You’d think that the only novel published this year was The girl on the train and next year, when Emily Blunt has taken the train into town, it should continue dominating bestseller lists everywhere. There is, however, some murmurings in the publishing trade that “domestic no bliss at all” is starting to slow down.
Otherwise with fiction it was business as usual as Lee Child was way up there, along with all the old faithfuls from James Patterson who has cleverly cornered the adult, YA and children’s markets and must now have a houseful of writers turning his ideas into bestsellers.
One interesting trend is the republishing of old mysteries. It began with the British Library reprinting old Golden Age British mysteries. It would not have worked so well if they hadn’t been so well produced. English writer Martin Edwards provided interesting forewords and, if you are interested in the genre, we have his book The golden age of murder in the collection. Collins have now jumped into the market and are reprinting old mysteries from the likes of Edgar Wallace and Francis Durbridge (once a radio and television favourite).
Best reads of 2015
Widows and orphans Michael Arditti
A man who is trying to be good in a venal world is the main focus of this tale of the editor of a local newspaper in a seaside town and his nemesis, a greedy and coarse developer. Moral issues in a world where they are seen as irrelevant makes for a thoughtful and readable novel.
The real Justine Stephen Amidon
This American author is pretty good on the how we live now novel and this one combines this with a mystery plot involving a strange girl whose life is all over the place. Good social observation and a gripping plot.
Two across Jeffrey Bartsch
Two teenagers meet at a spelling bee in this first novel which is a likeable and droll tale about difficult parents, adolescent angst and creating crossword puzzles.
The year of falling Janis Freegard
If you have lived in Wellington, you’ll love the atmosphere and background of this excellent novel. The story moves from Wellington to Iceland and the characterisation of two sisters, a child and an elderly neighbour is very well done and makes for an interesting and satisfying read.
Gorsky Vesna Goldsworthy
The world of the obscenely rich Russian oligarchs in London and the story of a young bookseller who comes into this world when he has to assemble a library for one of them is the theme for this unusual and highly readable novel.
Chappy Patricia Grace
This is a fascinating and touching novel where a young man learns the story of his Maori grandmother and Chappy, his Japanese grandfather. Beautifully written and my pick for the best New Zealand novel of the year.
High dive Jonathan Lee
Taking Irish terrorism and mixing it in with the Brighton bombing in the Margaret Thatcher era makes for a historical novel from the very recent past. The careful recreation of the time and place is beautifully handled. Especially good is the portrayal of the hotel staff, ordinary people who become caught up in big events.
Children of the master Andrew Marr
The journalist and political commentator with his second satirical slap in the face for British politics. It’s set in 2018 where the Labour Party is in power and there are two candidates for the top job. Machiavellian in the extreme, this is an often funny and way over the top political black comedy. Of course we don’t believe ruthless opponents would use murder to get to the top but it makes for a good story. The Master, incidentally, has to be someone not a mile from Tony Blair.
The illuminations Andrew O’Hagan
Why this one didn’t get on the Man Booker Prize shortlist is a real puzzle. It’s a superb novel about Britain. Part of it is set in Ayrshire with an elderly lady who was once a leading documentary photographer in the 1960s. Her story is intercut with that of her grandson who has returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. A strong, forceful and moving book.
The party line Sue Orr
The author of some very good short stories made her novel debut with this story, set in the Hauraki Plains, where the arrival of a sharemilker and his outspoken (for this community) daughter question the assumptions of the place. The title is a clever one as it is the chief means of communication and also the way the community thinks.
I saw a man Owen Sheers
A reporter whose wife has been killed returns to London and befriends the people next door. Through a misunderstanding something terrible happens, Moving from the affluent lives of the upper middle class to what happens when a tragedy occurs, this is a timely and gripping novel.
Mobile library David Whitehouse
This excellent and underrated British author is remembered for Bed, his story of an obese man. The new novel is about a woman who cleans the mobile library and what happens when she takes to the road with her disabled daughter and a lonely boy. It is a bit far fetched but quite engaging.
My sunshine away M.O. Walsh
Down the Deep South tale in which a thirtyish man remembers his younger days and the whole suburban network of secrets and lies around the rape of a teenage girl. It’s a convincing portrait of a time and place and a very promising debut novel.
Visit our Best Reads 2015 page for more picks, and the chance to have your say.