Lisa Gardner is one of America’s most successful thriller writers and it is easy to see why. Her writing is lucid, her plots are gripping and she usually tells her readers about unfamiliar facts. In this book one learns about an unusual physical condition in which the subject is incapable of feeling pain. Far from being a useful and desirable quality, it is disabling, since limbs can break, bruise or burn unnoticed. The sufferer here is a psychologist who once a month visits her older sister, a notorious serial killer, in prison. The psychologist is also the therapist to whom Gardner’s cop-heroine D D Warren has been referred, to help her learn how to live with the serious pain she still suffers after a fall. These three women, all in physical or mental agony, are the focus of a very complicated story full of suffering, disgust and despair. Other women are murdered and hideous memories of the two sisters’ brutalised childhood are recalled. Experience taught them that blood represents love. It is all very well done, but does that make it an enjoyable book to read? Gardner is a regular on bestseller lists so obviously many people think so. I don’t.
A plane full of passengers falls out of the sky shortly after take-off from Cardiff airport. It splits in two. The front section bursts into flames; the passengers and crew all perish. The few people sitting at the back survive; one of them, Cecilia, is a member of the cabin crew. She is returned to the policeman husband, baby and home that she had never expected to see again – for when Cecilia went to work that morning, she told her husband she was leaving him and their son. Now she’s back, and stuck. Meanwhile the family of the dead pilot discover more about him than they ever wanted to know and a retired police officer finds that his daughter has disappeared. These separate strands are neatly woven into a gripping, credible human story. Emma Kavanagh was a police and military psychologist who knows many secrets of the human heart. This very well-planned and well-written novel is her first – an excellent start.
The British Library has an interesting sideline in republishing neglected books by forgotten authors. This is the first of thirty detective stories by John Bude, a crime novelist not so much forgotten by contemporary readers as never heard of in the first place, which is a pity, because his books are good examples of the straightforward murder mysteries from the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of crime writing. He had a talent for describing local colour and topography. Cornwall is now a familiar setting for mystery fiction, but when Bude’s novel appeared in 1935 most crime writers were careful not to be geographically specific, possibly to avoid any risk of libel suits – or so the knowledgeable Martin Edwards suggests in his introduction. He points out that The Cornish Coast Murder was published in the same year as Dorothy L Sayers’s Gaudy Night, in which she sought to elevate the detective story into a ‘novel of manners’. In comparison with Sayers’s work – indeed with most of the crime fiction of recent decades – Bude’s books seem quite stodgy and quaint, but they are easy-reading period pieces that deserve to be revived. The British Library is also republishing Bude’s The Lake District Murder alongside this book.
Lineup opens with a young woman who has been raped. Her parents persuade her to go to the police, but detectives can find no clues, so the girl’s father lends a hand. He finds a man lurking near his daughter’s flat, decides he did it and coaches the girl so that she picks him out at a ‘fixed’ line-up. But Nevo, though guilty of other crimes, is not the rapist. He’s a minor criminal, separated from his wife and son and in hiding from the gangster who was his boss. Detective Eli Nachum can’t bring himself to believe that this man is the rapist. Nachum’s integrity and perseverance eventually triumph. Liad Shoham is a lawyer practising in Tel Aviv, as well as being one of Israel’s most successful crime writers. Lineup is the first of his five novels to appear in English. It is interesting to read about the everyday side to Israeli life – with ordinary criminals and characters with ordinary preoccupations. This is also an absorbing crime novel.
It is not so long since stalking was finally designated a criminal act and taken seriously by the police and the courts. This first novel demonstrates vividly how destructive it can be. Clarissa is a university administrator who once made the dangerous mistake of going on a date with a lecturer in her department. Rafe then insists that he and Clarissa are a couple. He won’t accept that she doesn’t want him. He bombards her with unwanted gifts, follows her and anticipates her movements – he is always there. How he finds the time to be on Clarissa’s trail every hour of the day is one of the book’s unsolved mysteries. It is when she starts jury service on a case which unpleasantly parallels her own situation that Clarissa begins to fight back. She begins a diary, keeps every scrap of evidence and tries desperately to live her own life. This is a gripping tale, well written and cleverly plotted, which should be pressed on anyone who still doubts that unwanted adoration is not a compliment but a menace.
If your stepbrother were imprisoned for the vicious murder of your parents, would you choose to work as a police officer? Detective Inspector Marnie Rome – secretive, brilliant and haunted by a whole host of demons – has done just that. In this book she is about to interview a resident in a women’s shelter when she finds one of the women’s husbands lying on the floor, stabbed to death. In this excellent novel readers will learn a good deal about these shelters and why we need them; and that one can escape personal terrors only by confronting them.
This is the final volume of a quartet set in postwar Glasgow featuring Douglas Brodie, much-decorated war hero, much-reviled local crime reporter and much-suspected vigilante. Brodie agrees to deliver the ransom money that will free an important banker from his kidnappers’ hands, but it all goes wrong and Brodie finds himself being arrested by his enemies in the police force and charged with murder. To the rescue comes a motley crew of his advocate girlfriend, a fisherman, a criminal accountant and a more conventional Galahad in the shape of a secret agent. To escape the gallows Brodie fakes his own death and is sprung from prison in a coffin. This is much more of a romp than the earlier books, but it’s one with dark patches.
When Margery Allingham died, her widower, Pip Youngman Carter, took to writing books in her name. Now the veteran crime writer Mike Ripley has picked up the baton, completing an unfinished manuscript started by Pip in his own name. Welcome back to the great detective Albert Campion, now old but still sharp, and to his wife, Lady Amanda Fitton, famous and sharper; and welcome also to a typically Allingham-esque Suffolk village full of peculiar, sinister and nutty people. Enjoy.