My reviewing for rte means that I can for the first time provide a reasonably contemporary list of the ‘top 5′ new mysteries which I read in 2008 – and as I love a list here goes…..

1) Reginald Hill – A Cure for All Diseases

2) Laura Wilson – Stratton’s War

3) Andrew Taylor – Bleeding Heart Square

4) R T Raichev – Assassins at Ospreys

5) Robert Barnard – Last Post

I can also cheat by having a special award for Debut Novel of the Year which goes to Aly Monroe’s Maze of Cadiz. Just falling outside the top 5 was Ann Cleeves’s White Nights.

A few comments. The number one is no surprise! A new Dalziel and Pascoe is pretty well guaranteed to be number one for me and A Cure for All Diseases is an absolute classic. However the rest of the list is generally a lot more surprising. Laura Wilson’s Stratton’s War came as a real discovery to me as I had not liked the previous book of hers that I read; interestingly both it and Bleeding Heart Square are ‘revisionist’ approaches to the Golden Age mystery era of the 1930’s and 40’s. Both are excellent. R.T. Raichev, a writer wholly new to me, on the other hand produces a contemporary homage to the Golden Age mystery and does so with wit, erudition and brio. Robert Barnard, a true living great, produced in Last Post a highly enjoyable book but one which would not have made this list were it not for the remarkable and shocking twist which he pulls out of the hat in, literally, the book’s last paragraph; something only a thorough master of the craft of writing mysteries could do. Aly Monroe’s Maze of Cadiz is a ’stunning debut’ combining charm and fascinating historical detail.

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