Magazine article The Spectator

Recent Crime Novels

Magazine article The Spectator

Recent Crime Novels

Article excerpt

Blue Lightning (Macmillan, £16.99) is the fourth novel in Ann Cleeves' excellent Shetland quartet. It is just as good as its predecessors. Cleeves has found a way to serve up many of the pleasures of the traditional mystery in an unusual modern setting. Her series detective, Jimmy Perez, returns to his own island, Fair Isle, with his artist fiancee, Fran.

Autumn storms cut the island off from the rest of the world. Perez anticipated that he would suffer mild embarrassment when he introduced Fran, an outsider from the south saddled with a six-year-old daughter, to his family home. But soon he has to cope with a murder investigation as well, when a woman is found dead with feathers in her hair at the local bird observatory. And far worse is in store, for the killing hasn't stopped.

As usual, the plotting is strong and the background fascinating. Cleeves is particularly good at assembling domestic detail that adds a cumulative poignancy and depth to her characters' lives. The narrative builds to a truly shocking climax with a grimly convincing epilogue. The good news is that this won't, after all, be the last novel to feature Jimmy Perez and the Shetlands. The quartet is now due to become a quintet at least.

Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski has been a prominent feature in the landscape of crime fiction for so long that it's hard to remember just how revolutionary she was when she first appeared in 1982. Together with Val McDermid on this side of the Atlantic, Paretsky did much to pioneer the idea of strong women detectives operating in contemporary society. Hardball (Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99) is the 13th novel in the series. Warshawski, who is growing more melancholy and reflective as time passes, is involved in a case with its roots in the Chicago race riots of 1966, when a black woman was murdered. A few months after the riot a young man, also black, disappeared, and now his mother and aunt want to find him before they die. In another strand of the plot, a cousin, whom Warshawski has never met, comes to Chicago to work on a senatorial campaign. Warshawski's office is burgled and trashed, and the cousin, Petra, is nowhere to be found.

Hardball is a strong, well-constructed novel, firmly founded in Chicago and its politics, past and present. Paretsky's plot combines racism, police corruption and family secrets - including Warshawski's - and the lost idealism of the 1960s provides a haunting backdrop. Some crime series grow stale over time, but there's no sign of fatigue here. This is partly because the recurring characters continue to develop and engage the reader, and partly because of the moral intelligence that informs the writing. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.