In and out of every dive

23 June 2010
Noir Robert Coover

Duckworth, pp.224, 12.99

Robert Coover’s Noir is a graphic novel. Robert Coover’s Noir is a graphic novel. Not literally, in the contemporary sense in which the phrase is used to designate a highfalutin… Read more


Out for blood

16 June 2010
The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner Stephenie Meyer

Atom, pp.178, 11.99

Unless you have spent the last couple of years packed in soil on a boat bound for Whitby, you will have noticed that vampires are back in fashion. It’s an… Read more


The loss of innocents

16 June 2010
The Missing Boy Rachel Billington

Orion, pp.304, 18.99

Forgetting Zo Ray Robinson

Heinemann, pp.278, 12.99

Here are two novels about that most harrowing and haunting of subjects — children who go missing. Here are two novels about that most harrowing and haunting of subjects —… Read more


Cherchez la femme

12 May 2010
The Temptress: The Scandalous Life of Alice, Countess de Janzé Paul Spicer

Simon & Schuster, pp.308, 14.99

The 22nd Earl of Erroll, Military Secretary in Kenya in the early part of the second world war, was described by two of his fellow peers of the realm as… Read more


Red faces in the galleries

21 April 2010
The Conman: How One Man Fooled the Modern Art Establishment Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

Gibson Square, pp.327, 14.99

Art fraudsters, especially forgers, have a popular appeal akin to Robin Hood. Their cock-a-snook cunning provides a twist on those money shots on the Antiques Roadshow when some dotty great… Read more


Missing link

31 March 2010
The Shadows in the Street Susan Hill

Chatto & Windus, pp.372, 12.99

In times of anxiety or confusion the most effective palliative is a good detective story. The requirement is that a sense of justice be restored, and, paradoxically, given the fictional… Read more


Exotic Cuban underworld

17 March 2010
Our GG in Havana Pedro Juan Gutierrez, translated by John King

Faber, pp.150, 9.99

Before the revolución of 1959, Havana was, effectively, a mafia fleshpot and colony of Las Vegas. Before the revolución of 1959, Havana was, effectively, a mafia fleshpot and colony of… Read more


Street eloquence

10 March 2010
Even the Dogs Jon McGregor

Bloomsbury, pp.208, 12.99

The title of Jon McGregor’s third novel derives from an anecdote told by one of the many vivid, dispossessed characters whose voices burst from its pages: Steve is a homeless… Read more


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