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Cover-ups and conundrums from LA to the Cotswolds

MAT COWARD rounds up some of the latest Crime Fiction to hit the shelves

Los Angeles lawyer Mickey Haller does love a good murder, and he could certainly do with a long, complicated trial to top up his bank account. But, in The Gods Of Guilt by Michael Connelly (Orion, £18.99), does he really want to defend the cyber pimp charged with killing one of his old friends?

In the end he takes the case, if only to learn what happened to Gloria, a prostitute whom he thought he had helped to escape years ago from the trade which brought her back to LA to her old life and soon to her death.

A terrific courtroom drama is at the heart of this book, as Mickey battles a deep-rooted cover-up.

Jeff Abbott's thrillers about ex-CIA man Sam Capra, who now runs bars around the world which are used as safe houses by a secret society of do-gooders, often skate on the thin ice that separates non-stop plotting from absurdity. Whether or not they ever fall in is a matter of taste.

In the latest, Downfall (Sphere, £6.99), a young woman is attacked by would-be kidnappers in Capra's San Francisco pub and he's shocked to find that one of the thugs is a famously successful financier. It turns out that Capra's conspiracy is up against its mirror image - a kind of co-op of evil. The action comes so fast that sometimes it almost trips over itself but it's all great fun and constantly inventive.

Crimewave 12: Hurts (TTA Press, £12.99), the latest issue of the Cambridgeshire-based anthology series, proves once again that short stories can deliver heart-stopping twists which would lose their impact in the more unwieldy form of the novel. There's just such a gasp-provoking moment towards the end of Steven J Dines' story The Space That Runs Away With You.

It derives its power in part from the way this skilful writer has hidden the clues which make the twist inevitable inside an impressively credible exploration of the frightening communication gap that exists between small children and their parents.

Other contributors to the collection include Christopher Priest, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and the late Joel Lane.

When an historic house in the Cotswolds burns down, in Bricks And Mortality by Ann Granger (Headline, £7.99), some suspect an insurance fiddle. The listed property was once the unhappy home of a rich family but has stood empty for years and its ex-pat owner is unlikely to shed any tears at its destruction.

The discovery of a stranger's body in the ruins complicates matters and DI Jess Campbell and Detective Superintendent Ian Carter wonder which came first in the criminal's plans, the fire or the murder.

Even by the standards of traditional village whodunits some of the language in this book is extraordinarily old-fashioned. Do people in the Cotswolds routinely refer to each as "blighters" or use "The dickens they are!" as an expostulation? But the varied suspects are artfully and sympathetically drawn, and the mystery itself is cunning and satisfying.


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