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Feb
2014
Tuesday 25th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

MAT COWARD reviews some of the latest crime thrillers


I'm not sure if publishers acknowledge the existence of a sub-category labelled "Bonkers Thrillers" but, if so, that's how they'd market Extinction by JT Brannan (Headline, £7.99).

The action barely stops for a paragraph's rest in this delightfully over-the-top tale about the testing of a "black ops" super-weapon which triggers floods, earthquakes and paranormal phenomena.

As a terrified world slides into chaos, and a centuries-old secret doomsday sect prepares for the end of humanity's reign on Earth, a rock-climbing journalist races to reveal the truth.

The homeless narrator of Liza Cody's Lady Bag (iUniverse, £11.95) spends her days around the West End of London. She begs alongside her rescue dog, an ex-racing greyhound named Electra, self-medicating with slurps of Algerian red.

Then one day, by chance, she sees the man she calls the "Devil." Years ago, she paid for her misplaced faith in him with her home, her freedom and a good deal of her sanity. He, of course, got away scot free and now, it seems, he's lining up his next victim.

You won't read many fresher or more distinctive novels this year but it's the sharp writing as much as the unusual setting that makes this book such a joy.

Cody's dialogue is always funny and full of purpose, and here she's found her perfect protagonist - a creative mangler of platitudes, an uncontrollable shredder of pomp and hypocrisy.

When teenage Londoner Amy decides to run away, in Robert Wilson's You Will Never Find Me (Orion, £16.99), she knows she's going to have to be thorough if she's not to be found.

Her mum, Mercy Danquah, is a detective inspector in the Met's kidnap unit and her dad, Charlie Boxer, is a freelance kidnap consultant.

But when the time comes that she really needs to be found, what if she's been too thorough for her own good?

This is a very high-class thriller, as readers expect from Wilson, performed by characters who develop and change realistically in response to events.

DI Marnie Rome visits a women's refuge in Finchley to interview a witness, in Someone Else's Skin by Sarah Hilary (Headline, £13.99), and finds a man lying on the floor of the common room. His estranged wife stands over him holding a knife.

DI Rome, and her readers, are about to learn that even the most obvious situations aren't always quite what they seem.

I enjoyed this debut novel a lot. Rome and her colleagues are interesting and likeable, the subject matter is serious without becoming worthy in the pejorative sense and the tension is well-built.

But I do wish writers of both sexes, including Wilson and Hilary, would realise that the obligatory torture scene in almost every thriller currently published has become not only a tedious cliché but an offensive and irresponsible one.

Whether this obsession with cinematic-style horror comes from unimaginative publishers - or from authors attempting to maintain excitement in overlong manuscripts - it's boring, unpleasant, and long past its slash-by date.




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