The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup | Books
Murder Before Evensong by Richard Coles (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £16.99)
The first in a projected series from the pop star turned vicar and memoirist, Murder Before Evensong takes place in the late 1980s in the English village of Champton. This pleasant and cozy detective story contains all the necessary conditions: a social hierarchy ranging from aristocrats to inhabitants of semi-savage woods; afternoon tea shots and parochial intrigues; charming pets; and a body in the church. There are plenty of fascinating liturgical affairs, though clergy detective Canon Daniel Clement, a slightly exasperated but accommodating fellow with little backcountry, is yet to make a big impression. We first meet him using a biblical text to persuade his congregation of the need for a toilet at the back of the church. This becomes the center of a debate about the dangers of subverting the status quo and leads to a series of fatal events. The aptly named DS Vanloo duly investigates, but the telling manner of the ending is religiously appropriate rather than compelling.
Tokyo Express by Seichō Matsumoto, translated by Jesse Kirkwood (Penguin Classics, £12.99)
The railway mystery is another staple of Golden Age detective fiction, and this tale of timetables was the debut novel by bestselling writer Seichō Matsumoto (1909-1992). First published in Japan in 1958 and never out of print, it has been reprinted in the UK in a new translation. When ministry official Kenichi Sayama and waitress Toki Kuwayama are found dead in a creek on the island of Kyushu, next to a bottle that appears to have contained juice containing cyanide, it is believed to be a suicide pact between lover. However, neither local detective Jūtarō Torigai nor his Tokyo-based colleague Kiichi Mihara agree with this explanation: the two men were seen boarding the train from the capital the day before their bodies were discovered and the anomalies continue to emerge. pile up, and the ministry where Sayama worked is bogged down. in a corruption scandal. No revelations here, but intuition coupled with hard detective work and a palpable sense of frustration, as the two men go back and forth along the line – maps and diagrams provide clarification – trying to solve the mystery of this ingeniously traced history.
Wake by Shelley Burr (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99)
This outstanding debut album from Australian newcomer Burr is set in the outback town of Nannine, in the arid landscape of rural New South Wales. When Mina McCreery was nine years old, her twin, Evelyn, was kidnapped. 19 years later, the million dollar reward offered by her late mother to anyone who can find her has still not been claimed. Mina, traumatized and defensive, now leads a reclusive life on the isolated family farm and the case, which has generated intense media interest, continues to be debated enthusiastically on internet forums for armchair crime solvers. When private detective Lane Holland offers his services to Mina, her declared interest is the reward, but he has an ulterior motive and a connection to Nannine that he hasn’t shared with her. With a slow build and complex characters, it’s both a well-traced, gripping mystery and a sensitive exploration of the aftermath of trauma.
Sun Damage by Sabine Durrant (Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99)
Set in the south of France, Durrant’s latest novel is the story of Ali who, after a “shitshow” childhood and late teens spent scamming children in India, is taken over by Sean, a con artist. older, more experienced and very controlling. As the pair made their way through several countries, Ali had come to distrust and at times fear his mentor, and the morally uneasy nature of their business got to him. On the French Riviera, Lulu fresh off the plane seems the perfect mark, and Ali reluctantly complies with Sean’s plans – but when things go wrong, she escapes with €260,000 of her money and the luggage and Lulu’s identity, replacing her as cook for a gang of wealthy vacationers at a villa. Hoping not to be scolded, or found out by Sean, she wants a fresh start but still looks over her shoulder… Claustrophobic and suspenseful, with an engaging narrator and a satisfying twist: perfect poolside reading.
Aurora by David Koepp (HQ, £14.99)
This thrilling Michael Crichton-like thriller from American screenwriter Koepp (Carlito’s Way, Jurassic Park) posits that a geomagnetic storm hits Earth and leaves most of the planet without power. Everything from communications and lighting to refrigeration and supply chains come to an abrupt halt and, with food and fuel becoming scarce, law and order begin to break down. Tech billionaire Thom Banning retreats with his family to a specially purchased bunker in the Utah desert, but he’s counted without the human element, and things don’t go as planned. Meanwhile, in suburban Aurora, Illinois, Thom’s sister Aubrey, completely caught off guard and struggling with a sulky teenage stepson, uses her wits to survive – while her ex-husband bad-for-nothing does his best to profit from the disaster. It’s a tightly plotted and atmospheric single-sitting read with characters you’ll invest in as the world around them spins out of control.