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THE White House is in the hands of ruthless criminals — not only in real life but also in Tony Kent’s new conspiracy thriller, Power Play (Elliott & Thompson, £8.99).
It starts when a plane is blown out of the sky and, among the dead, is a populist candidate for the US presidency. In London, a Syrian refugee working as an airport baggage handler confesses to planting the bomb.
But as soon as defence barrister Michael Devlin meets him, he knows there’s more to this than run-of-the-mill terrorism. Meanwhile, in New York, UN intelligence agent Joe Dempsey begins to follow a thread that leads from the downed plane to the Oval Office.
It’s great fun, with lots of action and lots of rich right-wing baddies meeting deservedly violent ends.
Mortmain Hall by Martin Edwards (Head of Zeus, £18.99) is the second in the series of between-the-wars novels featuring young Fleet Street reporter Jacob Flint and the mysterious Rachel Savernake, an amateur detective with her own secrets to keep.
This time, links between the death of a man supposed already to be dead and a number of sensational murder trials lead to a house party hosted by a criminologist where nobody is safe.
Edwards has created some marvellous characters in these books which carry a real flavour of the Golden Age of crime fiction. There’s even the traditional list of clues at the end so puzzled readers can see how many they missed.
On New Year’s Day in 1986, by a frozen lake not far from the US side of the Canadian border, a woman walking her dog phones the police from a call box to say that she has found a lost child. By the time a cop arrives, both woman and child have gone.
But How a Woman Becomes a Lake by Marjorie Celona (Virago, £16.99) is an unconventional and lyrical crime novel.
It deals not so much with investigation or mystery as with chains of events and consequences, between and across generations, and the difficulty not only of doing the right thing but of knowing what it is.
The book’s extraordinary sympathy and empathy is not at odds with its moral clarity and, for all it deals with tragedy, it is an uplifting read.
Three middle-aged Irish people take the ferry to Scotland in The Last Crossing by Brian McGilloway (Dome Press, £8.99).
In their youth, they were Republican volunteers on the mainland and, in the post-Agreement era, they have now been reluctantly reunited to make partial amends for a mission that went wrong.
All three believe they were used, by “the movement” back then and by “the party” now. But their regrets and resentments are different and conflicting, as are their recollections.
And, as they arrive in the woods where they once buried a comrade, it becomes obvious that the violence may not yet be over.
This quietly but unremittingly suspenseful thriller is also a luminous piece of writing about memory, vengeance, loyalty and fear.
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