Newest Crime Reviews

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An Unlikely Agent by Jane Menczer

4star.jpg Crime (Historical)

London, 1905. Margaret Trant lives with her ailing, irascible mother in a dreary boarding house in St John's Wood. The pair have fallen on hard times, with only Margaret's meagre salary from a ramshackle import-export company keeping them afloat.When a stranger on the tram hands her a newspaper open at the recruitment page, Margaret spots an advertisement that promises to 'open new horizons beyond your wildest dreams!'. After a gruelling interview, she finds herself in a new position as a secretary in a dingy backstreet shop.But all is not as it seems; she is in fact working for a highly secret branch of the intelligence service, Bureau 8, whose mission is to track down and neutralise a ruthless band of anarchists known as the Scorpions.Margaret's guilty love of detective fiction scarcely prepares her for the reality of true criminality, and her journey of self-discovery forms the heart of this remarkable novel, as she discovers in herself resourcefulness, courage, independence and the first stirrings of love. Full review...

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson and Maxim Jakubowski (Translator)

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Jewellery designer Linnéa Blix fails to appear at a Cartier event presenting some of her new creations. Her friend Alexis Castells knows something must be wrong; nothing would have kept the talented young artist from attending this prestigious function. When a young woman's mutilated body is discovered in a Swedish marina near Linnéa's holiday home, Alexis' worst fears are confirmed. But Linnéa's death is not unique; in fact, she is only the latest in a string of similar gruesome murders that have occurred in both London and Falkenberg. Up until now, the bodies have all belonged to young boys, so what has caused the killer to change his or her MO? How can Alexis help to find justice for her friend, and stop a serial killer before he strikes again? Full review...

No Middle Name by Lee Child

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There is a theory, to which those who regularly read my reviews will know I sometimes subscribe, which says that the short story's heyday has passed and it has now put itself out to grass. This is particularly true, some say, and I have been known to concur, of the crime and thriller genres. Tosh! I can only apologise to all authors involved and own up: I simply haven't been paying attention. Not even to shorter offerings my by favourite authors. So: big thanks to Lee Child and publishers Bantam Press for putting me straight with No Middle Name : a collection of short stories about my favourite latter-day, American-style, Robin Hood by the name of Jack Reacher. Full review...

The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe

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I'm always wary of author endorsements, even those from people I rate as writers, but the harrowing and humane quote from Ian Rankin on the front cover of The Silence Between Breaths does not overstate the case. This is an extremely powerful book. Full review...

A Burning in the Darkness by A P McGrath

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At a busy airport, Michael Kieh is a full time faith representative serving the needs of some of the 80 million passengers, but circumstance and evidence point to his guilt in a terrible crime. His struggle to prove his innocence leads him on a charged journey that pitches love against revenge. When a mysterious woman confides a dark secret, he is motivated to redress a heart-breaking injustice. Together they must battle against powerful forces as they edge dangerously close to unmasking a past crime. But Michael faces defeat when he chooses to protect a young witness, sparking memories of Michael's past in Liberia. As he fights to prove his innocence, Michael has to risk anything for the sake of love and truth. Full review...

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

4star.jpg Thrillers

All artist Scott Burroughs did was to accept the offer from the wife of a media mogul for a short plane ride, not realising it will shape the rest of his life. The private jet falls out of the sky, making him a hero in the way he saved the only other survivor, the mogul's small son and heir JJ. The search for answers makes Scott uncomfortable in many ways, especially when he realises that for some he's not so much the hero as the murderer. Are they right? Full review...

Heretics by Leonardo Padura

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Daniel Kaminsky is a child émigré to Cuba in 1939, looking forward to being joined from Germany by his parents. They're on board the St Louis in Havana docks but in a country and a time rife with politics and corruption, the ship is turned back without permitting any of their passengers to disembark. Now, nearly 80 years later, Daniel's son wants to know how an auction house obtained a family heirloom: a Rembrandt painting that the Kaminskys had with them on the ill-fated ship. He approaches retired Cuban policeman Mario Conde for answers to something that may seem straightforward but they soon realise it will prove to be anything but. Full review...

