BLOOD TORMENT by TF Muir (Constable, hardback)
The sixth Andy Gilchrist novel sees our dogged St Andrews cop on the trail of a possible kidnapper. His investigations reveal blackmail, dark secrets and, naturally, murder.
Naturally, he has his tough-talking DS, Jessie Janes, at his back and sometimes darting ahead of him. Neither of them are particularly careful when it comes to dealing with those in power, whether inside or outside the job.
This time he has an additional problem. He’s been somewhat intemperate with another cop and a version of it has surfaced on video. If it reaches the powers-that-be, who are none-too-enamoured with Gilchrist at the best of times, our hero may well be getting his clubs out for an extended putter on the links. (I don’t know if he plays golf. I was just going the whole St Andrews thing).
This is the sixth novel in Frank’s series (there’s also a short story) and he does seem to be going from strength-to-strength. This time round, though, there is less of the gut-wrenching horror of his last one, ‘The Meating Room’. The title of that one alone should alert you to the horrors within.
Gilchrist may not walk the mean streets of a big city but his beat is still pretty perilous all the same. It does make me wonder what the local tourism authorities feel about him painting the douce township as a hotbed of crime and, let’s be honest, occasional debauchery.
That being said, Frank paints a vivid picture of St Andrews and the procedures of coppering.
It must also be pointed out that he has found a unique way of getting round the decision to amalgamate local forces into the behemoth that is Police Scotland that is so pesky to crime writers. He simply ignores it!
THE TIME TO KILL by Mason Cross (Orion, paperback)
The third Carter Blake thriller is a fast-moving, edge-of-the-seat express ride of a read.
The previous two books in the series gave us little hints to Blake’s past, nothing much, just little nods and winks, but this time it comes raging back to haunt him. If the past is a foreign country, Blake’s past is one the government would not advise travellers to visit.
While on a milk run of a job in Seattle, tracing a computer geek who has made off with some techno giant’s secrets, Blake finds himself on the run from shadowy covert agents who think nothing of terminating with extreme prejudice.
Blake and his computer king head off on a cross-country train ride to escape them but that proves to be a mistake.
I’m a sucker for thrillers on trains. From ‘The Lady Vanishes’ through to ‘Breakheart Pass’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Narrow Margin’, there’s nothing more exciting than riding the rail and pitting your hero against the bad guys. And Cross does it incredibly well.
He also seamlessly weaves the nail-biting chase thriller with flashbacks to exactly why these covert goons are after him – and why he had to change his name.
However, I still prefer the original title ‘Winterlong.’ But what the hell do I know?
WICKED LEAKS by Matt Bendoris (Contraband, paperback)
Like ‘The Time To Kill’, this is the third in a series and, frankly, Bendoris’s best yet.
Tight, taut and titterful (not in a Playboy way, in a laughing way), this is a page-turning thriller with a side order of fun.
Matt is really into the swing of this writing game. April Lavender – still love that name – and Connor are now fully rounded characters (April in every sense of the phrase, if Bendoris is to be believed). The amusing interplay between them is still a high point, as is the often caustic critique of the modern newspaper industry. They are human, with all the frailties and annoyances that come with it, and yet fit so well with the thriller aspect of the books.
This time around they are in conspiracy theory territory and the inclusion of a well-known and shocking royal death adds a touch of controversy to the mix.
As before it’s fast-moving and exciting. Bendoris has hit his stride with this one. A real winner.