Masters of Murder: short, sharp stabs

This is a clever confection of 15 tales of the unexpected, in which someone deserving dies an appropriate death – and the killer gets away scot-free thanks to meticulous planning and fancy footwork. For such a dark subject, these stories offer an implausible helping of fun as you attempt to second-guess the plot twists: who…

The Conviction: vigilante action

This would make a great movie. In fact, The Conviction strongly reminds me of a sci-fi flick from the late 1990s, Cube, in which a group of strangers navigate their way through a sequence of lethal puzzles trying to discover why they’ve been abducted. The Conviction features a similar theme, with locked rooms containing potentially…

One Last Prayer For The Rays: gritty BritCrime

This is no humdrum parochial British police procedural – in fact, with all the pigs, blood, gore, kidnapping and brutality it’s more like Hannibal than Morse. Which of course snagged my attention at the get-go… The gruesome abduction of a loner schoolboy is just the start of a deftly executed campaign of revenge against an…

Dead Reckoning: ugly things, beautifully written

Steel yourself for sixteen stories from the dark side; sinister slivers of broken and bloodied lives which blur genre boundaries to form a distinctly unsettling compendium. Several are bite-size rapid reads, others explore human frailty at greater length. They’re all united by the author’s distinctive voice which is unconventional and often complex. Dino Parenti crafts…

Ice Cold Alice: a pitiless killer on a moral mission

  Stand by for what might be THE outstanding opening chapter of the year. ‘Ice Cold Alice’ grabs you by the blimey-o-rileys and rattles your sensibilities until your eyes water and your stomach churns. We meet Alice in the worst way possible as she inflicts a pitiless penalty on a worthless excuse for a human.…

Livia Lone: a killer woman

  Stop right here if you can’t abide a moral crusade. Right on the zeitgeist, author Barry Eisler follows in the footsteps of writers like Andrew Vachss with his latest standalone thriller. The protagonist is Livia who, superficially, looks like the typical kickass feisty female vigilante investigator. She has Olympic class martial arts skills, gets…

In Cold Blood: desert storm

Beatrix Rose is a special agent cut from the Jason Bourne cloth. She’s a dead shot with any weapon, be it a 9mm handgun, a H&K automatic, a throwing knife or a khurkuri blade (presented to her by a grateful ghurka, inevitably). She’s a planner par excellence, multilingual, resourceful and with friends in high places…

Three Twisted Stories: surprising from start to finish

One novella, two short stories. All utterly unexpected – not least because I’d grabbed this anthology thinking it was by one of my favourite Scandinavian authors, Karin Fossum. Oops. Instead, the writer is another famous name in crime-thrillers, Karin Slaughter. Easy mistake to make… although their books are radically different. Fossum’s idiosyncratic police procedural featuring…

The Son: exploring the sins of the father

The Son is a skilful Scandinavian interpretation of that favourite crime-thriller staple: the revenge story. It covers the usual ground: an unjustly convicted / victimised protagonist who experiences a moment of revelation; turns the table on his tormentors, wreaks rather gory and well-deserved retaliation upon all those associated with his downfall – but in an…