Rhyming Rings by David Gemmell

3.5star.jpg Crime

David Gemmell is a well-known name. Until his death in 2006 he topped the UK author lists in fantasy and historical fiction…but some will suggest that this previously unpublished manuscript shows that he might have gone in a different direction entirely. He might have opted for a life of crime. Crime fiction that is. I'll come back to that. Full review...

The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson

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In January 1987 it was only joggers and dog walkers who went on to the Thames towpath after dark. Estate agent Helen Honeysett left the riverside cottage she shared with her husband and never came home. A neighbour returned their dog who was found wandering, but Helen's body was never discovered. In 2016 Helen's husband, Adam, still wants to know what happened. He has an alibi, albeit a somewhat dubious one, but another neighbour was suspected. Steve Lawson couldn't stand the constant suspicion and drowned himself in the Thames: over the years that came to be accepted as an admission of guilt and even one of his children is certain that he was responsible. Full review...

Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

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Is there something about Scandinavia, that makes its inhabitants identify with quicksand? This is the second book with the same title by northern writers that I've read this year, and we're only into April. For clarity from the outset, this has nothing to do with Henning Mankell's conversational memoir reviewed elsewhere on here, but we are back in territory he would probably have been familiar with. We're in a Scandinavian courtroom, Swedish to be precise – we're about to begin the trial of Maja Norberg. Full review...

Sweetpea by C J Skuse

3.5star.jpg Crime

In many ways, Rhiannon Lewis lives an ordinary life. She works at a local paper, lives with her long term boyfriend, dotes on her dog and is part of a large group of friends. There are just a few unusual things about Rhiannon, like that she is obsessed with Slyvanian families... and she's in fact a serial killer. She's harmless though... as long as you stay off her list. Full review...

The Judge and His Hangman (Inspector Barlach 1) by Friedrich Durrenmatt and Joel Agee (translator)

4.5star.jpg Crime

We're in rural, rainy, wintery Switzerland soon after the Second World War. A man has been found on a remote mountain road. It would appear he opened his car door to someone who proceeded to shoot him dead. Leading the investigation is Inspector Barlach, an elderly and it seems chronically ill policeman, who has no fondness for new-fangled ideas of criminology, but he has employed Tschanz to do his leg-work for him – Tschanz who seems much more keen to find evidence and to share it, and not rely on gut instincts. Neither particularly want to be out in all weathers sorting the crime, but the victim was certainly in the wrong place at the wrong time, for he was a fellow policeman and nobody knows why he was there – or if they do they aren't saying. What had he been up to, and which way of policing the case will get to the answers first? Full review...

Amnesia by Michael Ridpath

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Alastair is in trouble. He's had a nasty knock on the head and now he can't remember anything about his life. In an attempt to recover his memories, he is sent to convalesce in a remote cottage in the Scottish Highlands in the company of his old friend's niece, Clemence. During their stay, Clemence uncovers a strange book which seems to tell the story of her grandmother's murder years before. Now Alastair and Clemence must uncover the truth about who murdered Sophie as outside the snow grows ever nearer, as does a creeping malevolent ghost from Alastair's past who wants to make sure the past stays buried, even if that means burying Alastair along with it. Full review...

Bryant and May: Wild Chamber by Christopher Fowler

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Bryant and May are back! So the slow decline into old age, with a side helping of dementia, isn't quite the Reichenbach Falls: it did give Fowler a cleaner and clearer way to have Arthur Bryant return to work. A simple he hasn't been well but he's back now and no more need be said about it. Full review...

