The crime fiction author, Gladys Mitchell, in a 1977 essay attempted to solve an enduring mystery: why readers enjoy the detective novel so much in spite of its rather dark subject matter. Well, for one, she believed, it offers readers an intellectual challenge, a puzzle to solve. Secondly, crime fiction provides the reader with a neat solution, while novels in many other genres tend to leave us with vague, open-ended conclusions. Finally, good almost always triumphs over evil. The following crime novels at the #DubaiLitFest tick all these boxes and more besides. 

Murder Most Unladylike – Robin Stevens

This is a delightful mashup of two fun genres, the boarding school novel and detective fiction. Set in a posh British public school in the 1930s, we see all the action through the eyes of Helen Wong, the daughter of a Hong Kong based businessman sent to Deepdean to learn English ways. Along with the pretty, popular, and unnervingly confident Daisy Wells, she runs the Wells and Wong Detective Society that usually concerns itself with petty theft and even pettier schoolgirl politics. But a series of murders at school put their skills to the ultimate test. Helen’s unconsciously humorous narrative is one of the most endearing things about the book. Besides, although she constantly plays second fiddle to Daisy, more often than not, she’s the real brains behind the operation. 

Murder Most Unladylike is the first in Wells and Wong series. Check out Robin Stevens’ sessions at the LitFest for more.

In a House of Lies – Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin’s Inspector John Rebus is a larger-than-life figure in the world of detective fiction. In this, the 23rd book featuring him, Rebus has retired, and his hard-living ways have caught up with him. When a corpse from one of his older unsolved cases surfaces, it opens up a whole new investigation. Initially, Rebus is on the sidelines and comes close to being scrutinized himself as his sidekicks from the older books, Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox assist a new team. Of course, eventually it is Rebus who discovers the vital leads that crack the case. There are several other angles to the story that cover police corruption, gang wars, an old nemesis and even a whole other murder mystery, but Ian Rankin seamlessly controls all the diverse plotlines to bring the story to a successful dénouement.

Ian Rankin will be part of three exciting sessions at the #DubaiLitFest. Don’t miss them!

Let Me Lie – Clare Mackintosh

A retired cop is also one of the main protagonists of ex-police officer Clare Mackintosh’s latest. Murray Mackenzie is volunteering at the front desk of the police station when Anna Johnson comes in to share her suspicions that her parents were murdered. Their deaths were ruled a suicide earlier, but Anna, now in a fragile new relationship with a baby, has been receiving anonymous notes that claim otherwise. While everyone around Anna thinks she is in denial, Mackenzie begins to investigate the deaths and uncover the truth. But just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the novel takes many unexpected turns and keeps you guessing till the very last line.

Catch up with Clare and learn more about her whodunnits at the LitFest here.

The Home – Karen Osman

Karen is one of a crop of talented writers whose literary careers have taken off from Dubai with the help of the Montegrappa Writing Prize. The Home is her second book, and in it she returns to the familiar theme of motherhood, in this case both through birth and choice. This often dark but always interesting tale follows Angela, an ambitious young career woman in 1980s, who was adopted as an older child by James and Rosemary. Angela was ill-treated at the orphanage, and initially it seems as though the couple are a godsend. However, nothing in this tale is as it seems so expect thrills, twists and deception aplenty. In fact, once Angela hunts down her birth mother, Evelyn, things take quite a scary turn.

Karen Osman will be conducting a workshop and speaking about psychological thrillers at the #DubaiLitFest. Click for more details.

I Know You – Annabel Kantaria

Another Montegrappa Writing Prize winner! Taylor has just moved to Croydon from California with her husband Jake. Pregnant and desperately lonely, she spends a lot of her time on social media posting endless #throwbacks, while carefully curating and editing her online persona. Jake is away much of the time, and moreover her marriage is going through a bit of a bad patch, so when she makes a few friends, it feels as though she is finally finding her feet. However, we the readers soon come to realise that someone close to her is not who they seem to be and has gained her trust through false pretenses. Every single one of her new friends has a motive to turn against her, but who really wishes her harm? With so much of her, and indeed our, lives on social media today, are we really ever safe?

Dubai resident Annabel Kantaria is a festival regular. You can view her sessions here.

By Shailaja Prashanth

Shailaja Prashanth is a digital copywriter and avid reader who devours everything from literary fiction to billboards on the road.