Criminal Element’s Best Books of 2018
By Crime HQDecember 21, 2018
2018 was a memorable year for a variety of reasons, but here at CrimeHQ, we’re concentrating on the things that thrilled us, scared us, mystified us, and kept us up all hours of the night. Without further ado, may we present our favorite books of 2018. And here’s to you, 2019. May you bring us health, happiness, and another crop of incredible books.
Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan
In the publishing world, these past few years could easily be defined as the Era of the Unreliable Narrator, and if that’s the case, consider Trust Me to be one of that era’s defining books. Trust Me introduces us to Mercer, a journalist with a tragic past who is forced back onto her feet by her agent, Katherine, and handed a new project to work on. enter Ashlyn, a young mother currently about to begin trial for the murder of her infant daughter. Katherine wants Mercer to write a true-crime book about the trial, and what starts out simple enough soon turns chaotic. Trust Me grabs you from the get-go and shakes, yanks, and spins you around in a relentless, punishing fashion — and when it’s over, you’ll thank Hank Phillippi Ryan for the journey you’re not soon to forget.
November Road by Lou Berney
This is hardly the first “Best Of” list to welcome Lou Berney and his brilliant crime novel November Road to its ranks. And that stands for good reason. Set immediately before and during the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Berney injects every page full of tension and unease. From a muggy and electrified New Orleans to a dusty and mournful Texas, and all the way to an ominous and fearful Las Vegas, November Road takes you on a winding road trip with a clear destination: your final resting place. Buckle up.
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
Villains maketh the book. And not for a long while has a book been so defined by its villain than The Other Woman. Meet Pammie. You’re lucky you’re only meeting Pammie on the page. Lucky you’re not Emily, whose life is so up-ended by Pammie — her soon-to-be mother-in-law — that it almost seems unfathomable. Many of the psychological thrillers popular today are propped up by murders and crimes and various other illicit deeds. But not The Other Woman. Instead, we’re force-fed a delicious, but somehow off-putting meal of discomfort and paranoia. Is Pammie really this bad? Can she really be this evil? Surely there’s more to this tale…
The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
The President is Missing turned out to be one of the year’s most welcomed surprises. No one would have faulted you if you admitted to being skeptical towards the idea of a collaboration between James Patterson and Bill Clinton, but when the dust settled (and the American population was inevitably saved), The President is Missing turned out to be a damn good thriller. The plot is perfectly fine and familiar: impending war, cyber-terrorism, political distrust. But what makes this book stand out is all of the little asides and comments threaded throughout that could only have come from the mind of an actual U.S. president. For that alone, The President is Missing is worth your time.
The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley
The lights took him. With those four words, Jeremy Finley’s stellar debut finds its eerie tone. A boy goes missing from the woods right in his own backyard, and while everyone in the investigation understandingly assumes that the disappearance is politically linked — the boy’s grandfather is a U.S. Senator — his grandmother, Lynn, has a very different assumption: abduction. Of the alien variety. The Darkest Time of Night was surprising in all the right ways. Finley, an investigative journalist out of Nashville, writes lean and mean, making Lynn not only a fully-formed character but a bonafide badass. If you like your mysteries tinged with science-fiction, look no further.
Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
It’s Andie’s birthday — she’s turning 31 with very little to show for it. But when her quiet birthday lunch with her mom, Laura, takes a violent turn, Andie is forced to come to terms with the fact that maybe her mother isn’t who she always said she was. Now kicked out of Laura’s house and avoiding the police, Andie finds herself careening down the dangerous path of her mother’s past — taking you right along with her for the fast, twisty-turny ride. Karin Slaughter is a yearly must-read.
The Witch Elm by Tana French
Taking a break from her bestselling Dublin Murder Squad series, The Witch Elm marks Tana French’s first foray into standalone fiction. Fear not, Murder Squad fans, this is the same Tana French you know and love to get lost in. Toby was once a laid-back guy, but after a night out with friends takes a turn for the worst, he finds himself struggling to recover from a near death experience. Withdrawing to his family’s ancestral home, Toby attempts to take stock of his life while caring for his dying uncle. That is until a skull is found in the trunk of an old elm in the home’s garden, and Toby’s life is turned upside down once more…
Sadie by Courtney Summers
When Sadie’s sister is found dead, she embarks on a trip seeking not only answers but revenge. And in her tracks, tantalizingly close, is West McCray, a podcast host who finds himself caught up in Sadie’s story. With POVs rotating between Sadie and West’s podcast, we see the story unfold. And what shines through, more than anything, is Courtney Summers’ visceral, haunting story. You can feel her on every page, living through her characters, and mad at the world that there always seems to be another missing girl just out of reach.
Blackout by Alex Segura
The fourth book in Alex Segura’s high-octane Pete Fernandez series, Blackout is Segura’s best to date. The complexly-plotted story seamlessly moves between a few different time periods, proving that complexity and simplicity are not mutually exclusive. Segura plots with the best of them, and even if you’ve missed the previous Fernandez books, you’ll have no problem jumping in here. We can’t wait to see what Segura cooks up next.
Thanks to everyone who continues to visit, share, and read our little slice of the internet. To those of you who write, keep on writing. To the readers, keep reading. And to everyone in between, keep doing what you do. We can’t wait to see what 2019 brings.