Best genre fiction of 2009: Dan Brown and Stephen King the salvation of the publishing industry?

This was the year that e-books made their presence known, and bookshops increasingly showed signs of strain, meaning that key publishers found their fortunes ever more dependent on a handful of superstar genre writers. But do theses novels deserve the power they are afforded, or indeed the critical snipes they so often receive?

Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol (Transworld, £18.99) was bestowed upon us in early September amid a frenzy of global publication, midnight openings and stunt speed- readings. Professor Langdon remains loafer- and black polo neck-clad, this time in Washington, battling shoddy sentence construction and faux-science as much as tattooed villains... but Brown's joyful sense of pace is undeniable. You might scoff, but you can't stop turning the pages.

Similarly, Stephen King's Under the Dome (Hodder, £19.99) used a plot that by now looks rather well-worn thanks to The Simpsons Movie (giant dome lands on a town with ghastly consequences), but he is an almost peerless storyteller. Readers might require physiotherapy after ploughing through its 900 pages, but his consistent handle on the town's characters, his ability to conjure the fantastical and render it credible, and the gobsmackingly vivid first 100 pages are worth the read alone.

After the lacklustre Doors Open, Ian Rankin returned to Edinburgh-based detective-led crime with The Complaints (Orion, £18.99), introducing his new copper, Malcolm Fox. The twist lies in the fact that Fox is investigating his own: working at Edinburgh's police-complaints department and thereby making enemies on both sides of the crime game. A proper page-turner that continues Rankin's chronicling of his home city, this time in the wake of RBS's shaky year, it will keep fans happy – and rightly so.

Crime fans were also rewarded this year with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (MacLehose Press, £18.99) the final novel in Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander trilogy. His peerlessly plucky heroine finds herself hospitalised at the novel's opening and overcoming myriad fresh enemies before its end. Some of the prose is clunky but Larsson's trilogy is a masterpiece in plotting, all the more treasured for the knowledge that his premature death means no further sequels.

Back in the US, Jeffery Deaver continued to focus on his new Special Agent, Kathryn Dance. Roadside Crosses (Hodder, £18.99) uses the potential horrors of online bullying as its springboard. Ever the master at combining properly drawn characters with jaw-dropping twists, Deaver proves he doesn't need his best-known detective, Lincoln Rhyme, to be a bestseller.

Doing it for the girls, the Boston-set Keeping the Dead (Bantam, £6.99) by Tess Gerritsen and Sophie Hannah's Home Counties-based The Other Half Lives (Hodder, £6.99), are spectacularly gory and utterly gripping in equal measure. Gerritsen uses her considerable medical expertise to focus on CSI-style autopsies and a centuries-old victim, while Hannah brings us spectacularly sinister characters and throws them into some wincingly creepy dilemmas.

Those who find such gore unpalatable were well-served, too: David Nicholls' One Day (Hodder, £12.99) is a romantic comedy that the gents needn't be ashamed to read. Chronicling a friendship spanning two decades, Nicholls perfects the will-they-won't-they trick, starting with his leads at university in the 1980s and poking gentle fun at the decades following. A genuine tear-jerker as well as laugh-out-loud funny.

For more romantic comedy, albeit bittersweet, there was Marian Keyes' The Brightest Star in the Sky (Michael Joseph, £18.99), in which a house full of disparate characters sees their lives gently coincide. Keyes has just enough bite to do sentimentality without provoking fury in readers, despite using a curious device with an unnamed narrator. Keyes makes her chick-lit beginnings seem both far away but reassuringly close: there's more to her than whimsy.

And what's genre fiction without Jackie Collins? The woman who invented the bonkbuster returned with a brace of resplendently named characters in Poor Little Bitch Girl (Simon & Schuster, £18.99). As ever, the biggest fun is to be had in guessing which real-life tabloid fixtures it might be based on. This time, readers are also treated to Lucky Santangelo's slippery son as a key protagonist.

It's easy to complain that the market's getting smaller, but a look at their novels makes it obvious why these authors are doing so well: each excels at either plot or character, and often both. The only real quibble with most is that they need proof-readers who stand up to them more often. For example, Mr Brown, we don't need to be told that the same character has "gray eyes" four times in the first 100 pages: we will remember.

Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform