2022 was a miserable year in many ways but I did get to read a lot of books. 182 of them in all. From those, I’ve picked out the twelve that stand out most strongly in my memory. You’ll find a review banner for each of them below and a link to a full review. I hope a few of them interest you enough to try them for yourself.
‘How To Kill Men And Get Away With It’ introduced me to Kitty Collins, a twenty-something, vegetarian heiress to a fortune made from meat, who chooses to support herself through her earnings as an Instagram Influencer. Kitty is not the person who her Instagram followers think she is. She’s a killer who uses Tinder to hunt men whom she believes deserve to die and based on what we see of those men, it’s often hard to disagree with her.
‘Sweetpea’ gave me Rhiannon, another woman with an urge to kill and who has darker hungers than Kitty Collins. This was one of the first books of its kind and it manages to be disturbingly dark while feeling real and plausible.
Winter makes James Bond look wimpy, old and under-sexed. ‘Winter Dark’ is a wonderful upgrading of the spy novel with a kick-ass heroine, graphic action of all kinds, a fascinating bad guy and a plot that works. Best of all, it’s perfectly performed by Audie-winning Ell Potter.
I only discovered Julie Clark this year but both of her thrillers made it into my top twelve this year.
‘The Flight’ is a masterful thriller that handles multiple timelines and points of view flawlessly while keeping the tension high, the reader guessing and the focus on two believable women characters who she makes you care about.
In ‘The Lies I Tell’, Julie Clark delivered another original and compelling thriller with two women at its centre. This had all the tension and cleverness of a heist movie, only without the male smugness and with the added gratification of seeing abusive men get what they deserve.
‘These Silent Woods’ was one of the first books my wife read last year and she told me then that she already knew it would end up on my Best Reads list. She was right. This is a story that stayed with me while other books faded from my memory. It’s more than a thriller. It’s a chance to meet two remarkable people.
‘Impact Winter’ finally convinced me of the power of an all-cast performance. This so far exceeded my expectations that it reset them. I want more of this kind of quality. If you’ve not tried all-cast performances before, this will blow you away. If you have tried them, I’m confident this will be one of the best you’ve listened to.
‘The Salvage Crew’ was a book where I came for the narrator and stayed for the story. Great Science Fiction with a great narrator.
‘She Who Became The Sun’ is a very entertaining Chinese historical epic where our heroine’s path to power is marked by an ever-escalating amount of violence and continuous opportunities for her to fail spectacularly and fatally. Her greatest challenge comes from a eunuch General in the Mongol army who is planning revenge against the same people she is fighting. It’s wonderful stuff.
‘Priest Of Bones’ was my first taste of the GrimDark genre and I was hooked at once. I’ll be there for the rest of Tomas Piety’s wild ride.
‘Unconquerable Sun’ is Military SF at its best. This one isn’t ship-bound marines fighting navel three-dimensional naval engagements. It’s mostly planet-bound, deeply political and largely character-driven. I loved the combination of characters and chaos. I’m looking forward to book two, ‘Furious Heaven’ arriving in March.
‘Devolution’ surprised me. I mean, who needs a Bigfoot novel? Me, it turns out. At least when the Bigfoot novel is really about what humans will do to survive a crisis when their technology has failed, they’re isolated and disunited and under attack by a Bigfoot clan who are not the shy guardians of the forest you may have believed them to be. I loved how Max Brooks packed so much emotion in to the personal journal and documentary format.