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The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup

The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup

Hunted Abir MukherjeeView image in fullscreen

Hunted by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker, £14.99)
For his first standalone novel, Mukherjee, author of a crime series set in 1920s India, has turned his attention to contemporary America. During the last week of a toxic presidential campaign, a bomb in a California shopping mall claims 65 lives. A group called the Sons of the Caliphate claims responsibility, but when FBI agent Shreya Mistry begins to close in on them, she discovers not jihadists, but something altogether more complicated. Meanwhile, the parents of two group members – Carrie, whose son Greg is a former US soldier, and British Muslim Sajid, whose daughter Aliyah was radicalised after her activist sister received life-changing injuries during a demonstration – team up to find their children before any more atrocities are committed, becoming fugitives themselves in the process. With multiple narrators, a fast pace and a horribly credible storyline, this white-knuckle ride across a catastrophically fractured country grips from start to finish.

Bonehead Mo HayderView image in fullscreen

Bonehead by Mo Hayder (Hodder & Stoughton, £22)
Hayder’s untimely death in 2021 robbed us of an imagination unparalleled in both its darkness and its audacity. Her final novel, Bonehead, is as haunting and distinctive as its predecessors. In a Gloucestershire community years after a coach crash in which six teenagers were killed, blame and rumour still abound. Dogs go missing and the eponymous faceless woman, thought to be a ghost, drifts through woods where nature itself seems entirely malevolent. Survivor Alex, now a police officer, is determined to discover what really happened on the night of the crash, when she glimpsed Bonehead seconds before the coach left the road. Although there is an imbalance to this book, presumably because of the circumstances in which it was written – the ending seems rushed in contrast to the expertly paced ratcheting of tension in the first half – the final page is a classic Hayder shocker.

When We Were Silent Fiona McPhillips Bantam, £16.99View image in fullscreen

When We Were Silent by Fiona McPhillips (Bantam, £16.99)
Set in an exclusive Dublin school, Irish journalist McPhillips’s debut novel is a story of consent, agency and the abuse of power. In 1986, 17-year-old Louise takes up a coveted place at Highfield Manor with the aim of avenging her friend Tina, who, pregnant as a result of rape by swimming coach Maurice McQueen, took her own life. When McQueen hits on Louise, no one believes her – both she and Tina are from the wrong side of the tracks, which doesn’t help – and her efforts both to avenge her friend and stop Shauna, who she loves, suffering the same fate, end in a fatality. Years later, Louise is approached to thelp a 14-year-old victim of the current Highfield coach, but it soon becomes clear that somebody wants her to remain silent. Suspenseful and beautifully written, this novel perfectly captures teenage intensity and anguish, as well as the lasting damage done by predatory men and those who enable them.

The Mystery of the Crooked Man by Tom SpencerView image in fullscreen

The Mystery of the Crooked Man by Tom Spencer (Vertigo, £16.99)
The central character in this refreshingly oddball homage to golden age fiction is cantankerous archivist Agatha Dorn, who is catapulted into the limelight when she discovers a lost manuscript by the famous Gladden Green, who bears resemblance to Agatha Christie (sharp-eyed readers will also spot a couple of references to near-namesake Graham Greene). Disgraced when the novel is revealed to be a fake, Agatha turns detective when her former partner, Amy Murgatroyd, is found dead with a scrap of the manuscript beside her. Whether or not you enjoy this will, I suspect, be largely down to whether you warm to Agatha, who is prickly and far too fond of gin; born in the 1970s, she seems to date from a far earlier time. However, the plot is nicely convoluted, and there are some surprisingly poignant moments.

Source: theguardian.com