I have enough on my plate and daren’t go down any new avenues just yet.

PDB: How much research goes into your writing?

Not a great deal. I have a day job as well and don’t have the opportunity to do reams of in-depth research. I have a couple of sources I can go to for technical stuff, but that’s about as far as it goes. What is important is to spend some time in Iceland and get the feel for the place and what’s going on.

I spend a week or two doing day job stuff and mooching, seeing friends and relatives, reading the papers with steam radio on in the background, chatting to the fishermen at the quay, taxi drivers, the guy who runs the dockside caff, eavesdropping to get a feeling for what people really think and what their opinions and fears are. Then I go home and write about it.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you?

I have no idea… I do Facebook and Twitter. Twitter tends to be more fun as it’s Facebook’s less prim distant cousin, but Facebook is probably more useful as publicity. I blog regularly at the International Crime Authors Reality Check  alongside Barbara Nadel, Christopher G Moore and others, and occasionally on my own sadly-neglected blog.

Social media is great fun and it has found me some brilliant friends. I spend more time on it than I should and it can become a terrible thief of time if allowed to. As for useful? I’ve absolutely no idea how many books my Tweets and blogs sell and it’s something that’s probably impossible to figure out, but these days social media is something a fairly new writer can’t afford to neglect.

PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2013?

There’s CrimeFest at the end of May. I’m not sure what happens after that. I’d love to be able to say that I’m working on the next book, but at the moment that’s not really the case. I’ve been working on outlines and have opening sequences for several, although I’m not sure which of them might turn into the next one.

I’d like to do another e-book like Winterlude, the one that was published in January. It was a new experience to write at that length and while it was restricting in some ways, it was very liberating in others. So I’m hoping there’s a novel and an e-book to be had out of the handful of ideas I’m tinkering with.

PDB: Where can people find out more about your work?

There’s my web site,  a Facebook page  and I can be found on twitter as @graskeggur. It’s all there on Amazon, although for some reason on the US Amazon site you do have to hunt around for it.

Part of the plot of Chilled to the Bone centres partly around a dodgy dating web site,, and as I didn’t want to upset anyone by using an existing domain name, I had to buy it. But if you click on it, will only take you to my website, which is currently being revamped and may even be finished by now.