Want to treat an avid crime fiction reader to a book or two this Christmas? Or simply want to do a bit of literary self-gifting? From a beguiling South Korean mystery to a grizzly serial killer procedural, here are six new novels to consider.
Lemon by Kwon Yeo-sun
People Like Them by Samira Sedira
This pair of short books, both published in translation, are two of the finest crime novels of 2021. Firstly, Lemon, by the South Korean author Kwon Yeo-Sun takes a well-worn starting point, the murder of a beautiful female high school pupil, and spins an idiosyncratic and beguiling mystery from it. A riveting police interview kicks things off, but this is the one nod to convention. For the rest of the book, Yeo-sun jumps forwards and backwards in time to hint at the identity of the killer, but whodunit is not her primary concern. Instead, Lemon surveys the damage wrought by a single heinous act on a number of interconnected lives, and does so with impressive deftness.
Samira Sedira’s People Like Them is another small wonder of a book that explores the fallout from a violent crime. A Muslim businessman Bakary Langlois, his wife and their children are brutally murdered in their home in rural France. Anna Guillot, the narrator, is married to Constant, the man who carried out these killings – and there is never any doubt that he did. Loosely based on real events, the story flits between the trial, the Langlois family’s initial arrival in the village, the build-up to the murders and, finally, Constant’s imprisonment. The ambience of this sleepy corner of France and the people that inhabit it are evoked superbly. The violence is chillingly rendered, too, with Sedira using her narrator’s recollections to elucidate what might drive an apparently unremarkable man like Constant to commit such extraordinary acts of savagery.