Three-Fifths, by John Vercher, Pushkin/Vertigo, RRP£12.99, 248 pages

Excoriating and mesmeric, Vercher’s remarkable debut addresses issues of race in America but scrupulously avoids “woke” tendentiousness. Mixed-raced Bobby Saraceno has been nervously passing as white, but an encounter with a friend released from prison (and now a white supremacist) leads both men into violent territory. Complex, pungent and timely.

The Devil and the Dark Water, by Stuart Turton, Raven Books, RRP£16.99, 576 pages

Turton’s debut The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was a hard act to follow, but lightning has struck twice. On a voyage to Amsterdam in 1634, the merchant ship Saardam becomes the scene of a gruesome death. A genre-sampling epic that sets outrageous traps for the reader and builds an atmosphere of dread.

The Searcher, by Tana French, Viking, RRP£14.99/RRP$27, 400 pages

American-born, Ireland-resident French has a good claim to be the most consummate writer of psychological crime at work today. This is a new departure: a Chicago detective moves to a cloistered Irish village and becomes involved in a missing persons case. An idyllic rural life inexorably moves into nightmare territory.

Best Books of the Year 2020

All this week, FT writers and critics share their favourites. Some highlights are:

Monday: Business by Andrew Hill
Tuesday: Economics by Martin Wolf
Wednesday: Politics by Gideon Rachman
Thursday: History by Tony Barber
Friday: Critics’ choice
Saturday: Crime by Barry Forshaw

Broken, by Don Winslow, HarperCollins, RRP£20, 352 pages

There is a sense of hard-won, real-world authenticity to the gritty novels of Winslow. This is no blockbuster along the lines of The Border, but rather a collection of six short novellas. Yet, in pared-down Hemingwayesque prose, every one of these pieces is top-drawer Winslow.

Tell us what you think

What are your favourites from this list — and what books have we missed? Tell us in the comments below

A Song for the Dark Times, by Ian Rankin, Orion, RRP£20, 336 pages

This 23rd outing transports Rankin’s retired copper Rebus to an isolated part of northern Scotland, where his daughter’s partner has disappeared. The characterisation of a close-knit local community is worth the price of admission alone. Vintage Rankin — which is to say, the best that the crime genre can currently offer.

Join our online book group on Facebook at FT Books Café

Listen to our podcast, Culture Call, where FT editors and special guests discuss life and art in the time of coronavirus. Subscribe on AppleSpotify, or wherever you listen

Get alerts on Crime books when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article