Book reviews: Thrills, chills and crime for winter nights
Framed by Ronnie O'Sullivan
Perhaps one of the most gifted snooker players ever, the charismatic Ronnie O’Sullivan is looking for a new big break… in the world of crime fiction!
And judging from this first gritty and authentic debut novel set in the violent gangland underworld of 1990s Soho, the 40-year-old sporting genius could be on cue for a successful new career.
Frankie James is a young man with a lot on his shoulders. His mother disappeared when he was 16, his father is in jail for armed robbery and he owes rent – to one of London’s toughest gangsters – on the Soho snooker club that he inherited.
Things, you would think, can only get better but actually they are about to get a whole lot worse. Frankie always swore to his mum that he would keep his younger, wilder brother out of trouble but then Jack turns up at the club early in the morning, covered in someone else’s blood and with no memory of the night before.
The cops are hard on Jack’s heels and before long, he is banged up and awaiting trial for the vicious murder of a bride-to-be, a murder that has sparked an even more vicious gang war between London’s two most notorious crime families.
Knowing that Jack’s conviction could quickly turn into a death sentence, Frankie has no choice but to find out who framed his brother by entering the sordid world of bent coppers, ruthless mobsters and twisted killers that he has tried all his life to avoid.
But in the dog-eat-dog underworld out there, will Frankie be tough enough, and smart enough, to come out on top?
Packed with intrigue, action, brutal villains and a beguiling hero, this is a cracking first novel delivered with all the sidespin and clever swerves one would expect from the king of the trick shots!
(Orion, hardback, £16.99)
No Man’s Land by David Baldacci
Prolific American thriller writer David Baldacci is on top form for the fourth outing with his dynamic special investigator John Puller who is pursuing a case that will send him deep into his own troubled past.
A trained lawyer, Baldacci has never looked back since his first novel, Absolute Power, published in 1996, was turned into a major film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.
John Puller is the US army’s most tenacious investigator but he is not equipped to face the truth about his mother’s disappearance 30 years ago. New evidence has come to light suggesting that Puller’s father – a highly decorated army veteran – may have murdered his wife.
When John’s friend, intelligence operative Veronica Knox, arrives on the scene, he realises that there is far more to this case than he first thought. He knows that nothing will prevent him from discovering what really happened to his mother… even if it means proving that his father is a killer.
Meanwhile, Paul Rogers has just been paroled after spending 10 years in a high-security prison for murder. And with his freedom comes a desire to pay back old debts. Harbouring a dark past that changed him in unimaginable ways, Rogers embarks on a journey across the country, set on a path of revenge against the people who took away his humanity.
As both men uncover a trail of deception that stretches back decades, they soon realise that the truth will bind them together in ways they could never have imagined.
Baldacci, author of over 30 best-selling novels, has hit a rich seam in this high-octane, deep and dark series which harnesses brilliant detective work with charismatic characters and riveting action sequences.
With the drama unfolding at the author’s usual breakneck speed and with simmering plot lines just waiting to explode, this is a sure-fire winner for all Baldacci fans.
(Macmillan, hardback, £18.99)
The Sleeping Beauty Killer by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
A woman jailed for murdering her fiancé gets a last-ditch chance to convince the world she was wrongly convicted in the third novel of the intriguing Under Suspicion series
For over 30 years, Mary Higgins Clark has been delighting readers with her smart, beautifully written murder mysteries, but there’s a fresh and exciting element to her Under Suspicion ‘cold case’ series.
The spicy ingredient is co-author Alafair Burke, a trained lawyer and thriller writer whose gripping novels, including Never Tell and All Day And A Night, are often drawn from real-life cases and her own personal and professional experiences.
Together these two talented writers are proving a formidable team, harnessing Clark’s powerful storytelling and experience with Burke’s gift for suspense and authenticity.
Simmering with tension, a cast of cleverly created suspects and some unexpected twists and turns, these edge-of the-seat mysteries deliver high drama, red herrings and fascinating detective work.
New York television producer Laurie Moran’s reality drama Under Suspicion is proving a big success. The cold case TV series revisits unsolved true crimes by recreating them with the family of the victim and others involved in the case in the hope of finding new evidence.
Casey Carter was convicted of murdering her fiancé – the famed philanthropist Hunter Raleigh III – 15 years ago. But Casey has always claimed that she is innocent and although she was charged and served out her sentence in prison, she is still living ‘under suspicion.’
Her story attracts the attention of Laurie and her news team… it’s Casey’s last chance to finally clear her name and Laurie pledges to exonerate her.
But it’s a tough case as Laurie faces an egomaniacal new boss, a relentless gossip columnist who seems to have all the dirt (and a surprising informant) as well as surmounting the problem of Casey’s long-standing bad reputation.
Laurie has her work cut out to do what she believes is right, to once and for all prove Casey’s innocence… that is, of, course, if she is innocent?
The Sleeping Beauty Killer, with its Machiavellian plotting and terrific character development, will keep readers guessing until the last page has turned.
(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £20)
Sacrifice by Hanna Winter
Get ready for a white knuckle ride as a former German model turned author delivers the chilling first novel in an exciting new thriller series starring criminal psychologist Lena Peters.
Crime novelist Hanna Winter is the pen name of Eva Rehberger, who has worked as both a model and as a journalist in Berlin. She has also published modern women’s fiction under the name Eva Sternberg and now lives in New York.
