Category > Crime fiction

The Dead Pass

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 The Dead Pass, Colin Bateman , book reviewWhen Belfast private detective Dan Starkey is approached by Moira Doherty about her missing son Billy, he is none too pleased. Sure, he needs the money that a new case will bring in, but this one means hiking all the way out to Derry. He drops the kindly old woman back at the bus station with every intention of turning the case down, but when the concerned mother turns out to have been a political firebrand and professional anarchist from back in the day, the case gets more interesting for him. Against his better judgement, he heads out to Derry. Moira, however, is nowhere to be found and the city is in upheaval after a body has been found on the city’s Peace Bridge. Starkey quickly finds himself in a seedy underworld of drugs, porn and a host of unpleasant characters intent on creating a new generation of mayhem in Northern Ireland.


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The House of Dolls

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 The House of Dolls, David Hewson, book reviewPieter Vos is a top cop felled by dope and the disappearance of his daughter Anneliese three years ago, a disappearance that all his sleuthing skills was unable to crack. As a result he lost his partner to the politician Wim Prins and all interest in life. However, Vos is recalled to life and Marnixstraat police bureau Amsterdam by the eerily similar disappearance of Prins’ daughter Katja – even though Prins refuses to believe that she has been kidnapped because the girl is a drug addict.

Vos is dragged into police work again by the klutzy Bakker, a country bumpkin with red hair known as ‘the aspirant’ and made fun of by the big city cops.


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The Golem of Hollywood

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The Golem of Hollywood, Jonathan and Jesse KellermanLAPD detective Jacob Lev sounds – and probably feels – like a bit of a cliché. Single, overworked and a borderline alcoholic, he habitually lets down his blind father Sam, promising to visit then letting work get in the way. Not that his work is interesting any more. Depressed and exhausted, his bosses have reacted to his failing productivity by demoting him to a dull job in the traffic division, crunching numbers that seem to have no effect on anything. Then, one morning, he awakes to find a beautiful brunette in his shabby apartment, who he has apparently spent the night with yet cannot remember meeting. As she leaves, an even greater mystery is about to enter his life – the news that some unspecified aspect of his skill set has seen him transferred from traffic into Special Projects, a unit that apparently no one else has heard of either.


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Crossing the Line

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Crossing the Line, Kerry Wilkinson, book reviewReleased earlier this month, Crossing the Line is the eighth novel in Kerry Wilkinson’s Jessica Daniel series. I haven’t read any of the previous novels, but this one is intriguingly pitched as the start of “season 2”, a place where the plot arc allows new readers to more easily jump on board without feeling lost. For me this worked well; characters were introduced smoothly and gradually, while past events were referred to where necessary without ever feeling you were in the middle of an info-dump aimed at new readers. I had no problems picking this up as a newcomer, and indeed liked it enough to make me want to investigate some of the previous seven books featuring Jessica. It does make me wish that some other long-running novel series would think in terms of “seasons” to help bring new readers into their books without first trawling through an intimidating amount of back story, though.


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A Cut Like Wound

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Cut Like Wound, Anita Nair, book reviewA Cut Like Wound is the latest book by one of my favourite Indian writers, Anita Nair, and it’s a very new direction for her to take.She normally writes about the rotten lot of Indian women or complicated emotionally-charged romances between unlikely people. I certainly wasn’t expecting her to suddenly come out with a crime novel, apparently the first in a yet-to-be written series if the cover blurb of ‘Introducing Inspector Gowda’ is to be believed. I didn’t expect Nair to pack in all her literary fiction and go down the crime route – but of course I knew she’d do it well.

In a dark alley in Bangalore, the charred body of a young male prostitute is found one night by a passing photographer. Whilst initial suspicions are that the man has ‘just’ been set alight, an autopsy shows he shares the same marks around his neck as another man, found elsewhere and killed the same night.


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Ragtime in Simla

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Ragtime in Simla Barbara Cleverly, book reviewRagtime in Simla by Barbara Cleverly is the second of her four novels featuring Comander Joe Sandilands of the Metropolitan Police on secondment to India in the 1920s. It’s the third I’ve read and fits neatly between The Last Kashmiri Rose and The Damascened Blade. Of the three it’s the one I enjoyed the most.

The book doesn’t start in India; instead we kick off with a train accident in France several years earlier in 1919. The train is travelling to the French south coast where Englishwoman Alice Conyers plans to catch a boat to India.


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The Dead Ground

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The Dead Ground by Claire McGowan, book reviewOne of the most memorable review books that I was sent last year was Claire McGowan’s novel The Lost, a book that stood out amongst other crime fiction I read both for its distinctive setting (post-Troubles Northern Ireland) and unusual perspective (missing persons). Having enjoyed it, I finished my review by saying that I looked forward to the inevitable second outing of the story’s protagonist, psychologist Paula Maguire. This return has come pleasingly soon, with The Dead Ground scheduled for general release in April – the lovely people at Headline, however, have sent me an advanced copy that I demolished this weekend with relish.

We return to Paula’s life shortly before Christmas, with snow thick on the ground and the repercussions of her previous case hanging heavily over her head.


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The Damascened Blade

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The Damascened Blade by Barbara Cleverly, book reviewThe time is 1910, the place is India’s North Western Frontier – although strictly speaking under 21st century geography, we’d now call that the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It’s a wild and isolated place peopled by dangerous tribesmen who have traditions of honour that are alien to western minds. When a small group of military men from the Highlanders are attacked by Pathan tribesmen, the order is given to pull out; to leave the dead and bring out the wounded. And if the wounded can’t be rescued, then don’t leave them to the assault of their merciless attackers. One man falls into a ravine and is left behind. A young soldier disobeys the order to retreat, and heads back to help his comrade who is being tortured. He kills the man’s torturers and then does what he knows he must. He puts the man out of his agony with a bullet to the head. And then……..well then you can sit back for another 280 pages of Barbara Cleverly’s book The Damascened Blade before you’ll finally understand what that was all about and how it’s connected to the plot that follows.


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The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress

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The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon, book reviewDuring the early part of the 20th century, there was a rash of public figures that were barely more than puppets for the many gangsters that flourished. From this time comes the story of Judge Joseph Force Crater and his mysterious disappearance on August 6, 1930. The investigation and speculation that followed for decades afterwards, garnered him with the title of “the missingest man in New York.” This cold case has now been fictionally re-opened from a new angle – that of the women in Crater’s life, in Ariel Lawhon’s debut novel The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress.

The fact that this infamous case may not be familiar to most readers should have nothing to do with their decision to read it or not.


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The Last Kashmiri Rose

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The Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly, book reviewThe time is 1922, the place is Calcutta and Commander Joe Sandilands of the Metropolitan Police is packed and ready to head back to England after a six month secondment to the Bengal Police. He can’t wait to get out of the heat and intensity of the city, but his plans to head home are thwarted by a phone call from Sir George Jardine, Active Governor of Bengal asking him to help out with an investigation. The wife of an army officer has been killed in Panikhat about fifty miles out of the city and Sir George’s niece Nancy is married to the local Collector and suspects foul play. Could Sandilands hang on a bit longer and help out? It’s not the sort of offer a police office can really turn down. It might be a chance to see a bit more of the country and there are the undoubted charms of Nancy to attract him to the case. With considerable reluctance and a regret that he’s not on the boat to Blighty, Joe agrees to stay and we get to read his story in Barbara Cleverly’s first Joe Sandilands mystery The Last Kashmiri Rose.


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Someone Else’s Skin

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Someone Else's Skin, Sarah Hilary, book reviewI read a lot of crime fiction. As much as I enjoy it, there is a set formula that most books follow:
Murder.
Flawed hero with loyal sidekick investigate murder.
Plot twists, usually comprising more murders, a few red herrings and (increasingly often) some X-rated sex and/or violence to spice things up.
Flawed hero solves murder(s), quite often with threat to life or property of loyal sidekick.

Sarah Hilary’s Someone Else’s Skin offers the jaded crime fiction fan something a little different. While we still have the flawed hero (DCI Marnie Rome, a detective still suffering from the murder of her parents several years previously) and loyal sidekick (DS Noah Jake), there is actually no murder.


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Death Comes to Pemberley

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Death Comes to Pemberley, P. D. James, book reviewAll of Pemberley is getting ready for the annual Lady Anne Ball, and all seems to be going as planned. That is, until the carriage with Elizabeth’s sister Lydia shows up. She’s all in a tizzy, going on about gunshots in the woods and begging someone to find her husband, fearing for his life. When the search party finds Wickham, he is alive. However, he’s covered in blood and standing above the body of his best friend, Captain Denny. So begins the mystery of the murder of Captain Denny, which will certainly bring scandal on Pemberley and the Darcys, and might end up with Wickham hanging from the gallows. This is Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.

There have been many attempted sequels and prequels to Jane Austen’s novels, with varying degrees of success.


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