I PROBABLY read about 60 crime novels each year and I can't pretend that they're all fresh in my mind by the time we reach the shortest day.
But four of 2017's output are ones I'm sure to remember for a good long while.
Surprisingly rare in US crime fiction are police procedurals in which black cops investigate crimes in black neighbourhoods, so Rachel Howzell Hall's City Of Saviors (Titan, £7.99) would be welcome for its freshness alone.
It features Lou Norton, a homicide detective in South Los Angeles, the area of which both protagonist and author are natives.
Alongside a good mystery story and a sparky, funny and unpredictable heroine, Hall gives us an unusually intimate picture of her home town — not the stereotyped lawless ghetto familiar from TV dramas but a place where actual people, rich and poor, live and die.
If you're looking for a crime series with a completely different flavour, and provided you're not too worried by gruesome forensic detail, then this is for you.
In Real Tigers by Mick Herron (John Murray, £7.99), Slough House is where MI5 sends the agents it wants to get rid of without having to sack them.
The drunks, the coke addicts, the gamblers and the obnoxious idiots all end up in this bureaucratic purgatory, where work is found for idle hands but only of the most tedious, soul-destroying kind.
I haven't read a wittier crime novel for a while and I have rarely read such an enjoyable or original espionage story.
When Massachusetts TV reporter Rachel has a mental breakdown live on air in Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane (Little Brown, £12.99), she loses her marriage, her career and her confidence.
Though one man's unconditional love helps her rebuild herself, when she discovers he's not who he claims to be, she has to decide: will she risk her happiness to learn the truth?
This is a lovely novel, mysterious and thrilling, as well as characterful and even discursive. Lehane is never enslaved to his plot, but no matter how far he seems to stray from the theme, like the coolest jazz saxophonist, he always returns to it at just the right time.
In The Weight of Angels by Catriona McPherson (Constable, £8.99), an unemployed beautician is so desperate for work that she allows her husband to fake a CV for her.
It lands her a position at a private psychiatric hospital in Galloway, with a salary beyond her dreams, but, as soon as Ali starts work, it's surely obvious to everyone that she isn't up to the job, so why doesn't anyone seem to care?
This is a terrific mystery thriller, a gothic tale for the smartphone age, with some of the most fully human characters I've read this year. I loved every page.
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