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Crime Roundup October 2006 by Carla McKay

'Naked to the Hangman' by Andrew Taylor ; 'The Red Dahlia' by Lynda La Plante ; 'The Remains of an Altar' by Phil Rickman

Andrew Taylor has another novel out in his popular atmospheric 1950s Lydmouth series. In 'Naked to the Hangman' (Hodder & Stoughton 16.99), the past has come back to haunt Detective Inspector Richard Thornhill. As a young police officer in Palestine during the closing months of the Mandate, Thornhill was unwittingly caught up in unsavoury events and when an old police colleague of his with a gun turns up in Lydmouth, and is later found dead, Thornhill inevitably comes under suspicion.

For stronger meat, Lynda La Plante's 'The Red Dahlia' (Simon & Schuster 17.99) takes as its theme the most notorious, real-life unsolved murder in Los Angeles in the 1940s known as The Black Dahlia. In London, there is a copycat killer who likes mutilating girls and taunting the police in the same way. The detective duo that La Plante introduced in Above Suspicion, D.I. Anna Travis and C.I. James Langton, follow a gruesome trail leading to a sinister wealthy family who consider themselves to be above the law. As usual, La Plante's material is shockingly in-your-face but it would take a television adaptation to breathe some life into the wooden prose and characters.

Altogether more amusing, is 'The Remains of an Altar' by Phil Rickman (Quercus 14.99), the eighth in this quirky series in which our heroine, Merrily Watkins, the 'Deliverance Consultant' (ie exorcist) to the Diocese of Hereford and Silk Cut smoker is this time called in to deal with a ghost causing car crashes on a stretch of road in the Malvern Hills. And if you dismiss all this as unlikely, you may like to ponder the fact that in Britain more people believe in ghosts than in God.

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 11/11/2006 14:02