Death Message by Kate London

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In October 1987, on the morning after the great storm, Tania Mills left home to visit a friend and was never seen again. Twenty-seven years later DS Sarah Collins from the Met's Homicide Command has to look into new information which might reveal what happened to the fifteen-year-old girl. It's not all she has to do though - there are still current cases which have to be responded to immediately: somehow she has to fit it all together. Meanwhile DC Lizzie Griffiths has to deal with a case of domestic violence: the husband is vicious and volatile, but outwardly charming and the wife ultimately too frightened to do anything but put up with his outbursts. Collins and Griffiths have history and antagonism between them: will they be able to work together? Full review...

Children of Lucifer: Modesty Blaise by Peter O'Donnell and Enric Badia Romero

3.5star.jpg Graphic Novels

Out of ninety-five diverse comic strip stories, the publication of this book leaves just the last three yet to be presented in these fabulous large format paperbacks. So if you haven’t yet met with the sassy brunette with her curves and her great crime-solving mind, and of course with her Willie, this is the last-but-one chance for you to do so. And if you have any interest in quick little action tales, or even dated kitsch, for both apply here, then you should eagerly be on board… Full review...

The Surgeon's Case: George Kocharyan Mystery 2 by E G Rodford

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In the second instalment of this series, Private Investigator George Kocharyan has been hired by a well-known local man to track down some missing valuables. Bill Galbraith, a world-famous surgeon at Cambridge's Addenbrooke's Hospital who hosts a popular medical television programme, has had his briefcase stolen by his live-in domestic servant, Aurora. According to Galbraith, this briefcase contains confidential notes concerning an important patient of his at the hospital. George agrees to look into the theft, assuming it will be a relatively easy and straightforward case – little does he know, he's about to enter a world of deceit and dysfunction. Full review...

Well of the Winds (DCI Daley) by Denzil Meyrick

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It's not a happy time for DCI Jim Daley. The woman he loved is dead - there are those who blame him for what happened - and his relationship with Liz, his ex wife, and his young son is deteriorating by the day. He's finding solace in the bottom of a glass, whilst the man who used to do that all too often, his friend DS Brian Scott is off alcohol completely and has found exercise. There's a new officer in charge at Kinloch - DS Carrie Simmington - and whilst she might look young, it's unlikely that she got to that position without having a core of steel. Full review...

Miraculous Mysteries (British Library Crime Classics) by Martin Edwards (editor)

5star.jpg Crime

Consider the following scenario: a policeman hears someone screaming and runs to a house on a particular street, number 13, from where the noise is emanating. When he peeps through the letterbox he discovers a dead man in the hallway with a knife in his throat. He goes to fetch help, but upon returning, finds that the street does not have a number 13 and that the body and the room he saw have both mysteriously vanished... Full review...

The Blade Artist by Irvine Welsh

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So. In the interest of honest disclosure I should tell you that I love Irvine Welsh's work and I must confess to a particularly gruesome fancy for Begbie, the notoriously violent, terrifying protector/tormentor of the Trainspotting gang. Whilst this means you are unlikely to receive an unbiased review, it does mean you will get a passionate one. It is fair to say that I loved The Blade Artist and my only critique would be that it was over too quickly. For those of you who may not be familiar with Welsh's earlier manifestations have no fear, you can pick up The Blade Artist and be transfixed by Jim Francis, artist, father, husband and elegant thug. For those of you with previous knowledge of Francis Begbie you'll be instantly drawn back into the world of a man previously defined by petty vengeance, violence and blood. Full review...

The Killing Bay by Chris Ould

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Between the Scando-noir and the Highlands-and-Islands crime, it was only a matter of time until a series featuring a life-weary detective set in Greenland, Iceland, or thereabouts appeared. And here we are, with a series based in the Faroes. Full review...

