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The best crime fiction for Christmas

Best crime fiction for 2016 covers

 From a birdwatcher's death to murderous crofters, small-town crime is all the rage, says Jake Kerridge

For a while it looked like the most talked-about crime novel of 2016 would be Maestra by L S Hilton (Zaffre, £7.99), in which mousy art historian Judith Rashleigh becomes a sex-party enthusiast and serial murderer of sleazy men. Journalists overexcited by the idea of an Oxford graduate writing a literate alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey praised or denounced at absurd length a giddy trifle that will appeal most to those who still miss the erotic thrillers that Channel 5 used to show late at night in the Nineties.

But in the second half of the year, the crime novel to hog the headlines was...

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