The Mist: the last shall be first

In the true tradition of The Bridge, that cornerstone of Nordic noir, the final part of the Hidden Iceland trilogy brilliantly demonstrates that… everything goes back to the beginning. It was a bold choice by author Ragnar Jónasson to tell his story in reverse order, starting with the bitter end of Hulda Hermannsdóttir’s career as…

I May Kill You: an entirely English serial killer

A genteel seaside town on England’s south coast isn’t the usual setting for a homicidal maniac to start stalking his prey – but then, this killer is more than a little unusual. For a start, he sends his intended victims a letter which explains his peculiar personality – thus simultaneously providing the police with potential…

Hitler’s Peace: an alternative war story

Fans of Philip Kerr’s Berlin noir series might be surprised by this standalone story – it’s most definitely not a Bernie Gunther-style thriller. It’s a rigorously researched historical novel with a fictional intrigue woven around actual events and real people; the military men and global leaders whose actions proved pivotal during WW2. You shouldn’t expect…

Neon Prey: an American manhunt

This is the umpteenth book in the long-running Prey series, which started back in 1989 and is still romping along. Over the years, lawman / lothario Lucas Davenport has aged gracefully – and even adopted monogamy – while author John Sandford has covered almost every aspect of ‘this time it’s personal’ serial killer territory. In…

Hammer To Fall: a superb spy story

Where has author John Lawton been hiding all my life? This is, quite simply, the best spy story I’ve read for years. It’s been compared to Le Carre and Alan Furst – but those references aren’t entirely accurate. Hammer To Fall is far more fluid and a lot less pompous than Le Carre’s recent work.…

Two Lives: challenging criminal literature

The seven short stories in this anthology almost defy classification. Their plots might hinge on a sudden moment of criminal madness – theft, murder, rape – but each of these self-contained stories is about something far more subtle, the brutalisation of the soul, perhaps; the subjugation of the self. The author was a police officer…

Victim 2117: Scandi crime on the world stage

After the simply brilliant events of the previous Dept Q Scandi thriller (The Scarred Woman), I was a mite dubious that this long-running series could sustain its momentum with another five-star yarn. Oh, me of little faith. Once author Olsen sets the scene, he lets loose a monstrous snowball of a plot that becomes an…

Black River: that difficult second album

It’s a total cliché that the sequel to an astonishing debut is often disappointing. Author Will Dean deftly sidestepped that situation with his Tuva Moodyson series; the second book (Red Snow) was every bit as good as the first (Dark Pines). But this third venture into the depth of the northern Swedish forest doesn’t quite…

The Coldest Warrior: a spook story from the 1970s

‘The most efficient accident, in simple assassination, is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface.’ That’s how a CIA manual from the early 1950s instructed its agents in the ultimate sanction. And that’s what happened in 1953 to a scientist who may have been involved in MK-ULTRA, the American bio-warfare project…