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Crime Roundup April 2006 by Carla McKay

'The Waking' by T M Jenkins ; 'A Stain on the Silence' by Andrew Taylor ; 'The Gardens of the Dead' by William Brodrick; 'A Walk in the Dark' by Gianrico Carofiglio; 'Darkness and Light' by John Harvey

Even if you are resistant to thrillers set in the future, it is worth investigating 'The Waking' by T M Jenkins (Macmillan 12.99) in which the waking of the title ends the long slumber of Dr Nate Sheehan, whose head has hung in cryogenic suspension for sixty-four years awaiting the advances which will allow it to be reconnected to a living body and revived. Alas for Sheehan, the body he gets attached to is that of an executed murderer and rapist and despite the change of brain, some of its old habits die hard. This may appear far-fetched until a newspaper recently reported that some people receiving transplanted organs take on the characteristics of the donors, like the woman with vertigo who started climbing mountains when given the lungs of a mountaineer. Whatever the truth of this, Miss Jenkins has written a cracking first novel which is an interesting amalgam of science fiction, political intrigue and crime.

Someone who is usually more interested in the past than the future is the prolific writer Andrew Taylor whose dark novel The American Boy set in the early 19th century cemented his reputation. However, 'A Stain on the Silence' (Michael Joseph 12.99) leaps forward to the present time, but presents the same psychologically tense profile and deals with universal themes. James's teenage affair with his friend's stepmother comes back to haunt him years later as a childless man when Lily, dying of cancer, summons him to her bedside to break the unwelcome news that not only does he have a daughter, but the daughter is pregnant and she is on the run for murder.

The legions of crime fans delighted by William Brodrick's creation of Father Anselm, the barrister monk turned detective who made his first appearance last year in 'The Sixth Lamentation', will welcome his return in 'The Gardens of the Dead' (Little Brown 14.99). Elizabeth Glendinning QC is on a mission to revive a murder case from the distant past and bring a man back to court when she is found dead. Mysterious packages sent to both her son and to her old colleague Father Anselm after her death trigger an investigation which reveals complex dilemmas both about the legal system and the conflicts of conscience when family is involved. Brodrick is an ace plotter and has the knack of luring the reader through a thoroughly rewarding narrative maze.

'A Walk in the Dark' by Gianrico Carofiglio (Bitter Lemon Press 9.99) sees the altogether welcome return of Guido Guerrieri, that rare creature in southern Italy, an honest lawyer and champion of hopeless causes, who made such an impact in Carofiglio's debut novel 'Involuntary Witness'. Part legal thriller, part insight into a man fighting his own demons, Guerrieri takes on a case others won't touch - the ill-advised prosecution of a vicious stalker who happens to be the son of a powerful judge. His victim is Martina, a vulnerable woman who is living in a shelter, but it is Martina's carer, the strangely fierce Sister Claudia, to whom Guido is increasingly drawn and with whom he shares a passionate interest in both martial arts and social justice. Every character has a story to tell in Carofiglio's fiction, and they are always worth hearing. Since the author himself is an anti-mafia prosecutor in Bari, this powerfully affecting novel benefits from veracity as well as tight writing.

Three heavy hitters who all have new books out to gladden the heart this Spring are Sara Paretsky, John Harvey and Robert B. Parker. In 'Fire Sale' by Sara Paretsky (Hodder & Stoughton 12.99), it's hard not to get caught up in Paretsky's passion for social justice among blue-collar workers and white-collar crooks in Chicago's poverty-stricken South Side when her alter-ego private eye V.I. Warshawski takes on the powers behind By-Smart, a massive cut-price retailer, as well as the exploitative (and evangelical) bosses of a flag factory which just happens to blow up. Snappy dialogue, tight plotting and realistic situations make Paretsky's unapologetically politicised thrillers a pleasure to read, whatever your viewpoint. Both Parker and Harvey use their second string detectives in their latest offerings - which is sad for those of us who are Spenser and Resnick addicts, but 'Sea Change' by Robert B. Parker (No Exit Press 16.99), one of his Jesse Stone investigations into sleazy goings on amongst Florida yachties, and 'Darkness and Light' by John Harvey (Heinemann 12.99) in which DI Frank Elder investigates the death of a shy widow, nevertheless find their creators on top form.

Carla McKay has been a fiction reviewer for over 15 years for the Daily Mail and has persuaded them to let her do a crime column of reviews of recent crime fiction once every two months or so.

last updated 6/08/2006 20:38