RECENT BRITISH 2023 CRIME FICTION: Stig Abell, J. S. Monroe and Tim Sullivan
This recent batch of British crime and thriller titles covers a range of themes and sub-genres, from regional crime to police detective fiction to a paranoid thriller!
J. S. Monroe started out writing very good spy thrillers in the 2010s under the name Jon Stock, but more recently he has moved into broader crime novels, in the style of Harlan Coben, with clever ‘what if’ scenarios at their core.
His latest is No Place To Hide, (Head of Zeus, 13 April 2023), and it takes the recent paranoia about the prevalence of surveillance and notches it up a level or two.
Adam lives a picture-perfect life with a seemingly happy marriage, two young children, and a flourishing career as a doctor. There is, however, a dark side to Adam. Following an incident when he was at university, Adam has a paranoia about surveillance. He is convinced that the hospital CCTV, strangers’ mobile phones, city traffic cameras and the like are all watching him, recording his every move. That paranoia is increased when a seemingly chance encounter with an old flame from his university days sets in train a devastating series of events.
Utilising a dual timeline, Monroe’s novel flicks between the present day threats to Adam and the tragic events at university, which led to his predicament. Both stories quickly increase in interest and Monroe keeps you guessing as to what is going on.
No Place To Hide is a fast paced novel that quickly draws you into the story. Monroe is very good at steadily ramping up the tension in the opening stages and the final climax is full of suspense and action. The characters are well sketched, and the story certainly holds your attention. My reservations are that the basic premise behind the present day storyline lacks some credibility, and that Adam is very frustrating as a character. Nevertheless, it is very easy to move past this, and overall it is a brisk enjoyable tale.
Not as good as my favourite Monroe novel, The Other You, but still an entertaining read that raises some interesting points about surveillance.
No Place To Hide was released in the United Kingdom on 13 April 2023. The paper edition will be released in Australia in July, but is available now on Kindle.
The Monk, (Head of Zeus, 27 April 2023), is the fifth book in Tim Sullivan’s series about Detective Sergeant George Cross, and is another good British police mystery by the always reliable Sullivan.
The book opens with the discovery of the body of a monk, who has been beaten to death in a woodland near Bristol. Brother Dominic seems a humble and harmless man, but as Cross and his colleagues investigate it becomes clear that nothing is really known about the monk’s past. It emerges that Brother Dominic was once a very wealthy man, who gave it all up for his faith. For a man who has nothing, it seems strange that greed could be the motive for his murder.
The DS Cross books are a very entertaining series, and The Monk is probably one of the best so far. The mystery around the past identity of Brother Dominic and why someone would want to kill him is well developed, and Sullivan ably scatters around false clues and a good range of suspects.
Cross suffers from autism spectrum disorder, and his condition plays a significant part in the story. Sullivan handles his condition in a sensitive and credible manner, and weaves it smoothly into the story. I particularly liked Cross’s methodical approach to interviewing suspects and the resultant scenes are a joy to read, and probably the best parts of the book.
Some may find the frequent digresses into the Cross’s private life a little tiresome, but it helps to build his character and actually leads to the resolution of the mystery. Readers of the earlier books will gain extra pleasure from following the developments in Cross’s personal life, but The Monk also works well as a stand-alone mystery, and it is not necessary to have read its predecessors.
Overall, The Monk is an enjoyable mystery and aficionados of mild British police detective novels will find much to like here.
The Monk is released in the United Kingdom on 27 April 2023. It is available in Australia on Kindle, but the paper edition will not be released until September 2023.
Also on the milder side of British detective fiction is Stig Abell’s debut crime novel, Death Under A Little Sky (Harper Collins, 13 April 2023).
Tired of policing, and recovering from his divorce, former high flying London detective Jake Jackson heads off to the English countryside and the remote house left to him by his reclusive uncle. Once there, Jake enjoys the solitude, his long daily runs, morning swims in his private lake, eccentric neighbours, and the time to read through his uncle’s collection of crime novels. The peace is ruined, however, when the local village treasure hunt turns nasty and a bag of bones are found. Suddenly, Jackson finds himself thrust back into the role of detective.
This a quietly enjoyable novel that excels in its reflections on life and the eccentricities of the village inhabitants. Jackson, and the engaging local vet Livia Bennett, are good company over the course of the mystery and Abell’s writing is very stylish and enjoyable. The mystery plot is quite good and there is enough suspense to keep it interesting.
Fans of crime fiction will enjoy the twee references to the genre’s greats: Sherlock Beech, Chandler Lake, Poirot Point and Agatha Wood etc., and will also appreciate Jackson’s comments on books and plays. I particularly liked Jackson’s pondering on what would Reacher do, when confronted by a difficult situation.
A good read!
Death Under A Little Sky is released in the United Kingdom on 13 April 2023 and in Australia on 3 May 2023.