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Sophie Hannah’s psychological novels are powerhouses for writers, grand examples of ingenuity when it comes to plotting. It’s probably one reason Agatha Christie’s estate chose her to write the new Poirot novel debuting this month. She’s back with The Telling Error, as original as all of her previous novels.

Her Zailer/Waterhouse series is notable for these reasons, and for how she chooses to use a new protagonist for each new novel, despite the married detective duo and some of their family and colleagues being repeat characters. On her way to her son’s school Nicki Clements gets stuck in traffic and sees a police officer she doesn’t want to encounter again. Doing a U-turn, Nicki heads away, only to find herself brought in for questioning the next day about the murder of controversial newspaper columnist Damon Blundy, who lived on that road. While she may not have murdered Blundy, Nicki has plenty of secrets she needs to keep.

The book takes off in a clever, tautly-plotted psychological thriller which explores pertinent issues of our modern lives: the prevalence of the internet’s importance, the influence of the media, as well as the public’s relationship with the police. And of course, the way in today’s world where one can never, ever be truly anonymous.

Nicki’s secrets get her into trouble. She’s an interesting mixed character, evoking sympathy and anger all at once. Her use of a secret ad site is interspersed with the excerpts of the dead man’s columns. And her secrets will bring her under suspicion, but she’s unable to answer the police’s main questions. This killer has used a knife in a way that brings about death without blood, and painted across the victim’s study: HE IS NO LESS DEAD. What, exactly, does that mean?

Nicki’s actions are artfully explained through her history, and the duality of her personality remains intact at the end of this absorbing novel. Highly recommended reading.
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Opening about six weeks after The Dying Hours, Mark Billingham brings DI Tom Thorne back in his twelfth novel, The Bones Beneath.

Insisting that he will only deal with Thorne, Stuart Nicklin, the most dangerous serial killer Thorne has put in prison, claims he will reveal the whereabouts of one of his early victims–but only if Thorne is present.

To do so means not only taking Nicklin from prison, accompanied by two guards, but a tense overnight journey to a remote island off the coast of Wales where Nicklin spent time as a youth, and where he will supposedly show them where this body is buried. It smacks of manipulation–and Thorne thinks he’s prepared for Nicklin’s games, but only to a point, for he has no idea just how far this maniac will go.

Thorne knows Nicklin enough to know this and prepares for the worst, but even he could not imagine how devious the prisoner will become–or just how severe will be the choice he will be forced to make. Nicklin’s schemes result in more deaths and leave behind scars both external and internal that will not soon heal.

It is difficult to do this plot justice without revealing too much of the action. Trust Auntie M then when she tells you that you will be swept up in the horror Thorne is forced to endure from the machinations of a manipulative psychopath.

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A. X. Ahmad caught Auntie M’s attention with The Caretaker and its intriguing protagonist, newly-immigrated Sikh Ranjit Singh.

He brings Singh back in The Last Taxi Ride, an absorbing and fast-paced follow-up that left author Peter May commenting: “Wow! Barely had tie to fasten my seatbelt. A. X. Ahmad takes us on a breathtaking roller coaster rider through an underworld most of us would never guess existed.”

High praise from a master; well-deserved and to the point. Ahmad brings Singh, now divorced, to New York City to work as a taxi driver, trying to raise enough money to have his daughter, Shanti, join him from India. He recognizes the Bollywood actress Shabana Shah when he gives her a ride to The Dakota.

Hours later, Singh is in trouble: Shah is found dead, brutally murdered, and Singh has eaten dinner in her vacant apartment with his friend, a former solider colleague who works as a doorman at the famed co-operative. With his fingerprints all over the crime scene and the murder weapon, he must lie low while trying to clear his name.

Into this mess, and with his doorman friend and only alibi missing, he turns to a young hostess, Leela, for help from the underworld Shah has become mixed up in–and finds himself once again using his soldiering skills and help from Leela and other taxi friends to clear his name and find out what really happened that night in the apartment.

With it’s noir-type feel, this is a realistic look at a world few of us will know about.

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John Harvey’s twelfth Charlie Resnick novel is the one the author swears will be his last. Darkness, Darkness joins the pantheon of other Resnick novels, along with his Frank Elder series, stand-alones, and many other writings from this prolific and accomplished author, one of Auntie M’s favorites.

This time we revisit the miners strike in England of third years ago, which turned neighbors against each other, and in some households, wife against husband.

Resnick, not enjoying retirement, is forced to recall the days when he was made inspector, and despite his ambivalence about some of the tactics the police used, found himself gathering information at the center of the strikers actions.

When the body of a young woman who disappeared during the strike is found at one of the houses in Resnick’s territory, his familiarity with the miners and residents at the time make him the perfect detective to be asked to join the investigation into her murder.

As he delves into his own past and that of the murdered woman, Resnick hopes to put the case, and his career, to rest. A satisfying and adept ending to a long and storied career for detective and author alike.

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