The first crop of crime-thrillers of the year is a stunning selection… which bodes well for the rest of 2018. So here are the recent arrivals on our reading shelf. Check out the plot-twisting psychological thrillers, slightly sinister Nordic noir, authentic police procedurals, a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, hardboiled and hard-edged black humour, Inspector Montalbano, and a selection of strong-willed female protagonists – plus what might just be the magnum opus of one of crime fiction’s greatest writers…
DARK GAME by Rachel Lynch
The first story in a new series featuring DI Kelly Porter – who’s recently returned home to the Lake District after scandal forced her out of the Met. She picks up an old, cold case which shocked the local community; the abduction and brutal murder of a ten-year-old girl. Meanwhile, Kelly also investigates two seemingly straightforward crimes: one involving an illegal immigrant, and a robbery following the death of a local businessman. But as she digs into the details, Kelly discovers evidence of criminal activity far darker than she’d imagined. Behind the veneer of sleepy, touristy towns lies a dark and dangerous underworld. As Kelly threatens to expose those with much to lose, she risks paying the ultimate price to get to the truth…
LAST TRAIN TO HELSINGØR by Heidi Amsinck
This Danish author is unusual in that she writes in English, exploring the shadows of Scandinavian society in a series of short stories. This collection of darkly chilling but entertaining tales ranges from the commuter who bitterly regrets falling asleep on a late-night train, to the mushroom hunter prepared to kill to guard her secret. Copenhagen becomes a city of twilight and shadows, as canny antique dealers and property sharks get their comeuppance at the hands of old ladies, and ghosts act in most peculiar ways. You may recognise some of the stories which have been dramatised for radio – they’re the perfect introduction to Nordic noir if you’ve wondered what all the fuss is about.
DEADWEIGHT by Chris Graham
The paperback edition will shortly join the already-available ebook in this series about sassy amateur sleuth Lena – who happens to work in ‘the oldest profession’ and who has a collection of extremely useful contacts who help her solve mysteries in the west of England.
In Deadweight, the corporate interests of weight loss and pornography combine, making big money for some seriously bad guys. When young girls across the country start dying mysteriously, questions are asked. These deaths are certainly suspicious, but does that mean it’s murder? And who will be the next to die? Lena’s friends in the police aim to find out – and stop the body count rising.
DIRE COVENANTS by MD Ironz
The first book to feature American police officers DS Donald Dombrowski and Detective Katie Callahan. The pair start investigating what looks like a suicide… and end up unravelling a full-scale conspiracy which spans shady real estate scams, illicit mobile drug labs, money laundering, kidnapping, extortion and murder. As the detectives get closer to the truth, so the threat level rises. Pretty soon they’re operating outside the lines at considerable personal risk – but a clock is ticking. Can they nail the culprits before another young woman is killed?
THE SHERLOCK EFFECT by Raymond Kay Lyon
Originally published 20 years ago, this collection features five intertwined investigations in the spirit of the greatest detective. The protagonist originally hated his middle name – ‘Sherlock’ of course – with which his Holmes-obsessed father had burdened him. But in later life he discovers he’s inherited a similar fixation, and starts up a detective agency of his own, Baskerville’s. His speciality? Rigid application of the Holmesian method, which is demonstrated in these stories of a stalking stranger; abduction by UFO (or not); protection against death threats; a case of kidnapping, and weird wedding plans after a wealthy widower meets his Ms Right…
BRIGUELLA by Vicki FitzGerald
A debut novel from a new British author, who’s won much applause for this gripping psychological thriller. It combines ‘authentic forensic detail’ with ‘breathless tension’, as journalist Kate Rivendale becomes embroiled in the manhunt for a seven-times serial killer. The authorities have no suspect, only one forensic link dating back to the 1930s. The investigating police officer has too many deaths on his conscience and desperately needs to salvage his career. He persuades Kate to go undercover, a decision which backfires with devastating consequences…
EL CAJON by Joel Shapiro
A dark, sultry, action-packed crime thriller, featuring the capricious, gin-soaked, drug-addled Haim Baker – a tough, troubled, private eye in the grand tradition of American hardboiled noir.
Bouncing back from a failed suicide attempt, Baker finds himself living alone in the sweltering sidestreets of San Diego, renting a tiny room in a hoarder’s house, trying to stay off the booze while popping pills and praying for a new case. It comes with a wallop, dragging him into the dark underbelly of El Cajon where he must face the most powerful, dangerous psychopath in the city.
THE PYRAMID OF MUD by Andrea Camilleri
The stalwart Sicilian detective returns in his 22nd adventure, which features the usual cast of eccentric characters. If the plot sounds familiar, then you may have already seen the TV adaptation (but best check your bookshelves lest you buy a duplicate of a different format edition!). The investigation starts with a dead man on a construction site, entombed by a sea of mud from days of rain. Montalbano has to figure out what the dying man was trying to communicate when he struggled to reach the construction site – all the evidence points to the corrupt world of construction and public contracts, a situation just as slimy and impenetrable as the mud itself…
ROBICHEAUX by James Lee Burke
Every one of the Robicheaux stories is as much an examination of American social history as it is a criminal investigation, written in lyrical, literary prose which perfectly captures the cadence and conflicts of the Deep South. There’s always a criminal case to solve, but the real action takes place underneath the surface.
This time, detective Dave Robicheaux’s sins and omissions return to haunt him. He’s plagued by recurrent nightmares about Vietnam, his battle with alcoholism, and the loss of his beloved wife. During a murder investigation, Robicheaux discovers he’s among the possible suspects – and may have committed the homicide he’s investigating. As he works to clear his name and make sense of the murder, Robicheaux encounters a cast of characters and a resurgence of dark social forces that threaten to destroy all of those whom he loves.
This story promises to be not only a thrilling novel, but a harrowing study of America: this nation’s abiding conflict between a sense of past grandeur and a legacy of shame, its easy seduction by demagogues and wealth, and its predilection for violence and revenge. It’s unlikely to be easy going, but this may well be the great American crime novel from one of the genre’s grandmasters.
Start a gripping new crime-thriller series with FIRST CONTRACT
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More ripping reads will follow in our next round-up.
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