It's not been a vintage year in terms of volume of books read - less than 40! - and I had some odd passages in the year - almost the entire autumn - when I simply couldn't settle into a book at all. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed a number of books hugely, both those I've read and many more listened to unabridged through Audible.
These are the highlights.
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling (audio version read by Tom Hollander)
Rowling's first non-Potter novel (I won't say novel for adults as I read the entire Hogwarts canon in my 30s) didn't grip my imagination when I tried to read it first time around. I returned to it in August after reading a great piece by Nick Cohen in the Guardian describing it as "the most unfairly criticised novel in modern fiction". Second time around - beautifully read by the excellent Tom Hollander - I could scarcely be parted from it, often listening to it late into the hot Madrid night. Rowling's detailing of the petty-but-vicious rivalries in the local politics of a small town was acutely observed and brilliantly told. (For good measure, I also read the second of Rowling's second detective novel The Silkworm, the excellent follow-up to 2013's The Cuckoo Calling - I am all in on Robert Galbraith and Cormoran Strike!).
The Nightmare Place by Steve Mosby
I've been reading Mosby since he was launched by Orion as one of its "New Blood" authors back in 2004 alongside Alafair Burke, Richard Burke and John Connor (among others). The Nightmare Place is rich in most of Mosby's hallmarks - it is dark, disturbing and violent but also intelligent and flawlessly plotted - and is my favourite of his eight novels, as stated in July's review. Mosby is a writer whose books should have a broader audience, and this is the book that should help him find it.
Stay Alive by Simon Kernick (audio read by Paul Thornley)
What I require of an audio book, typically, is something that will entertain me while I'm driving or distract me from my aches and pains while running. I've never picked up a Kernick novel, but I've listened to a number of them. Kernick's plots run at breakneck pace and keep the listener hanging on for the next twist, turn or chapter. Thrilling stuff.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
My first foray into Hemingway was inspired by a visit to his beloved Pamplona and a coffee in the atmospheric Cafe Iruna one of his favourite haunts. I was immediately taken by the bluntness of the prose and the honesty of his characters and then later by the tenderness of his depiction of Spain and the Basque.
The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly
There's not a lot of praise I have left to lavish on the brilliant Connolly who has been on my must read list now for more than 15 years. The Wolf in Winter is one of the best in the 12-strong Charlie Parker series and I was thrilled to first interview Connolly in the spring, and then meet him at the Madrid book festival in the late summer when he signed the book for me (left).
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Macmillan's Sam Eades is one of the most adept publicists in her use of social media to promote her authors. Even by Sam's prolific standards, however, the Twitter storm that accompanied the publication of Station Eleven was impressive and left me desperate to get a copy of the Canadian author's dystopian novel. It did not disappoint and in July's review I reflected on how "beautifully Mandel tells her tale and how skilfully she pulls so many seemingly disparate strands together". An outstanding book.
Dead Men's Bones by James Oswald
James Oswald, with his police procedurals-with-a-supernatural-twist series featuring Edinburgh cop Tony McLean, is cut from similar cloth to John Connolly and Steve Mosby. In Dead Men's Bones, the farmer-writer revealed more of his supernatural hand than ever before, producing the most accomplished book yet in what is becoming one of UK crime fiction's best series.
Bubbling under... I loved Stephen King's first foray into crime fiction, Mr Mercedes, and found myself strangely turned on by Louise Doughty's chilling Apple Tree Yard. And finally, After I'm Gone, Laura Lippman's brilliant depiction of a family of women coping with changed circumstances in the aftermath of the disappearance of their criminal patriarch turns is also a tremendous whodunnit.