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Desert Island Crime with Alex Gray

desert island crime Alex Gray
Alex Gray picks 8 of her top books to take with her to a desert island . . . they also happen to be the  perfect picks to keep yourselves entertained whilst we’re all social distancing
Here we go
For sheer playground fun and dark humour look no further than the inimitable Chris Brookmyre. ‘A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Dark Pencil’ is one of my lal time favourites and the advantage of reading it on a desert island is that nobody will stare when you laugh out loud as sis several times on a train journey!
If you need a real pick-me-up then look no further than the novels of Alexander McCall Smith. The one I would share with anyone else on my desert island is ‘Tears of the Giraffe’ which is one of his Number One Ladies Detective series. Set in Botswana, the books always remind me of Zimbabwe where I was married and the gentle manner and strong moral code in the books always leave me with a good feeling about life, the universe and everything.
Louise Penny, the multi award winning Canadian writer is one of m6 very favourite writers and I would take Still Life, the first of her Inspector Gamache series with me to recapture the characters and life in the Quebecois village of Three Pines. It would be like meeting old friends again.
Ann Cleeves is one of my crime writing pals and I love all of her books but still go back to the novel that won her then CWA gold dagger, Raven Black. Here we meet Jimmy Perez for the first time and are plunged into the landscape of Shetland, a place I have experienced thanks to Ann and her wonderful series. There is darkness and mystery coupled with excellent writing that would take me far away from my desert island to a colder, windier climate altogether.
How did we manage before Mick Heron invented the Slow Horses? I am completely hooked on this unique series and would take the first episode with me, no contest! Jackson Lamb is the most unlikely protagonist and his slow horses share a real hotchpotch of character defects. MI5 will never be the same again and as for the thinly disguised figures in political and public life, well, let’s just say Mick’s depiction of them is pretty breathtaking!
Val McDermid, the Scottish Queen of crime is a fantastic woman and a fabulous writer whose books never fail to impress. I would choose one of my favourites, The Last Temptation, partly for its luscious language and imagery and partly because I would lose myself in its pages as they shift from scene to scene beginning with a description of the Danube which, as she says, is never blue!
John Le Carre has been one of my favourite writers for decades and I go back time and time again to Smiley’s People, immortalised on screen by the wonderful Alec Guiness. Having watched the BBC series many times, reading the book allows me to hear the incidental music in my head. ‘Moscow Rules’!
It is an anthology of short stories but not a novel that I am selecting as my final choice. Bloody Scotland, the festival I co-founded, produced a great group of short stories from leading writers including Lin Anderson, Craig Robertson, Gordon Brown and Denise Mina as well as others from Val, Ann and Chris. It would be like catching up with chums reading these tales that are all set in a different building owned by Historic Scotland, the organisation  behind the publication.