Rapid reviews: six of the best

What have you been reading during lockdown? We’ve gone for a classic espionage thriller, a smattering of short sharp stabs, an angry, radical thriller and a masterclass in modern American literature. All of them turned out to be four- or five-star high fliers. Take your pick… SS-GB by Len Deighton This may be in the…

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…

The Dead Student: stylish psychological suspense

You can rely on John Katzenbach to turn out a gripping psychological thriller, and The Dead Student is no exception. Katzenbach creates some truly memorable characters and this time around it’s the bad guy who steals the show. This sociopathic stalker has been taking slo-mo revenge on the classmates who betrayed him decades ago. He’s…

Crime Syndicate Issue One: pitch perfect pulp fiction

Hard-hitting yet big-hearted, this new series of crime fiction kicks off with a collection of hardboiled tales of corruption, adultery, payback, intrigue and outrage. Some short story collections are themed around a time of year or special event. CSM takes a different approach with a guest editor, a notable writer from the criminal (fiction…) community,…

Peckerwood: a rough-edged romp with the rednecks

Backwoods American noir is all the rage right now – I’ve read a half dozen this year already – and Peckerwood is among the best of them. It takes all the usual ingredients – small-town sheriff, probably corrupt; meth-labs and whore-houses run a by local hard man; three-time losers looking for a big score; wayward…