The greatest rogue in Europe

24 February 2010
Birthright: The True Story that Inspired Kidnapped A. Roger Ekirch

WW Norton, pp.258, 17.99

On 11 November 1743, the most sensational trial of the 18th century opened in the Four Courts in Dublin. The plaintiff, James Annesley, claimed that his uncle, Richard Annesley, the… Read more


Throw it in a stream

24 February 2010
Message From An Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love Xinran

Chatto and Windus, pp.224, 12.99

I know a British couple with a Chinese daughter, pretty and fluent in English. Of course the little girl was adopted. It is necessary to steel one’s self against three… Read more


From gloom to dispair

17 February 2010
The Man from Beijing Henning Mankell

Harvill Secker, pp.367, 17.99

In little more than a decade, the cosy world of Anglo-American crime fiction has been transformed by wave after wave of Scandinavian invaders. Some, like Steig Larsson, are suddenly parachuted… Read more

Recent crime novels

27 January 2010

Blue Lightning (Macmillan, £16.99) is the fourth novel in Ann Cleeves’ excellent Shetland quartet. Blue Lightning (Macmillan, £16.99) is the fourth novel in Ann Cleeves’ excellent Shetland quartet. It is… Read more

Recent crime novels

25 November 2009

Fever of the Bone (Little, Brown, £18.99) is the sixth novel in Val McDermid’s Jordan and Hill series. Fever of the Bone (Little, Brown, £18.99) is the sixth novel in… Read more

Adored friends

25 November 2009
No Invitation Required: The Pelham Cottage Years Annabel Goldsmith

Weidenfeld, pp.179, 16.99

Years ago the late ‘Brookie’ Warwick, 8th Earl, asked me to ghost his memoirs. Years ago the late ‘Brookie’ Warwick, 8th Earl, asked me to ghost his memoirs. In conversation… Read more

Reader, beware

11 November 2009
Telling Tales: A History of Literary Hoaxes Melissa Katsoulis

Constable, pp.328, 8.99

In this diverting, well-written history of deceitful and counterfeit literature through the ages, Telling Tales, Melissa Katsoulis chronicles a variety of fraudsters and fibsters, and their motives for hoodwinking the… Read more

New departures

14 October 2009
The Complaints Ian Rankin

Orion, pp.429, 18.99

Dark Entries Ian Rankin

Titan Books, pp.216, 14.99

For a crime writer, success comes with its dark side. As Conan Doyle learned to his cost, your readers often become obsessively attached to your series hero, while you yourself… Read more

Good women and bad men

7 October 2009
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest Stieg Larsson

Maclehose Press, pp.599, 18.99

Just in case you hadn’t guessed after nearly 1,800 pages of the ‘Millennium’ trilogy, the late Stieg Larsson has his alter-ego hero Mikel Blomkvist spell it out. Just in case… Read more

A dogged foe

7 October 2009
The Monster in the Box Ruth Rendell

Hutchinson, pp.277, 18.99

Old detectives rarely die — or age, for that matter: Poirot is forever 60, Sherlock Holmes 50, P. D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh a handsome 38 or so.  Old detectives rarely… Read more

At sixes and fives

13 May 2009
Inside British Intelligence: 100 Years of MI5 and MI6 Gordon Thomas

JR Books, pp.430, 20

A passage in that most insidiously influential of histories, 1066 And All That, tries to explain who the Scots, Irish and Picts really were: The Scots (originally Irish, but by… Read more

Fatal attractions

29 April 2009
The Oxford Despoiler Gary Dexter

Old Street Publishing, pp.256, 12.99

Twisted Wing Ruth Newman

Long Barn Books, pp.320, 9.99

Windows on the Moon Alan Brownjohn

Black Spring Press, pp.402, 15

The Oxford Despoiler, by Gary Dexter Twisted Wing, by Ruth Newman Windows on the Moon, by Alan Brownjohn The Oxford Despoiler is a collection of eight stories introducing Henry St… Read more

Recent crime novels

25 March 2009

The Ignorance of Blood (Harper Collins, £17.99) is the fourth of Robert Wilson’s novels to feature Inspector Javier Falcon of Seville, and it completes a planned quartet examining some of… Read more


Mysteries of Paris

11 March 2009
The Chalk Circle Man Fred Vargas, translated by Si

Harvill Secker, pp.247, 12.99

Fred Vargas — nom-de-plume of the French archaeologist and historian Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau — took to writing crime novels in 1991. Among the many unusual aspects of her books is the… Read more

A choice of crime novels

21 January 2009

Ruth Rendell’s Kingsmarkham series is set against the changing backdrop of a provincial town over more than 40 years. But her London-based books, though they lack recurring characters and locations,… Read more

Plagued by plagiarism

29 December 2008
And Then There Was No One Gilbert Adair

Faber, pp.258, 14.99

And Then There Was No One, by Gilbert Adair And Then There Was No One is a metaphysical murder mystery, a deconstructionist detective story, a post-modern puzzle — all of… Read more

Unkind hearts and Jews

12 December 2008
Israel Rank Roy Horniman

Faber Finds, pp.414, 15

Israel Rank, by Roy Horniman It was the second or third time that I ever saw Kind Hearts and Coronets that I noticed in the opening credits: ‘Based on the… Read more

Dark and creepy

10 December 2008
The Folio Book of Historical Mysteries Ian Pindar (editor)

The Folio Society, pp.396, 24.95

The Folio Book of Historical Mysteries, edited by Ian Pindar This book, which is a collection of 20 essays on events and people from history, first seriously caught my attention… Read more

Deadlier than the male

26 November 2008

When does a novel stop being a novel and become a crime story? It’s often assumed that there is an unbridgeable gap between them, but that’s not necessarily so. When… Read more