The Pictures by Guy Bolton

4.5star.jpg Crime

It's the spring of 1939: in Hollywood The Wizard of Oz is in production at MGM and it's important that nothing interrupts shooting or causes bad publicity for the actors or the studio. The police department recognises that it's good for Hollywood that all goes smoothly and it's Detective Jonathan Crane's job to see that the crimes and misdemeanours of the stars are swept under the proverbial carpet. The studio rewards him handsomely for this and there's perhaps a little bit of antagonism within LAPD that Craine's got it easy and wouldn't know how to investigate a case if it came up and slapped him, but in Craine's mind all that's going to change. Full review...

The Acid Test by Elmer Mendoza

3.5star.jpg Crime

Mayra Cabral de Melo is dead. Murdered in cold blood in a desolate, dusty field by the side of the road. Once the most adored, celebrated dancer at the local strip club, she had a collection of rich and powerful admirers but who amongst them was deluded and dangerous enough to kill her? And what connects her to the deaths of various associates, arms dealers and Narco kingpins? Lefty Mendieta returns in The Acid Test, following on from Mendoza's first novel Silver Bullets. I haven't read the first instalment of this series and don't believe that had any impact on this story. Lefty has a personal connection to the case, forever haunted by the memories of his brief but life changing night with Mayra and uses his connections to the powerful criminal underworld, his tense relationship with American agents and his consuming desire to avenge her death to track down this violent and deranged killer. Along the way we learn about the growing tensions between Narcos which erupt in explosive levels of violence, meet a host of damaged, humorous and violent residents of Culiacán and follow Lefty on a trail of destruction, death and disorder. Full review...

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith

5star.jpg Literary Fiction

Maben is on the run. For a long while it's not clear whether she's running from something or towards something, or simply back to where it all started. She's got her small daughter with her, and they've been walking for a very long time. It's hard on the child, but it's also clear that if it wasn't for the child Maben would stop running, and it's clear that that would not be a good thing. Full review...

Parallel Lines by Steven Savile

3.5star.jpg Crime

Books are full of coincidences, because if they were not, they would be pretty dull. The action takes place during an extraordinary timescale of the characters – the time they were involved in a bank robbery, or their loved one was murdered. People are more likely to read this type of book than one about the time they picked out their new curtains. For the intrigue to happen, links between characters have to be made, but balancing coincidence is tricky. Too little and the characters don't gel, too much and you start to think the book is supernatural. Did Steven Savile get the balance right in Parallel Lines? Full review...

Quieter than Killing (D I Marnie Rome 4) by Sarah Hilary

4.5star.jpg Crime

The attacks all seemed to be quite random, but the nights were dark, the weather freezing and D I Marnie Rome and DS Noah Jake were spending quite a lot of time on the streets of London. Then Marnie's family home was ransacked and every indication was that it had been done by someone (or on the order of someone) who knew her. Normally Commander Welland would have been able to give Marnie a degree of protection - he knew her history all too well - but his cancer had returned and he was going to be away for four months. His stand-in was nowhere near as understanding in this or other matters. Then it was established that a child was missing - had been missing for ten weeks - but no one had reported it. Full review...

Little Bones by Sam Blake

4star.jpg Crime

It was a fairly ordinary break in. A young artist's home had been given a going over, but it was hard to see that much had been taken. There were suspicions that it might have been one of the usual suspects, only the shoes weren't as they'd have expected to find them if that was to be the case. Something else was not as you might expect to find it: a wedding dress, an old heirloom piece by the look of it, and in the hem, stitched in there, tiny bones. Human bones. Full review...

The Chalk Pit (Dr Ruth Galloway) by Elly Griffiths

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Norwich is - apparently - riddled with tunnels, many dating back to the time when chalk was mined there. When bones are discovered in one of the tunnels it seems obvious that they've been there for hundreds of years, but Dr Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist, isn't so certain. The colour doesn't look right and she has a suspicion that the bones have been boiled: they've also not been there that long. DCI Harry Nelson has a murder case on his hands. His team has other problems: DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a local rough sleeper and there's not a lot to go on other than the rumour that she's 'gone underground', but what, exactly, does that mean? Full review...