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A Dangerously Good Reading List

From a tour of Italy to Stalin’s Russia, 1960s London to New England, Editorial Director Angus Cargill offers a list of recommendations and insights into Faber crime at its wicked best.

Faber published P. D. James’s debut novel, Cover Her Face, in 1962 and for over fifty years all of the work which followed. From her two series, starring Adam Dalgliesh and Cordelia Gray respectively, to her extraordinary dystopian novel The Children of Men and her two bestselling posthumously published short-story collections, there is a huge amount to discover. But, if you want somewhere to start, try the second of her Adam Dalgliesh novels, A Mind to Murder, a brilliant spin on the classic locked-room mystery. Dalgliesh faces a battle of wits and a race against time as he tries to solve a murder within the confines of a London psychiatric clinic.

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Michael Dibdin is perhaps the next best-known mainstay of Faber’s crime list, most thrillingly with his long-running Aurelio Zen series, which started with Ratking in 1988. Memorably played by Rufus Sewell in the BBC’s excellent adaptation a few years ago, Dibdin came up with a neat conceit from the start, as his maverick detective moves to different parts of Italy for new cases in each novel, normally due to ongoing run-ins with his superiors. Any of the first three novels would be ideal places to start, depending on whether you fancy a trip to Perugia (Ratking), Sardinia (Vendetta) or Rome (Cabal).

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Our current bestselling crime author, Peter Swanson, is the author of seven stand-alone novels, probably best described as psychological thrillers. But Swanson always brings something extra to the table, with his unique wit and love for the history of the genre, and it helps that he is one of the great masters of the twist. I’d recommend all of his novels, but The Kind Worth Killing or Before She Knew Him will be certain to get you hooked, and his most recent, Rules for Perfect Murders, is a truly great love letter to the classics.

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Laura Lippman, one of the most acclaimed and decorated US crime writers and the author of an extraordinary twenty-three books in as many years, first came to Faber in 2012. Her early, long-running and hugely influential Tess Monaghan series is a model in strong, female-driven PI writing, but of the more recent stand-alones, I’d recommend Sunburn, a Waterstones BOTM in 2018, or her most recent, Lady in the Lake. Both novels encapsulate everything that is great about her writing – memorable female characters and plots which are fiercely driven by social and moral concerns.

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Another well-established US author, who joined Faber in 2013, is Alafair Burke – the daughter of James Lee Burke, and someone whose first name readers of his brilliant Dave Robicheaux series might recognise. Alafair, a former Deputy District Attorney and now a professor of law, has a long-running series starring Detective Ellie Hatcher, but in her more recent stand-alones, If You Were Here, The Ex, The Wife and The Better Sister, her law background really shines, in thrillers which echo the best of Grisham and Turow in their legal insight, and marry that to contemporary domestic plots that keep you guessing until the very end.

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Sam Eastland is the pen name of English writer Paul Watkins, and with his Inspector Pekkala novels he married action and history in a thrilling seven-book series for fans of Frederick Forsyth and Alistair MacLean. Starting with The Eye of the Red Tsar in 2010, Eastland introduced his hero – once the most famous detective in Russia and a favourite of the Tsar – as Pekkala is secretly taken out of the Gulags by Stalin and given a special mission. With each subsequent novel, Eastland takes Pekkala through a series of adventures which brilliantly track the course of Stalin’s reign of terror and eventual fall.

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English writer Nicola Upson hit upon an inspired idea for her long-running historical series, casting as her main character no less than the real-life crime writer Josephine Tey. Starting with the brilliantly titled An Expert in Murder in 2006, her now eight-book-long series is marked by Upson’s gift for period detail and her ability, like Agatha Christie and P. D. James, to piercingly see through the class snobbery so rife in the society her novels explore. Start at the beginning or with the most recent novel, Sorry for the Dead, which sees Josephine returning to the Charleston farmhouse on the Sussex Downs, now the home of the Bloomsbury set, unable to forget the mysterious death of a young girl she knew there during the First World War.

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A former editor in NY publishing, Chris Pavone burst onto the thriller writing scene in 2009 with The Expats. Starring mum of two, and covert CIA operative, Kate Moore as his conflicted heroine, it was a #2 Kindle bestseller in the UK, a Sunday Times top ten bestseller and winner of the Edgar Best First Novel Award in the US. After two excellent stand-alones, The Accident and The Travelers, he has returned to the character of Kate Moore, now living in the French capital, in The Paris Diversion, a novel which both explores the fallout of events in The Expats and intelligently and movingly shines a light on the increased threat of international terrorism in the world today.

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