Top 10 Books Of The Year – 2016- Part 1 (10-6)

In 2016 I managed to read 80 books which is the most I have ever read in one year.  (Last year’s total was 67 and my best ever year (2013) I read 72.  So, although I’m very pleased with myself it has proved to be much harder to come up with just 10 for my annual review of my year in books.  Anything that doesn’t make the top 10 gets culled from the bookshelves or off the Kindle so I’ve had to put much deliberation into this and come up with a list of ten books with only one author having made my top 10 on a previous occasion.  Unusually for me all of the chosen books are fiction. 7 of the 10 were authors whose work I have never read before  and there’s some debut novels in there as well.  I haven’t restricted myself to those authors whose works were published in 2016.  If I read it this year then it’s in the mix.  Last year 6 out of my 10 were published in 2015 and this year 50% of them were published in 2016, showing how exciting publishing still is and that there’s still great books coming out every month.  44 out of the 80 books I read this year were 2016 publications- a considerably higher percentage than ever before.  The only thing I have read less of is re-reads.  I’ve only revisited four books this year.  I’ve selected the very best of these which I will announce in two posts time.  There’s a satisfactory 50/50 split gender-wise on my list and all of the 10 have been reviewed on this site- click on the titles to link to the full review.

10. Jonathan Dark Or The Evidence Of Ghosts – A K Benedict (Orion 2016) (Read and reviewed in February)


An audacious, brave blend of modern crime, ghost story and fantasy which really works.  I thought/think that this has the potential to become a big seller but perhaps it has been difficult to market its genre-busting appeal.  I love this book for both its strengths and flaws.

9. The Lost Europeans – Emanuel Litvinoff (Apollo 2016 )(Read in May and reviewed in June)


In 2016 Apollo republished 8 of “the best books you’ve never heard of” and this debut originally from 1958 by a London born writer was the pick of the bunch.  Post war Berlin is brought alive through paranoia and guilt.



8. Miss Jane – Brad Watson (Picador 2016) (Read in September.  Reviewed in November)


Set in early twentieth century Mississippi this tale of rural survival sparkles because of the title character.  Miss Jane, because of an anatomical defect is an outsider yet shines through.  Probably the character I was most willing on to better things this year. Beautifully understated.


7. The High Mountains Of Portugal – Yann Martel (Canongate 2016) (Read and reviewed in January)


Martel’s “The Life Of Pi” was my 7th favourite book of 2003 and was even better on a re-read.  Thirteen years on and he’s here  at number 7 again and I expect that this will also re-read very well.  Three stories, all of which are quite bonkers, two exceptionally charming (still not too sure to make of the middle section).  Martel has me believing the unbelievable- the mark of a great storyteller.

6. The Vanishing Act Of Esme Lennox- Maggie O’Farrell (Headline 2006) (Read in January.  Reviewed in April)


Many thanks to newbooks who decided to have a Maggie O’Farrell retrospective prompting me to seek out this author via this extraordinary novel I had missed out on.  I sat on this review for quite a while because I didn’t know quite how to put my feelings about this book into words. I made it one of my 100 Essential reads.  It’s beautifully written and I am so looking forward to catching up with this author’s back catalogue.



Next post – The Top 5, includes a twentieth century classic, a translation, a debut, a Booker Shortlister and a literary award winner.

Jonathan Dark Or The Evidence Of Ghosts – A K Benedict (Orion 2016)- A Murder They Wrote Review



This is the second novel from AK Benedict following 2013’s “The Beauty Of Murder”.  I haven’t read that but will certainly be seeking it out after reading this.  As suggested by the alternative titles this is a book with its foot in two camps.  Part crime novel involving a murder and a stalking and part ghost story, it manages to be very effective on both counts.

Central to the plot is the fascinating Maria, blind since birth, but whose sight has been restored.  Maria cannot cope with being plunged into the sighted world and shuts it out with a blindfold.  She is a mudlarker, collecting treasures on the foreshores of the Thames and uncovers a grisly marriage proposal which leads the police to make connections with an earlier murder and assume that Maria is in danger.  If you can buy into this and not read the book yelling at her to take the blindfold off so she can see the danger then there is so much to enjoy.

Investigating officer Jonathan Dark, homeless because of a crumbling marriage, has his own secrets, some of which he has repressed since childhood.  His involvement in this case reawakens these secrets.  As Maria’s vision is limited through the blindfold so is the vision of most other Londoners who cannot see the ghosts of the departed moving around the city streets.  The few that can see become vital to the solution of the case.  There’s also a group of influentials who are using murder as an entree into an elite group, “The Ring” who infiltrate Dark’s investigation.  I found the whole thing quite fascinating.  It works well on a number of layers and I think would appeal very much to those adults who grew up with Harry Potter and are still searching for adult reading with the perfect blend of fantasy and reality and there are a good few million of those out there.  Swap the school story and the magic for the adult world of crime and a ghost story and you have a book that has the potential to be a real crowd-pleaser.

I loved the ideas of ghosts being ferried around in the back of taxi cabs, some drifting shapelessly within “The Gloaming” and some taking stronger identities to sort out unfinished business and I loved how Benedict blends this into a modern day police investigation.  I loved the connection between the secret keeping police officer and the girl who has needlessly closed her world around her and who has no secrets because her stalker observes everything.  It was tense and chilling both as a crime novel and ghost story.  The presence of London, even when through a blindfold, was palpable and I was kept totally involved as I couldn’t work out the ending.

This is a cracking example of a crime writer attempting to do something different and a fantasy writer using the crime genre to attract a more general readership.  It is solid on both counts. Highly enjoyable and if it just misses out on being one of my rare five star reads it’s because of the niggling “Why doesn’t Marie just……?” questions which would remove some of the peril she is plunged into.  This for me is nitpicking but I feel it might overly frustrate some readers.  It’s quirky and different and yet given the right push still has the potential to snowball into a big seller.


Jonathan Dark Or The Evidence Of Ghosts is published by Orion on February 25th.  Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advance copy.