River Sing Out: bleak but beautiful

This bittersweet story of southern noir swims through familiar waters, with obvious echoes of modern classics like Winter’s Bone. In East Texas, a young lad reaches beyond the loveless boundaries of his white-trash background. But his initial exploration of the bigger world beyond the backwoods might turn out to be his last – he risks…

The Girl Who Died: off-kilter in Iceland

Ragnar Jónasson is one of my favourite authors, a master at capturing the unique Icelandic environment and drawing it into the narrative of some of the best character-led stories I’ve read. He’s superbly skilled at reflecting the bleakly beautiful aspects of Iceland’s landscape in the tangled threads of his compelling – frequently chilling – mysteries.…

Island Reich: a WW2 spy story

This is such a well-researched spy story that you won’t be able to tell where real events end and the author’s keen imagination takes over. It’s set in WW2 in the ‘phoney war’ phase of 1940. Operation Sealion is on the cards but hasn’t been launched. The Battle of Britain has yet to fill the…

The Law Of Innocence: on trial for his life

In the most recent book in the ‘Lincoln lawyer’ series, defence counsel Mickey Haller can at last be convinced of his client’s innocence… because he IS the client. He’s been brilliantly done up like a kipper, when a very dead body is discovered by a police patrolman in the trunk of his town car. It…

Annika Stranded: bite-size Scandi crime

This top-quality series of short crime dramas started life as 15-minute audio episodes, starring the excellent actor Nicola Walker as Annika herself, a quirky, quick-witted Norwegian detective on the Oslo boat patrol. The series is now being filmed for TV, translated not just in format but also in location as it’ll now be based in…

The Man With The Iron Heart: WW2 drama

This dramatised bio-pic about the WW2 assassination of Reinhard Heydrich is based on a novel entitled ‘HHhH’ – ‘Himmler’s brain is named Heydrich.’ Quite clever, but perhaps too subtle for a mainstream movie audience. There’s another film about the same subject – Anthropoid – which majors on the Czech soldiers and their undercover mission. ‘The…

Cardinal: awarding-winning TV crime

Cardinal is set in snowy small-town Canada, and has all the edge and atmosphere of the best Nordic noir. Bleakly beautiful photography; poignant, subtle performances from a pair of superb leading actors. It’s truly mesermising crime TV drama – so it’s no wonder that the final season has been nominated for a slew of international…

School Days: a sleuth’s story

If you’re already a fan of Rober B Parker’s Spenser novels you will definitely be familiar with the snappy dialogue, the gentle characterisations, the entertaining plots … and the utterly brilliant wisecracking sleuth who is the central character. And if you’re not a fan but like detective fiction, then you should be. After all, Netflix…

Rapid Reviews: criminal thrills and weird mysteries

This month’s selection of recommended reads includes a couple of slightly supernatural stories, a BritCrime police procedural with an intriguing central character, an atmospheric Alaskan adventure with the Aleut, snappy short stories, soulful investigations – and, as usual, one book which we rather wish we’d not bothered with. We’ll come to that a little later.…

Where Ravens Roost

When animals appear in a book’s title they are frequently more metaphorical than physical, but these menacing black beasts play an important part of the story in this character-driven slow-burn Swedish mystery. These ravens are pets – of a kind – kept by the father of police detective Kjeld Nygaard. Their apparently aggressive inclinations, savagely…