The Dying Squad: unconvincing afterlife

Normally, I’m a sucker for a supernatural detective story, so figured this life-after-death investigation, in which a dead policeman must find his own murderer, would be straight up my street. It certainly started in five-star style, with the confused Detective Joe Lazarus (what else could he have been called, eh?) being confronted by his own…

Butcher Pen Road: running wild in the backwoods

A dead body found in a sleepy creek in rural Oklahoma – at first glance, this is a city-slicker fisherman, sneaking some fly-time out of season, who’s slipped on the rocks. But tribal policeman Bill Maytubby and country deputy Hannah Bond aren’t so easily fooled. The fish in dead man’s keep-net are all wrong for…

The Colours Of Death: EuroCrime with a telepathic twist

The idea of extra-sensory detectives has been successfully explored by several authors – check out Kay Hooper’s SCU series, Spencer Kope’s Special Tracking Unit, or Nik Morton’s psychic spy Tana Standish. The uber-abilities of the investigator are usually employed within a special psy-cop unit, but with The Colours Of Death author Patricia Marques takes a…

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…

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…