The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill: not half bad

Half of this book is brilliant. The other half? Not so. The Undiscovered Deaths… is one of those carefully constructed novels that’s concocted of complicated layers. A mystery disguises a secret that in turn conceals a hidden truth – usually a perfect premise for a psychological thriller. Problem is, the initially intriguing aspects are overwhelmed…

The Shattered Skies: a satisfying sequel

Don’t start here! This is the second in a superbly constructed sci-fi series, stacked with multiple meshed threads from ideologically estranged offshoots of future humanity. I waited eagerly for it to arrive after consuming the first part in short order, but you need to begin at the beginning to stand a chance of keeping up…

Axe: an old-school investigation

There’s a gritty elegance to Ed McBain’s 87th precinct detective series. The writing might be more than half a century old, but it packs all the punch of a modern murder investigation – and suffers from a lot less of the fluffy filling. I’m a big fan of series like Michael Connelly’s Bosch, John Sandford’s…

The Brass Verdict: seconds out for the Lincoln Lawyer

Courtroom drama doesn’t get much better than this series, set in LA, featuring the ‘Lincoln Lawyer’ Mickey Haller – a slightly shady defence attorney who shares the same universe as Connelly’s leading law-enforcer, Harry Bosch. While Bosch is always about doing the right things – normally in not quite the right way – the morality…

The Murderbot Diaries: a criminal future

Don’t you just love an addictive series? Especially when you discover one after all the episodes are published so you can read them flat-out, one after the other? I read the first novel in the entirely glorious Expanse saga when it first came out, so had to wait subjective centuries before the next volume appeared.…

Little Siberia: dark indeed

Fancy a totally entertaining and intriguing read? OK, try this. The central character is a pastor, dedicated to serving the spiritual needs of a small Finnish town, while the central plot revolves around a meteorite which lands from the heavens – as meteorites do – passing through a drunken rally driver’s car as it does…

Rapid Reviews: good, bad, ugly and otherwise

This month’s selection of crime-thrillers reveals two superb offerings from established favourites; two which we rather wish had stayed on the shelf, and an outstanding debut from a talented new author… WELCOME TO COOPER by Tariq AshkananiWhat a gloriously nasty piece of work this is; a twisted tangle of corrupt cops, the mobsters who manipulate…

Pork Pie Hat: a short Samhain story

Frank Westworth tells a suitably sinister Stoner story to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve. As always, JJ Stoner’s unusual adventures as a contract killer contain adult themes and language… The door slipped silently closed behind the last happy customer. She left singing, her departing tune humming on the condensing air, her own take on the last…

Lemon: a modern Korean mystery

What an impossible novel to attempt to categorise. Lemon is a literary mystery in every sense; beautifully composed but oddly obscure. In a disorienting story told from three perspectives, we observe the effects of a violent murder on the victim’s family and the two plausible suspects in the years that follow the crime. It’s a…

Bad Apples: Swedish evil

If you think Halloween can be creepy, wait until you see how this small town in the Swedish hinterland celebrates the coming of winter. The roads are closed. A stack of apples are left to rot in the town square, filling the air with a sickly-sweet stench of decay. What follows is a wild night…