11 February 2016
REAL TIGERS by
MICK HERRON (John Murray £16.99)
A masterful third spy novel from the gifted Herron, whose previous novel, Dead Lions, won the prestigious Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger award.
He has been published only by an American firm until now, in spite of the fact that he is British and his stories are set in this country. Now, all three books appear here, and Herron will, at last, receive the recognition that his talent richly deserves.
Like its two predecessors, this focuses on London's Slough House, where disgraced MI5 operatives are sent to spend what remains of their careers pushing paper and feeling distinctly surplus to requirements.
That changes suddenly, however, when an ex-soldier kidnaps one of their fallen number, Catherine Standish, and demands the failed agents uncover an intrigue that stretches to the highest echelons of the service.
Deliciously tongue-in-cheek and with a striking serpentine construction, it is a thriller that moves Herron close to the class of Graham Greene.
11 February 2016
FIND HER by
LISA GARDNER (Headline £16.99)
The heroine of Gardner's latest blockbuster is one of the most nuanced of the many she has created in her long career.
Flora Dane was kidnapped as a student and kept captive, part of the time in a pine coffin, for 472 days before being finally released. She survived, but only just, and has spent the five years since trying to put her life back together.
Part of that process, however, involves Flora risking her safety by going to bars alone in search of predatory males on whom to take revenge. To be blunt, she has turned herself into a vigilante determined to rid the world of potential rapists.
The story opens with Flora killing a bartender who has kidnapped her, and whom she also suspects of being responsible for the disappearance of another girl.
One of Gardner's regular characters, female detective D. D. Warren, does not know whether to trust the deeply scarred Dane or not, and even suspects she may be guilty of premeditated murder by enticing men to attack her.
Written with Gardner's customary skill, the plot squeezes like a python so there is barely a moment to breathe.
11 February 2016
VU TRAN (No Exit Express £8.99)
This debut thriller explores one of the great themes of noir fiction - the missing woman.
Oakland California cop Robert Ruen has been alone since his bewitching but complicated Vietnamese wife, Suzy, left him two years ago. She married again, this time to a violent Vietnamese smuggler and gambler called Sonny, but now she has left him as well.
The gangster wants her back and blackmails Ruen into finding her for him. Set largely in Las Vegas, where Sonny's sadistic son Junior keeps an eye on events, it superbly depicts the world of exiled people and the solace they seek in sleazy casinos and gambling dens.
There are traces of both Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane in the storytelling, but Tran, a Vietnamese born in Saigon and raised in Oklahoma, has an elegant, distinctive voice that sent a shiver up my spine.
Ruen's dark odyssey in search of his ex-wife - which at one point reaches a refugee camp in Malaysia after the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War, and reveals a set of secret letters he never knew existed - is both haunting and emotionally disturbing, and makes Tran's debut one not to be missed.