Nightingale: a hellblazing anti-hero

This is a chunky collection of ripping yarns, which blend tall tales of the X-Files type into a series of contemporary gumshoe stories. In a book of two very different halves, the opening episodes are set in a convincingly realised, scruffy south London. The spookynatural aspects of the story are taken at face value but…

The Fairfax Incident: a PI in the Prohibition era

The title sounds like an X-Files episode, doesn’t it? Instead this is a ‘golden age’ gumshoe story. It kicks off as a private investigation into the apparent suicide of a wealthy businessman – but soon it’s obvious that there’s a lot more going on than a bit of slap and tickle on the side… New…

The Woman In The Woods: a darkening descent

Many readers typically discuss the darker, arcane side of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series but – as the 16th book brilliantly demonstrates – there’s a solid private detective story at the core of this convoluted story. So while a dark cabal plots the end of everything and the rise of apocalyptic gods, social issues and…

El Cajon: hard and fast Americana

A double-barrelled blast of hardboiled noir in the grand tradition of Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane, El Cajon takes all the clichés of 1930s American pulp and delivers them in savage 21st century style. The femme fatale, the corrupt cops, the wounded psyche of the underdog, the acerbic social commentary and genuine moral outrage –…

Femme Fatale: a rollicking romp

It doesn’t matter if you’ve not read the two earlier encounters with Daniel Beckett, the Soho-based private investigator, raconteur, womaniser, fashionista, badass mofo and international man of mystery – you pretty much get the measure of the man in the opening three chapters of Femme Fatale. He flirts, fights, flirts some more, struts his peacock…

Wolves In The Dark: a hunted man

This Norwegian investigation started off brilliantly. Private eye Varg Veum is ensnared in a savage trap, one sprung by his own degeneracy. During a period of emotional turmoil, Veum descended into the broke and barely-functioning chaos of an alcoholic binge which lasted several years. Now in recovery, with the promise of a stable relationship on…

Missing: pulp fiction on the spooky side

A short novel or a long short story, this well-written gumshoe yarn takes a staple of the old-school PI genre and mixes it with something rather more… sinister. The ex-cop protagonist is, inevitably, something of a loner, and author William Markham pays homage to all the genre requirements – a regular old-style diner for breakfast…

Varg Veum: a wolf comes a-calling

In an extended moment of muppetry, I avoided reading Gunnar Staalesen’s Varg Veum series for decades. Every time a new episode featuring the Norwegian private detective arrived, my vision was averted. I looked the other way, put off by back-cover blurbs which compared the books to Henning Mankell, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. That old…

Two Nights: a killer comeback

It’s brilliant when an established author comes out biting, gouging and punching below the belt with a revitalised zest for telling a rip-snorting story. That’s pretty much what’s happened here, with this new standalone thriller from one of the genre’s heavy hitters. Although I find forensic anthropology and the scientific analysis of crime scenes fascinating,…