Three-Fifths, by John Vercher, Pushkin/Vertigo, RRP£12.99, 248 pages
Excoriating and mesmeric, Vercher’s remarkable debut addresses issues of race in America but scrupulously avoids “woke” tendentiousness. Mixed-raced Bobby Saraceno has been nervously passing as white, but an encounter with a friend released from prison (and now a white supremacist) leads both men into violent territory. Complex, pungent and timely.
The Devil and the Dark Water, by Stuart Turton, Raven Books, RRP£16.99, 576 pages
Turton’s debut The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle was a hard act to follow, but lightning has struck twice. On a voyage to Amsterdam in 1634, the merchant ship Saardam becomes the scene of a gruesome death. A genre-sampling epic that sets outrageous traps for the reader and builds an atmosphere of dread.
The Searcher, by Tana French, Viking, RRP£14.99/RRP$27, 400 pages
American-born, Ireland-resident French has a good claim to be the most consummate writer of psychological crime at work today. This is a new departure: a Chicago detective moves to a cloistered Irish village and becomes involved in a missing persons case. An idyllic rural life inexorably moves into nightmare territory.
Broken, by Don Winslow, HarperCollins, RRP£20, 352 pages
There is a sense of hard-won, real-world authenticity to the gritty novels of Winslow. This is no blockbuster along the lines of The Border, but rather a collection of six short novellas. Yet, in pared-down Hemingwayesque prose, every one of these pieces is top-drawer Winslow.
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A Song for the Dark Times, by Ian Rankin, Orion, RRP£20, 336 pages
This 23rd outing transports Rankin’s retired copper Rebus to an isolated part of northern Scotland, where his daughter’s partner has disappeared. The characterisation of a close-knit local community is worth the price of admission alone. Vintage Rankin — which is to say, the best that the crime genre can currently offer.
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