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…

The Jealousy Man: a complicated compilation

A collection of short stories and novellas from one of the best Scandi writers around? Count me in. I think I actually drooled at the idea of an anthology of self-contained tales from the dark side by the author who gave us the Harry Hole series and superb standalone novels like the ridiculously brilliant Headhunters.…

Three thrillers: two hits, one miss

What have you been reading recently? These three novels all fall into the ‘crime fiction’ category, but they couldn’t be more dissimilar. A brilliantly bizarre British mystery which plumbs the dark depths that ‘Inspector Corner of the Yard’ would never dare explore; a breathless, twisting EuroCrime caper which aims to confuse and certainly succeeds, and…

Five Minds: one wild ride

Some high-concept sci-fi consists of a brilliant idea and little more. It might explore a thought-provoking theme of social significance, but the central conceit falls flat because the author can’t actually tell a good story or create convincing characters. Happily, Guy Morpuss anchors his not-too-distant future in an assembly of engaging personalities – five individuals…

Deity: throne of blood?

The ‘six stories’ series is near the top of my must-read list, and the opportunity to read a new one is set aside to be savoured at leisure. Wesolowski has refined his inventive format with each episode, gradually revealing his secrets from six intersecting perspectives. Every single one of these witness statements comes from an…

The Dark: Antarctic isolation

Imagine being marooned for many months with half a dozen strangers, in the harshest environment on earth, quite literally in the dark. That’s where doctor Kate goes, to an Antarctic research station, to over-winter with the skeleton crew. She’s hiding from a series of tragic mistakes she made in her personal and professional life –…