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Posted by on 18 Jan, 2023 in British Crime, British Thrillers, Crime, Domestic Suspense, Thriller | 0 comments



My early January 2023 reading has been dominated by three very different British crime novels by two veterans of the genre and a promising new author.

A Winter Grave by Peter May (Riverrun, 19 January 2023)

Leading them off is the latest novel by popular British author Peter May.

Set in 2051, A Winter Grave, (Riverrun, 19 January 2023), is a dark tale that postulates a depressing near future for the world.

Despite years of warnings, governments have done little to stave off the pending climate catastrophe and by 2051 vast areas of the planet are under water, or uninhabitably hot, causing severe social disintegration and migration. In contrast, melting ice sheets have brought the Gulf Stream to a halt and the northern latitudes, including Scotland, are being hit by snow and ice storms.

It is against this backdrop that Addie, a young meteorologist checking a mountain top weather station, discovers the body of a man entombed in ice. The dead man is an investigative reporter, George Younger, who has been missing for three months after vanishing during what he claimed was a hill-walking holiday. Cameron Brodie, a veteran Glasgow detective, volunteers to be flown north to investigate Younger’s death, but he has more than a murder enquiry on his agenda. He has just been given a devastating medical prognosis by his doctor and knows the time has come to face his estranged daughter who has made her home in the remote Highland village.

Arriving during an ice storm, Brodie and pathologist Dr. Sita Roy, find themselves the sole guests at the hotel where Younger’s body has been kept refrigerated in a cake cabinet. Sita’s initial autopsy indicates a serious problem and soon the lives of both Brodie and Roy are in extreme jeopardy, especially when another storm closes off communications and the possibility of escape.

May uses Brodie’s scary flight, in a remotely controlled helicopter, to the Highland village of Kinlochleven to vividly set up the climate challenges facing Scotland in 2051, as well as some of the social changes. Once in Kinlochleven, the pace quickly steps up and the book moves at a briskish pace down some unexpected, and chilly, paths.  From the opening pages there is a dark tone to A Winter Grave, and there is very little cheerfulness as Brodie has to deal with a raft of challenges and threats, as well as facing up to the ghosts of his past. Apart from the climate changes and a few gadgets, May’s depiction of 2051 is very close to the present and the futuristic trappings are not too intrusive.

Some may find A Winter Grave a little preachy at times, but underneath the reflections on climate change and government expediency there is a very good thriller plot at play here, and May certainly ratches up the tension, and the action, in final quarter of the book. The central mystery at the core of the book is handled well and May shows his usual panache for characterisation and vivid descriptions of the Scottish countryside.

Fans of May’s earlier novels will find that A Winter Grave is probably more akin to his A Coffin Road, than it is to his popular Lewis Trilogy, but it is still a gripping and thought provoking read.

A Winter Grave is released in the United Kingdom on 19 January 2023 and in Australia on 31 January 2023.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of the book for review.

In The Blink Of An Eye by Jo Callaghan (Simon & Schuster, 19 January 2023)

Also with a slight futuristic touch is Jo Callaghan’s debut In The Blink Of An Eye, (Simon & Schuster, 19 January 2023).

Set a few years into the future, In The Blink Of An Eye pairs a recently widowed, London police officer, DCS Kat Frank, with an experimental artificial intelligence entity, basically a computer generated hologram, known as Lock. The intention is to test whether unemotional Artificial Intelligence devices have a role in detecting crime. Kat’s small team has been selected as the pilot for the Artificial Intelligence Detective Entity (AIDE) program and are assigned a series of missing person cases, most of which involve young men, to solve.

The story starts a little slowly, but once underway it really draws you in and gradually grips your attention. The mild science fiction elements are lightly handled and should not be too much of a distraction for hardcore crime readers. The central mystery is well handled and interesting, and the second half of the book moves along at good pace. The case becomes very personal for Kat later in the book and the story builds to a tense and surprising ending. I thought that the cold case policework elements could have been more convincing, but this is a minor quibble.

Jo, who has dealt with significant trauma in her own life, is very good at creating sympathetic characters and at showing the impact of grief on individuals and families. The relationships in her novel are convincing and the interactions between Kat and ‘Lock’ are amusing and occasionally very poignant.

Overall, IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE is a well-crafted and engaging crime novel with a good compelling ending.

Thanks to the Canberra Weekly and the publisher for an advanced copy of the book for review.

The Only Suspect by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster, 2 February 2023)

Finally, The Only Suspect (Simon & Schuster, 2 February 2023), by Louise Candlish is another professionally pieced together tale of suspense and tension.

Louise is expert at the twisty psychological suspense novel with a slightly unreliable narrator and an abundance of new and old secrets, and THE ONLY SUSPECT is another good example of her ability to deceive and trick the reader.

The story opens in the present day with Alex living a comfortable life with his wife Beth in the leafy London suburb of Silver Vale. He is a pleasant enough guy, until Beth announces that the council has given permission for the creation of a nature trail on a local site that’s been disused for decades.  That piece of parkland has a special significance for Alex, and he is worried that the landscapers will unearth things that he wants keep secret.

Moving smoothly between the present and tragic events in 1995, Louise steadily builds up the tension and keeps the reading guessing as to what really happened in the past. The pacing is a little slow at first, but certainly picks up once the various strands of the plot are carefully put in place. As always, Louise is very good at creating believable characters and relationships and putting them under pressure and seeing what happens. As well, the dialogue is convincing and witty, and the descriptions of London in the 1990s and present day Silver Vale are evocative and insightful.

An enjoyable read and a must for those who enjoy well-crafted tales of psychological suspense.

The Only Suspect is released in the United Kingdom on 2 February 2023. It is released on Kindle in Australia on
2 February 2023, with a later paperback release of 8 March 2023.

Thanks to the Canberra Weekly and the publisher for an advanced copy of the book for review.

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