Lena Peters, a young criminal psychologist, is working on her first case and has been asked to help profile and catch a terrifying Jack the Ripper style serial killer in Berlin who mutilates his victims by removing parts of their anatomy.
Lena has her own cross to bear… both her parents were burned to death in a car crash, leaving Lena and her twin sister Tamara traumatised and psychologically scarred, so much so that Tamara has now gone off the rails.
And being confronted with a killer on a murderous vendetta will test Lena to the limit. Not only will Lena be helping to track him down, she will also play a prominent role in his deadly mission. Because Lena knows what makes killers tick and she also knows all about obsession… she has been close to the edge herself.
For now she is the hunter, but soon she will become the hunted.
Fast-paced, blood-soaked, brimming with tension and with a sting in its tail, this gruesome thriller is not for the faint-hearted but delivers a fascinating opener to an exciting new crime series.
(Manilla, paperback, £7.99)
Too Close by Gayle Curtis
Secrets and lies, and the powerful bond between twins, form the electrifying backdrop to a dark and disturbing story from talented Norfolk author Gayle Curtis.
Too Close is a gripping psychological thriller full of twists and turns and with an addictive plot that is guaranteed to keep you hooked right through to the gut-wrenching menace of the explosive dénouement.
Twins Cecelia and Sebastian have a connection like no other... a bond far more unshakeable than between other brothers and sisters. Both of them would go to any lengths to protect each other. Growing up in a bleak old farmhouse in the 1980s, their mother gone and their father violent and abusive, the twins have only each other to keep them alive. But when the secrets of their mother’s disappearance slowly start to emerge, and truth and lies are thrown into question, events take a terrifying turn.
As Cecelia tries to break away from the ties that bind her to her brother, Sebastian is determined that the twins should be together… whatever the cost might be.
The dark side of family ties come under the microscope in this chilling, unsettling tale in which the minutiae of domestic life are portrayed against a gathering storm of shocking revelations and nightmare scenarios.
Clever, carefully crafted and utterly compelling, this devastating story delivers a surprise on every page...
(Twenty7, paperback, £7.99)
A Long Way to Shiloh by Lionel Davidson
A fiery young professor goes on the hunt for a priceless artefact in this very welcome rerun of A Long Way to Shiloh, just one of the superb novels that came from the pen of classic English author Lionel Davidson.
Davidson’s debut novel, The Night of Wenceslas, a nail-biting Cold War thriller, was published in 1960 and was met with instant critical acclaim and won him the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger Award.
It was the start of a long and distinguished writing career for Hull-born Davidson who died in 2009 aged 87. Described by Jake Kerridge of The Telegraph as ‘the best spy novelist you might never have read,’ Davidson’s brilliant thrillers, which include The Rose of Tibet and Kolymsky Heights, have been lost to a generation of readers but are now being revived and republished by Faber & Faber.
A Long Way to Shiloh, Davidson’s third novel published in 1966, was a Book Society Choice and won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award as well as the Crime Critics’ Award for Best Thriller of the Year.
Published in the USA as The Menorah Men, it was a number one bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic and further cemented his reputation as one of the pre-eminent genre writers of his generation.
At the heart of this witty, entertaining story is Casper Laing, a young, fiery and brilliant Professor of Semitic Languages, who is asked to decipher an ancient parchment found in Israel. Piecing together its mysterious fragments, his translation soon reveals directions to the secret location of a priceless artefact.
Believed to be the hiding place of the True Menorah, an ancient and priceless Jewish candelabrum, the Jordanians and Israelis begin a frantic race to claim the prize. Surrounded by violent and treacherous rivals, Casper sets off on a deadly adventure deep into the scorching Negev desert, determined to claim the prize. It’s a cat-and-mouse hunt he must win at all costs…
Original, totally absorbing and packed with thrills, violence, history and humour, this is a joy to read and a glorious introduction to Davidson’s classic books.
(Faber, paperback, £8.99)
Someone is Watching by Joy Fielding
When a smart, savvy Miami private investigator becomes the victim of a rapist, her life – and her credibility – are torn apart.
And when she starts suffering from paranoia and becomes convinced that someone is watching her, she will have her work cut out to prove that it is not just her imagination playing cruel tricks.
This new gripping thriller from the queen of psychological suspense – a cross between The Girl on the Train and Rear Window – lays bare the shocking fallout from a vicious sex crime and follows one woman’s battle to find the perpetrator… and justice.
The beneficiary of her father’s Wall Street fortune, Bailey Carpenter doesn’t really need a job but this hasn’t stopped her from leaving her luxury high-rise apartment every day to work as an investigator for a Miami law firm.
But when she hides in some bushes one night whilst staking out a runaway father, Bailey is viciously attacked and raped by a masked man. She can remember only the feel of his gloves, the smell of his ‘minty and crisp’ mouthwash and his voice, growling at her to ‘tell me you love me.’
On leave from work, Bailey starts suffering from panic attacks and recurring dreams about the rapist. Her half-sister Claire, a nurse, reckons Bailey should see a therapist and tries to discourage her from obsessively watching a man in the flat opposite whose nightly sexual assignations can be seen through his open window.
As his acts become violent, Bailey can’t persuade the police to take her concerns seriously and she knows that she will have to make her own investigations… even though just the thought of leaving her apartment is terrifying.
This slow-build, standalone page-turner, with its brilliant plotting and compelling and beautifully drawn characters, makes for a cracking read and will delight Fielding’s vast army of fans.
(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)