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Here are the top crime and thriller books from recent releases, as reviewed by critics.

The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett

Janice Hallett’s book “The Christmas Appeal” is available from Viper for the price of £12.99.

Hallett’s newest book brings back the Fairway Players, the struggling amateur dramatics group from her first novel, The Appeal. As in the previous book, young lawyers Femi and Charlotte are given the task of figuring out who is responsible for a crime based on a series of emails, messages, and transcripts of police interviews sent to them by their former mentor, Roderick Tanner KC, who has since retired. This time, the source of conflict is the Christmas production of Jack and the Beanstalk, with arguments arising over casting, organization, and set design – specifically, the giant beanstalk which is rumored to have asbestos. Unfortunately, the beanstalk also holds a gruesome surprise that is revealed during the one and only performance. Hallett captures the snobbishness, rivalries, and social dynamics of a small town with great skill – the reactions to a boastful round robin are particularly entertaining. While this novel may be less complex and emotionally impactful than The Appeal, it still provides plenty of festive enjoyment.

West Heart Kill by Dann McDorman

Dann McDorman’s book “West Heart Kill” is available from Raven for £16.99.

Your level of enjoyment for West Heart Kill will greatly depend on your appreciation for metafiction that goes beyond breaking the fourth wall and instead bulldozes through it, with the reader becoming a character within the story. This American debut is cleverly executed, with the story starting off with a nod and wink as we follow two men in a car to an exclusive country club in the 1970s. One of the men is private detective Adam McAnnis, who has been hired by an unnamed client to search for something out of the ordinary among the wealthy and sarcastic Wasp members known for their love of cocktails and infidelity. The traditional “closed world” setting is emphasized, with foreshadowing of a dog being run over, a predicted storm and power outage, and hints of past tragedies and financial troubles before the first body is discovered. Throughout the story, the author not only comments on the plot but also includes interesting discussions on the crime genre, showcasing their clear passion for it.

Mrs Sidhu’s ‘Dead and Scone’ by Suk Pannu

Mrs Sidhu’s Dead and Scone by Suk Pannu (HarperCollins, £16.99)

In contrast, this first novel is a gentle and straightforward comedy. The main character, Mrs. Sidhu, has previously appeared on radio and TV, played by Meera Syal. Mrs. Sidhu is a widowed caterer who is known as the “Aunty” of Slough. She is shrewd, determined, and very nosy. When she’s not busy making brinjal bhajis, she’s solving crimes. After receiving a mysterious phone call from self-help guru Stephen Eardly’s exclusive Benham House Retreat, Mrs. Sidhu discovers the body of therapist Wendy Calman at her thatched cottage in the nearby village. This sets her on a mission to find the killer, much to the dismay of her old rival DCI Burton. This Asian twist on the traditional cozy mystery set in the home-counties features a likable main character and an intriguing mystery. Fans of Richard Osman will enjoy this book.

KENNEDY 35 by Charles Cumming

Charles Cumming’s Kennedy 35, published by HarperCollins for £18.99.

The third installment of Cumming’s highly praised Box 88 series follows protagonist Lachlan Kite as he is transported between the present day and 1995. Kite, who was recruited into a top-secret UK-US black ops intelligence agency at the age of 18, is tasked with assisting in the capture of one of the perpetrators responsible for the massacre of over 500,000 Rwandan Tutsis. Accompanied by his then-girlfriend Martha, Kite’s mission is to apprehend Augustin Bagaza, who is living under French protection in Dakar, Senegal. However, the operation goes awry and almost thirty years later, Kite discovers that his estranged wife Isobel and Martha’s lives are in danger due to someone threatening to expose the botched mission. This novel delves into the complicated aftermath of political decisions and the blurry line between personal relationships and international affairs.

The North Light by Hideo Yokoyama (Author), Louise Heal Kawai (Translator)

The novel “The North Light” written by Hideo Yokoyama and translated by Louise Heal Kawai is available for purchase at £22 from Riverrun.

The newest novel by popular Japanese writer Yokoyama centers around architect Minoru Aose. Aose’s career had hit a standstill, but he receives a commission to design a home that he himself would want to live in. The result is a highly acclaimed masterpiece that is featured in a coffee table book titled “Top 200 Homes of the Heisei Era.” His clients, the Yoshino family, initially seem pleased with the building. However, months later, Aose discovers that the home remains unoccupied except for a single chair. It turns out that the Yoshinos never moved in and have disappeared without a trace. While this may seem like a typical mystery setup, the novel takes a different turn and delves into deeper themes such as ambition, creativity, guilt, and relationships in both the workplace and family. It is a thought-provoking and captivating read.

Source: theguardian.com