Book reviews: Crime and mystery take star billing for spring

Crime and mystery take star billing for spring

Crime and mystery take star billing for spring

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Crime fiction fans are in for a treat as a new season of reading gets off to a murderous start.

Meet a woman trapped in a coma but convinced that someone is trying to kill her, enjoy the last explosive chapter of a dark and gritty gangland trilogy and join a brilliant, seasoned detective facing one of his most baffling cases yet.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

It’s a terrifying scenario… Amber Reynolds is in a coma, she knows she’s in danger but can’t move, speak or open her eyes to fight for her life.

Can she force herself to wake up before it’s too late?

Alice Feeney, who spent 16 years at the BBC working as a reporter, news editor, arts and entertainment producer and One O’clock News producer, kicks off her novel-writing career with a subtle but electrifying thriller, a dark and malevolent story positively crackling with tension and with more twists and turns than Hampton Court maze.

When 35-year-old radio presenter Amber Reynolds wakes up in hospital, she is aware that ‘something very bad’ has happened to her but she can’t remember what or when. She is in a coma, able to think but unable to speak, move or open her eyes to see.

Terrified and trapped like ‘a ghost’ inside her own body, she wonders why her author husband Paul isn’t at her side… and then she remembers that Paul doesn’t love her any more.

Amber has no memories of what happened to her but she knows with unwavering certainty that her husband had something to do with it. She also knows that sometimes she tells lies, but now someone else is lying and she has a strong sense that her life is in danger.

As the history of Amber’s teenage years, work and marriage start to unravel, we gain glimpses of her insecurities, obsessions and rivalries, but can she make herself heard before the danger overtakes her?

Sometimes I Lie is a stunning debut as Feeney plays with both our perceptions of the truth, and our understanding of the motives and machinations of her cast of intriguing and superbly drawn characters.

Amber is a self-confessed liar and classic unreliable narrator; as her troubled past and present slowly unfold through her damaged memory bank so the tensions rise and the uncertainties increase to boiling point.

And even the most astute readers are in danger of falling prey to a dense and enthralling web of dark secrets as they seek to divine the accuracy of Amber’s account and the events leading up to her admission to hospital.

Intelligent, provocative and utterly gripping, this is a bold and addictive debut from an exciting new author.

(HQ, paperback, £7.99)

The Killer by Susan Wilkins

Gangland crime fans who thrilled to the first two books in Susan Wilkins’ dark and gritty Kaz Phelps trilogy are lapping up the last explosive chapter of what has been a stark and stylish debut series.

Wilkins, author of numerous scripts for TV shows ranging from Casualty and Heartbeat to Coronation Street and EastEnders, also created and wrote the London-based detective drama South of the Border which was made into two BBC series.

In a break from her screen work, Wilkins’ first Kaz Phelps novel, The Informant , was published in 2014 and followed swiftly by The Mourner… two hard-hitting and riveting stories of ruthless criminals, corrupt cops, tough women and the villainy that operates on both sides of the law.

The Killer brings this brutal, graphic and action-packed odyssey to a blistering conclusion as Wilkins moves into top gear for a hair-raising ride through contemporary London, from the glass towers of the capital’s super-rich to the down-and-dirty back streets of organised crime and blackmail.

As a drug-fuelled teenage tearaway, Kaz Phelps took the rap for her cold and psychopathic little brother Joey over a bungled armed robbery and went to jail. Six years later she was released on licence determined to escape the violence and abuse of her Essex gangster family.

It didn’t quite work out that way thanks to the actions of Joey and since then she has been on the run from the past, from the legacy of her family, from the haunting memories of her murdered lover Helen Warner and from Joey’s recent death.

Now the police want her back in jail and her many enemies want her dead. While standing by Joey’s grave, Kaz realises her only option is to fight back if she wants any sort of life.

Nicci Armstrong, who was one of the Met’s best detectives until personal tragedy forced her to quit, is working in security, a minder responsible for the protection of the super-rich who use London as a playground.

After Joey’s funeral descended into a brutal gunfight, the police enlisted her help as one of the few people Kaz might trust. But Nicci's biggest mistake yet is falling in love with Detective Inspector Tom Rivlin, a man she knows is only using her to put Kaz back inside.

Meanwhile, as envious rivals back home plot against him, a Russian billionaire searches for a special gift to keep the Kremlin onside, a disgraced politician dreams of revenge and a Turkish drug baron plots to purge his dishonour with blood.

Kaz knows they all pose a threat to her… and she must use every ounce of her wits and strength just to stay alive.

Survival and revenge are the keywords as Kaz and Nicci face treachery, terrifying dangers and constant suspicion as they take on enemies more powerful and more vicious than they have yet encountered. Both know that they are the targets of cold-blooded killers but these two tough cookies are a match for any adversary.

Wilkins ratchets up the tension as the cat-and-mouse, life-and-death game hurtles towards a suitably gripping finale, leaving the door to a new outing ever so slightly but tantalisingly ajar.

(Macmillan, hardback, £12.99)

Another One Goes Tonight by Peter Lovesey

A late night police car crash turns into a murder inquiry for Bath’s brilliant Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond in a baffling new case that poses a distressing personal dilemma for the city’s super sleuth.

Another One Goes Tonight is the 16th outing for dynamic detective Diamond and his creator Peter Lovesey, an award-winning crime writer who has been delighting us with his clever and entertaining mystery novels for well over 40 years.

Lovesey won a competition with his first crime novel, Wobble to Death, in 1970 and has never looked back, with his numerous books winning or being shortlisted for nearly all the prizes in the international crime writing world. He was chairman of the Crime Writers’ Association and has been presented with Lifetime Achievement awards both in the UK and the US.

His fans adore his complex, perfectly plotted mysteries and the Peter Diamond series, which focus on a CID boss with a fine line in detection and cynicism, is that tantalisingly perfect blend of intrigue and humour.

When a police car crashes, killing one of the officers inside, Diamond, an acknowledged master at rooting out murder, is more than a little put out at being diverted to Professional Standards by his abrasive boss, Assistant Chief Constable Georgina Dallymore, to make enquiries into the accident.

Diamond arrives late at the scene but in no time he discovers another victim of the crash. An elderly man, found beside his battered tricycle, is lying unconscious and unnoticed after being thrown on to a high embankment.

His training immediately takes over and Diamond administers CPR to the injured man until an ambulance crew arrives and whisks him away to hospital. No one can say whether he will pull through but administering the life-saving technique has formed an emotional bond between the seasoned detective and the victim.

However, questions remain about why the man been out in the middle of the night with an urn containing human ashes which is found in his tricycle saddle bag and Diamond’s suspicions grow after he identifies the accident victim as Ivor Pellegrini, a well-known local eccentric and railway enthusiast.

A search of Pellegrini’s workshop at his home proves beyond question that he is involved in a series of uninvestigated deaths and while the elderly man lingers on life support, Diamond wrestles with the appalling possibility that he has saved the life of a serial killer…

With his trademark style, elegance and eye for forensic detail, Lovesey takes us through a mesmerising maze of clues and conundrums as the wonderfully wise and witty Diamond follows his instincts and tries to make sense of a fascinating case packed with revelations and wrong turns.

And there is no greater satisfaction for crime fiction fans than to witness Lovesey’s enviable talent for tying up what seem to be disparate loose ends into a perfectly constructed conclusion.

A feast of mystery from a master storyteller…

(Sphere, paperback, £8.99)