My Best Reads of 2019

My Best Reads of 2019

In keeping with this year’s fashion I have two best books of 2019 (although I maintain I started the trend by having two winners last year too).

My superstar best reads of 2019 are two books that have stayed in my mind ever since I read them:

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

I read this way back in January and only knew about it because book blogger Jo Park told me about a talk by the author at Waterstones in Cheltenham. I duly went along, enjoyed the author’s talk and bought her book out of politeness. I didn’t really expect to like it because it was literary fiction rather than crime and, on the face of it, looked rather demanding with long paragraphs and very little white space on the page. But the lyrical writing, the dry humour, the intriguing story and the large cast of delightful characters had me hooked before the end of the first chapter. It breathed fresh air through my usual reading choices and became one of my best ever reads. My full review is here.

The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood

I’d been eagerly awaiting this book for months so pounced on it when it was published in July. I enjoyed the author’s previous books so had high hopes for more of the same. The Poison Garden turned out to be utterly brilliant but in a different way. This was neither a traditional psychological thriller with toxic friendships like The Wicked Girls nor a domestic noir like The Darkest Secret. And it didn’t contain the wonderfully gross humour of the darkly comic The Killer Next Door. By far the most challenging book Alex Marwood has written so far, it explores what happens to a cult member after “rescue”. It’s the best example of Show Not Tell that I’ve ever read. Here is my review.

Funniest Books of the YearHealth of Strangers Series by Lesley Kelly

Among the many great panels I watched at the wonderful Morecambe and Vice Festival in September, one was dedicated to writers whose crime novels are set in a dystopian world. Lesley Kelly talked about her Health of Strangers series that features a present-day Edinburgh plagued by a deadly virus. She mentioned, quite diffidently, that her books are “supposed to be funny”. Well that was the understatement of the year. I read the first one straight after the festival, couldn’t stop there and devoured the next two plus a spin-off short story. Here are my reviews of the series so far: The Health of Strangers; The Art of Not Being Dead; Songs by Dead Girls; and Death at the Plague Museum.

Best Police ProceduralWhat Lies Buried by Margaret Kirk (Click for my review.)

The Morecambe and Vice Festival was also responsible for me meeting the lovely and talented Margaret Kirk, when we spoke together on a panel. I had already read her first Lukas Mahler detective novel, Shadow Man, last year so knew to expect something good from book two. It didn’t disappoint.

Two Best Police Procedural SeriesDI Ben Kitto by Kate Rhodes and DC Tara Thorpe By Clare Chase

Kate Rhodes’s Hell Bay had been on my radar for a while but I didn’t get round to reading it until after I’d met the lovely author at CrimeFest in May. The book was every bit as good as I suspected it might be and led me straight into Ruin Beach and Burnt Island.

I read the first Tara Thorpe story, Murder on the Marshes, last year. In book one, Tara was a feisty journalist, poking her nose into police business. I found it hard to imagine how she would re-appear in book two as a newly qualified police officer, but I needn’t have worried. Still feisty and still nosy, she detected her way through Death on the River, Death Comes to Call, and Murder in the Fens with aplomb.

Best Psychological ThrillerThe Suspects by Katharine Johnson (Click for my review.)

This is another book that has stayed with me. It’s on the theme of guilt and my heart still races when I recall main character Emily’s constant dread of being found out.

Best Summer SizzlerThe Holiday by T.M. Logan (Click for my review.)

This is a scorcher of a psychological thriller. Whether you read it on a beach or tucked under a duvet, the heat will sizzle off the pages.

Best Future ClassicMy Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Click for my review.)

Simple yet very, very clever. A blood is thicker than water tale set in Nigeria. Hugely entertaining and also worthy of discussion. One for sixth form studies as well as book clubs.

Best Teen FictionA Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson (Click for my review.)

I was delighted to come across a good murder mystery that features teenage sleuths and employs many writing devices to give it a modern feel.

Honourable Mentions for Great Crime Reads

This year I read LOADS of crime and thriller books, too many to count, so here are more of my best reads of 2019, with links to my reviews on BookBub.

The Girl Next Door by Phoebe Morgan

All the Little Lies by Chris Curran

Life Ruins by Danuta Kot

Gone in the Night by Mary-Jane Riley

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

The Guilty Mother by Diane Jeffries

So those are my best reads of 2019. Please follow me on BookBub to see the other good books I’ve reviewed and to read my reviews for 2020 as I post them.

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. Her latest thriller, The Roommates, is a Closer Magazine "Must Read". Her other titles are The Good Teacher, The Perfect Neighbours and Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty. Rachel won Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been shortlisted in various competitions including the Bristol Short Story Prize. She was born in Lincolnshire and is a graduate of Aberystwyth University. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.

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