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Criminal to Miss: Crime Fiction for Christmas by Sam Blake

Article by Sam Blake ©.
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It’s incredibly difficult to choose ONLY FIVE of my favourite crime novels from this year but Adrian, our editor and master of content at Writing.ie, said I wasn’t allowed more (and he said it in a stern voice too). Everyone should get a book at Christmas and they are especially good for when you’re stuck for that tricky gift; just pop into your local bookshop and the staff will have lots of ideas for you. So here goes:

Anyone who made it to the Murder One International Crime Writing Festival in November (next year’s festival is already in planning and looking VERY exciting – put 1-3 November in your diaries now!) will know that I curated a Fresh Blood panel of awesome debut authors – so these three are top picks:


Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan: I really loved this – a gripping plot full of unexpected twists, the Dark Web, and absolutely masterful writing, Declan Burke felt it was the best Irish procedural released this year, and I agree (despite having written one myself…about the Dark Web…ahem). I can’t wait to see what’s next in store for DCS Frankie Sheehan.

Order your copy online here.


The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve: I love historical fiction and this is a genius concept. Leo Stanhope, a chess playing transgender Coroner’s assistant, has a personal reason to find a killer. Reeve literally takes you by the hand to the very heart of Victorian London, the cobbled streets and gaslight, in an entralling page turner.

Order your copy online here.


The Manhattan Project by Paul McNeive: this debut brings the question of antibiotic resistance to a whole new level, combines it with international terrorism and we have a book that Robert Goddard described as one of his favourite books of the year (during HIS panel with Mick Herron at Murder One – it was all happening in Smock Alley). What more can I say?

Order your copy online here.


Can you see how I’m getting around the only 5 thing? I’m not a wily crime writer for nothing… (Yes – Ed.)

So here’s the Sam Blake Five:

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly

I couldn’t believe it when the master of crime confirmed he was available to open the first Murder One festival this year. This is a Ballard and Bosch thriller – Renée Ballard is working the graveyard shift and returns to Hollywood Station in the early hours to find a stranger rifling through old files. The intruder is none other than legendary LAPD detective Harry Bosch, hunting for leads in an unsolved case that has got under his skin.

Bosch is a detective who gets under every readers skin, if you’ve never rd Michael Connelly (where have you been?!) get started now – you’ll be kept busy!

Order your copy online here.


Murder Mile by Lynda La Plante

The Queen of Crime is back with a prequel to the Jane Tennison series. It’s February, 1979, ‘The Winter of Discontent’ and as the rubbish on the streets begins to pile up, so does the murder count: two bodies in as many days. This will absolutely hook you in.

Order your copy online here.



Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

I’m fascinated by the law and a big fan of courtroom dramas – and this is a drama and a half. A brilliant premise, brilliantly plotted this is the type of book that you really can’t put down.

The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury.

Isn’t that the ultimate hook?

Order your copy online here.


The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard

CRH is all about the plot, gripping and twisty, and in The Liar’s Girl she’s nailed it again. Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, Will Hurley, is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect they are dealing with a copycat, they turn to Will for help. He claims he has the information the police need, but will only give it to one person – the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes.

Alison Smith has spent the last decade abroad, putting her shattered life in Ireland far behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past – and the man – she’s worked so hard to forget.

Order your copy online here.


Murder at Greysbridge by Andrea Carter

Andrea’s books are utterly gripping and the Donegal landscape is as haunting as the characters. Summer has arrived in Inishowen and solicitor Ben O’Keeffe is greatly tempted by a job offer she’s received from a law firm in America. Yet before making any life-changing decisions there is her friend Leah’s wedding to attend at the newly restored Greysbridge Hotel, with its private beach and beautiful pier. It’s the perfect location, everyone agrees, but the festivities are brutally cut short when a young American, a visitor also staying at the hotel, drowns in full view of the wedding guests. And when a second death is discovered the same evening, Ben finds herself embroiled in a real country house murder mystery, where all the guests are suspects.

Order your copy online here.

Also, Carmel Harrington has already mentioned Skin Deep by Liz Nugent, winner of no less than two awards at the An Post Irish Book Awards; read about that here.

Obviously I’m now in BIG trouble as that list has sort of grown and I haven’t even mentioned:

Peter James’ fantastic Absolute Proof: a stand alone thirty years in the making this is another must read!  Investigative reporter Ross Hunter nearly didn’t answer the phone call that would change his life – and possibly the world – for ever.

‘I’d just like to assure you I’m not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I’ve recently been given absolute proof of God’s existence – and I’ve been advised there is a writer, a respected journalist called Ross Hunter, who could help me to get taken seriously.’

What would it take to prove the existence of God? And what would be the consequences?

Order your copy online here.

And then there’s WC Ryan’s A House of Ghosts: perfect for historical fans and anyone who likes something a bit spooky…’Spooks, spies and spectres are the order of the day in this rattling good read’ (Sunday Express) – I couldn’t put it better!

Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.

At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.

For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .

An unrelentingly gripping mystery packed with twists and turns, A House of Ghosts is the perfect chilling read this winter.

Order your copy online here.

I could go on…but I better stop before I’m fired…

Have a wonderful writerly Christmas, and ssshhh, there’s a new Sam Blake coming next year too – a stand alone psychological thriller called Keep Your Eyes On Me, stay tuned for more on that…

(c) Sam Blake

About No Turning Back:

No Turning Back is the third bestseller in Sam Blake’s Cat Connolly detective series, but works very well as a stand alone if you haven’t read the Irish Book Awards shortlisted Little Bones or In Deep Water. Here’s the blurb:

Even perfect families have secrets . . .

Orla and Conor Quinn are the perfect power couple: smart, successful and glamorous. But then the unthinkable happens. Their only son, Tom, is the victim of a deliberate hit-and-run.

Detective Garda Cathy Connolly has just left Tom’s parents when she is called to the discovery of another body, this time in Dillon’s Park, not far from where Tom Quinn was found. What led shy student Lauren O’Reilly to apparently take her own life? She was a friend of Tom’s and they both died on the same night – are their deaths connected and if so, how?

As Cathy delves deeper, she uncovers links to the Dark Web and a catalogue of cold cases, realising that those involved each have their own reasons for hiding things from the police. But events are about to get a lot more frightening . . .

Pick up your copy online here!

Sam Blake is a pseudonym for Vanessa Fox O'Loughlin, the founder of The Inkwell Group publishing consultancy and the (very busy) national writing resources website Writing.ie. She is Ireland's leading literary scout who has assisted many award winning and bestselling authors to publication. Vanessa has been writing fiction since her husband set sail across the Atlantic for eight weeks and she had an idea for a book.