Detective fiction book reviews with Mat Coward
FIVE DECEMBER by James Kestrel (Hard Case Crime, £ 16.99) begins in Honolulu, in December 1941, with Police Detective Joe McGrady investigating a murder.
Following a trail takes him overseas, so he’s not at home when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor takes place. Instead, it is somewhere even worse.
Across three countries and through a world war plus its preamble and epilogue, Joe keeps his murder investigation alive – and in the darkest days, that keeps him alive, too.
I doubt I’ll read a more satisfying novel this year: if you’re looking for a detective story, a war novel, or even a love story, you’ll find them all here. This book is the work of a true craftsman.
The surprising thing about Cartoon daggers, edited by Maxim Jakubowski (Titan, £ 17.99) is that no one has done it before.
It is a collection of 19 stories that over the years have won Britain’s most prestigious award for short fiction, the Crime Writers’ Association’s Short Story Dagger.
Quality and variety are therefore guaranteed, even before checking out the list of contributors which includes Ian Rankin, Julian Rathbone, Denise Mina and Jeffrey Deaver.
A bizarre, original and gripping plot thriller, with elements of science fiction or even fantasy, The follower by Nicholas Bowling (Titan, £ 8.99) sees a young British woman travel to northern California in search of her twin brother.
He was last heard of as a member of a mountain cult, and his last known address was a mansion in Mount Hookey, a place almost entirely devoted to making a living from the followers of Telos.
In a city torn by territorial wars between rival scams, no one wants to tell Vivian where her missing brother is. The only answers may be found on the mystical mountain itself. I normally prefer my genres unadulterated, but I just couldn’t stop reading this book.
Frances Brody has found an ideal setting for her new series of detective novels, written in the traditional style. The first episode, Murder inside (Piatkus, £ 8.99), is set in 1969, as Nell Lewis, who left the police for the prison service, arrives at a former remand center in rural Yorkshire to take up her first governorship.
Her task, and her personal mission, is to transform HMP Brackerley into a fully modern open women’s prison that will become a model for national service.
His insistence that inmates should be known as “residents” and that their stay at Brackerley is not meant to punish them but to prepare them for a future better than their past does not meet with universal pleasure. .
However, Nell’s real troubles begin when a man’s body is found in the park. It sounds like suicide, but ex-cop Nell isn’t convinced.
With a competent, dynamic, and likable heroine, and an environment filled with stories big and small, it’s hard to see how this series could fail.