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FICTION Crime fiction

Reviews of The Perfect Guests by Emma Rousa, Confess to Me by Sharon Doering, Leave the Lights On by Egan Hughes and Highland Fling by Sara Sheridan

THE PERFECT GUESTS by Emma Rous (Piatkus, £7.99) is a house-party mystery with gothic elements in which a group of guests are invited to a Fenland mansion, deserted for years, to take part in a test event for a murder-mystery weekend.

Some of them are actors, supposedly in on the whodunnit. But the dangers turn out to be more real than anyone could have imagined, as the reader learns the recent history of Raven Hall, which has witnessed more than its share of tragedies, secret jealousies and obsessions.

Lots of spine-chilling fun, this novel would be the perfect distraction for the evening of a difficult day.

Heather and her family move to a small town in Wisconsin from Chicago to look after her husband’s dying mother in Confess to Me by Sharon Doering (Titan, £8.99). They were both born there and both have compelling reasons not to relish returning — and even more compelling reasons why they must.

For her part, Heather needs to understand the tragedy which led her to leave the place as a child, the details of which have always been obscure to her. It’s a mystery which has recently become not merely puzzling but potentially dangerous.

This is a truly unusual thriller, both in its delightful authorial voice, and in its exciting, surprising and insightful plot.

Deep in the Sussex countryside, in Leave the Lights On by Egan Hughes (Sphere, £8.99), Lauren and Joe have designed for themselves a state-of-the-art smart home, where everything from the lights and the locks to the music and the temperature is controlled by an app.

For Joe, it’s a place where he can display his tech skills to potential customers but, more than that, it’s his idea of paradise. Unfortunately, he can’t see that for Lauren it’s anything but.

Her recovery from a traumatic recent past is not helped by glitches in the house’s performance which are often trivial and sometimes frightening but always apparent only to her.

Either she’s heading for another psychotic episode or someone’s out to get her — and Joe makes it pretty clear which explanation he favours.

This high-tech gaslighting suspense story includes a skilful use of red herrings, leading to a properly surprising twist halfway through.

Highland Fling by Sara Sheridan (Constable, £8.99) is the eighth book about Brighton-based debt collector and amateur detective Mirabelle Bevan, whose wartime work in intelligence has left her ill-suited to the role of self-effacing 1950s lady.

Her slow-burning romance with Detective Superintendent Alan McGregor is now an official engagement, necessitating a trip to meet his cousin, a Highland laird. Naturally, the first corpse doesn’t take long to turn up.

Amid the distractions of a crisis moment in the cold war, Bevan finds herself entangled with paranoia, treachery and idealism as the ideological battles of the 1930 and ’40s continue to be fought.

Sheridan’s series continues to offer fine entertainment for lovers of the traditional mystery as well as readers fascinated by 20th-century social history.

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