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Crime Fiction with Mat Coward Serial offerings with a killer twist

CHASED out of London by people traffickers, journalist Jenny returns to her native Guernsey in The Devil's Claw by Lara Dearman (Trapeze, £7.99) to take up a rather dull job on the island's daily paper.

When a woman's body washes up on a local beach, it's unclear whether the death was due to suicide or accident but, while researching for a background feature, Jenny finds other such deaths. They go back decades, with remarkably similar features in common.

Her only ally, in revealing a killer of great patience and stealth, is an unpopular local cop who's not far off retirement.

There isn't much new to be done with the serial killer story, no matter how many authors continue to convince themselves otherwise, but Dearman's intimate understanding of life on Guernsey makes this a fresh setting for this debut novel in a series that I'm looking forward to seeing more of.

Hello Again by Brenda Novak (Headline, £8.99) takes place in a remote one-pub town in Alaska, where Dr Evelyn Talbot runs a unique facility, part-prison and part-research centre, for jailed psychopaths.

There's a personal reason behind her vocation — as a teenager her psychopathic boyfriend attempted to kill her. He then went on the run, with help from his rich family, and Evelyn knows he will one day return to complete his unfinished business unless she can find him first.

Terrifically suspenseful, although this is yet another woman-in-jeopardy serial-killer story at heart, it benefits from being rather more scientific in its approach than usual. It's part of a series, so there's no complete resolution at the end, but it nonetheless works well as a stand-alone novel.

Maureen Jennings returns to her best known character after a decade's break with Let Darkness Bury the Dead (Titan, £7.99).

It's set in 1917, when William Murdoch, now a widower and a senior detective in the Toronto police, is delighted to have his only son home from the war, even though Jack is clearly suffering from his wounds both physical and mental.

But, as he investigates a series of murders, all of young men who are non-combatants, Murdoch is forced to wonder how much his own boy knows about what's going on.

It's rather a dark book, set in a dark time, but with good period detail and characters who come alive, even if only in death.

Barbara Leslie's Unhinged (Titan, £7.99) completes the Danny Cleary trilogy, though you don't need to have read the first two instalments to enjoy this one.

Cleary and what remains of her extended family have holed up in a discreetly fortified house in Toronto, where they should be safe from the religious cult that is still hunting them.

But they can't live the rest of their lives behind security doors and bulletproof windows. Sooner or later there'll have to be a showdown — and here it comes.

Funny and tragic, and as touching as it is blood-soaked, this is a breathlessly exciting conclusion to a highly unusual series.

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