Harriet Waugh

Recent crime novels

Rumpole is back with us. In Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer (Viking, £16.99) Rumpole is writing his memoirs and looks back on his first murder case when, as a pupil in a lazy barristers’ chambers, he takes over the defence of a young man accused of murdering his father and his father’s closest wartime friend. The chambers are lead by C. H. Wystan, QC, the father of Hilda (She Who Must Be Obeyed), and the reader learns for the first time how Rumpole succumbs to her demands and marries her. Very funny it is too.

Henning Mankell appears to be getting bored with his policeman hero, the middle-aged, pessimistic Kurt Wallander. His previous novel, The Return of the Dancing Master, tried out a different, younger detective, and now, in Before the Frost (Harvill, £14.99), Wallander’s slightly tiresome daughter Linda takes a starring role.

Linda has decided to become a policewoman and joins the force in Ystad where her father works. Given to tantrums, she slaps his face in his office and boasts of it to his subordinates. It is difficult to like her, but we are told that she will gradually take the place of Wallander so we had better get used to her. Perhaps she will become wiser as she gets older.

The case concerns a number of attacks on animals and then the discovery of the severed head of a woman with her hands locked in prayer. Wallander fears that some crazy fundamentalist group is at work. Meanwhile an old school friend of Linda’s disappears after claiming she caught sight of her father whom she has not seen since she was a small child. Wallander is slow to take his daughter’s fears seriously, which provokes her. Though gradually the two cases are tied together, the story unravels all too predictably.

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