Crime Roundup July 2007 by Carla McKay
'Not Dead Enough' by Peter James; 'Black Seconds' by Karin Fossum; 'Rain Dogs and Love Cats' by Andrew Holmes; 'Dangerous Women' edited by Otto Penzler; 'Reasonable Doubts' by Gianrico Carofiglio; 'Die With Me' by Elena Forbes
On this side of the Atlantic, Peter James is certainly one of the most fiendishly clever crime fiction plotters, and becoming much better known. Set in Brighton, Not Dead Enough (Macmillan £12.99) is the third novel featuring detective Roy Grace (modelled on a retired Chief Super from the Sussex police), and all the more authentic for it. Here the plot revolves around the alibi factor. On the night police are certain Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was sixty miles away asleep in bed. When a second girl is murdered, it puts Bishop even more in the frame in spite of a cast-iron alibi. What is going on? Trust me, you will want to find out.
Possibly the most popular foreign crime writer in translation, the Norwegian Karin Fossum is an intelligent writer who delivers more than a smart plot by way of psychological insight and clear-eyed characterisation. The main narrative thread in Black Seconds (Harvill Secker £11.99) deals with a missing child, Ida Joner, whom Inspector Sejer must find before it's too late. But, as always with Fossum, our attention is also focused on other characters nursing their own pain as well as Ida's distraught mother.
Extraordinarily entertaining is Rain Dogs and Love Cats by Andrew Holmes (Sceptre £12.99). Charlie Watson's uneventful existence as a suburban young married father and owner of the Cheesy Vinyl Roadshow which involves playing records by people like Donna Summer to wedding parties 'in an ironic, conceptual way', is interrupted by his brother Leo's death in a road crash. Leo, a Tom Waits impersonator, had, it turned out, been moonlighting as a private investigator whose first case - finding a missing dog - seems to have led him into some very murky waters. Inevitably, Charlie takes up where he left off….the result is both dark and hilarious. Holmes reminds one forcibly of Nick Hornby in his 'High Fidelity' days.
Dangerous Women edited by Otto Penzler (Arrow £8.99) - it's not a new idea but a collection of original stories from some of today's most impressive crime and suspense writers is always welcome. A couple of years ago John Harvey collected together a similar anthology Men From Boys for the same publisher in which crime writers explored the notion of maleness and what it is to be a father, a son, a man in general. Now the theme is women although the publishers cannot resist making them 'dangerous' unlike the men. So, from the likes of Jeffery Deaver, Ian Rankin, Walter Mosely and John Connolly, we have quite a clutch of femme fatales busy conning, seducing, poisoning and shooting their (usually male) victims. Michael Connolly's dangerous woman is a victim however, but obviously she had to die because she was just too dangerously beautiful.
Reasonable Doubts by Gianrico Carofiglio (Bitter Lemon Press £8.99). Carofiglio, an anti-Mafia prosecutor in Southern Italy until recently, is particularly well-placed to write legal thrillers which he does with considerable brio, humour and skill. This is his third work featuring the lawyer Guido Guerrieri, a man who struggles with his own demons as much as with his stressful caseload - stressful because Guido is attracted to seemingly hopeless causes, and because it sometimes feels as though he's the only honest lawyer in Bari. When an old neo-fascist adversary, Fabio Paolicelli, is convicted of drug running and wants to appeal, Guido is torn between the desire to keep him in jail (not least because he conceives a passion for the man's wife), and fighting for justice for his client whom he comes to believe is innocent.
Lastly, some new talent: Elena Forbes hits the spot with her first novel Die With Me (Quercus £12.99) in which vulnerable young girls are persuaded to kill themselves in bizarre suicide pacts. Introducing D.I. Mark Tartaglia and the murder squad at Barnes, this is a pleasure to read - tightly plotted, well-written and convincing. And judging from some unfinished business at the end, I think we'll be hearing more from her.
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.