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…

A Deadly Divide: Canada’s cultural schism

I’m a fan of ‘international crime’ in general and of Canadian thrillers in particular, and of novels which use this genre to get to grips with difficult issues. So although this was my first encounter with Detective Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty, the situation – a small Quebecois community – grabbed me straight away. So…

Wolves At The Door: it begins where others end

This Scandi detective story can be seen as the companion piece to the earlier Wolves In The Dark, and you should read that episode in the Varg Veum series before starting this one. Otherwise, it’s tricky to pick up the threads of the earlier story – which is convoluted enough – before you become embroiled…

The Seven Experiments: manifest destiny

What if… you could have it all? Wealth. Health. Youth. Power. A fancy house. A garage full of fast cars. The objects of your desire, immediately available. And what if it could start with something as simple as want? Wanting, and then getting. That’s the lure of this thoroughly entertaining morality tale – one which…