The best recent detective stories and thrillers – review summary | Books

The Shadows of Men Abir Mukherjee

The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee (Harvill Secker, £ 12.99)
The fifth book in the Wyndham & Banerjee series about officers from the Imperial Police Force begins in Calcutta in 1923 with the assassination of a prominent Hindu scholar. Sergeant Banerjee’s proximity to the dead puts him in the frame of assassination, so it is imperative that he and Captain Wyndham find the Muslim politician they suspect to be the true culprit as soon as possible. Sectarian tensions are already high thanks to gang violence and political divisions, and there is a good chance that the riots could turn into a bloodbath. The idea that someone is deliberately inciting existing unrest contributes to the growing discomfort both Wyndham and Banerjee feel over the colonial rule they have vowed to maintain. Action-packed, with some stunning scenery, this is not only an atmospheric and thoughtful depiction of a time and a place, but a master class in how to get the reader to turn the pages.

Mick Herron Dolphin Junction

Dolphin Junction by Mick Herron (John Murray, £ 16.99)
Dolphin Junction is definitely one for the Christmas list, and is both a perfect introduction to the creator of the monstrous spy master Jackson Lamb and a treat for Slough House lovers. The 11 stories in this collection were originally written between 2006 and 2019, and – unusual for an anthology of this type – there is no make-weight: each provides a surprise, a shock or a thrill with lots of Herron’s brand smoke-and- mirror deception and sardonic humor. Highlights include Roald Dahlesque Lost Luggage and the truly terrifying All the Livelong Day, as well as What We Do, one of four stories featuring the smart, unforgettable private eye Zoë Boehm from the author’s Oxford series. An episode in Jackson Lamb’s past is explored in The Last Dead Letter, and there is festive cheering in The Usual Santas when eight Santa Clauses try to uncover the deceiver who has infiltrated their caves.

Sofi Oksanen

Dog Park by Sofi Oksanen, translated by Owen F Witesman (Atlantic, £ 14.99)
The award-winning Finnish-Estonian author Oksanen’s latest book is an intricate, textured slow burner that paints a vivid picture of a post-Soviet state where gangsters rule and the exploitation of the female body is big business. The dog park begins in 2016, where Olenka sits on a bench in Helsinki and watches anonymously, while her biological child – now with new parents – enjoys a walk with the family schnauzer. When an old acquaintance, Daria, sits down next to her, Olenka immediately assumes that the woman is there for the purpose of extortion. In 2006, desperate to escape a life of poverty in her native Ukraine, Olenka agreed to sell her eggs to an infertile couple through an agency that subsequently hired her to encourage others, including Daria, to do the same. It takes a while to figure out what exactly has gone so wrong that Olenka fears for her life, but the pathos is fuel for real excitement.

The Russian doll Marina Palmer

The Russian Doll by Marina Palmer (Hodder & Stoughton, £ 16.99)
Historical novelist Imogen Robertson, writes under her new thriller name, features several post-Soviet gangsters. Here are the Russian oligarchs based in London pouring expensive gifts on members of the British establishment. When the poor administrative assistant Ruth Miller is offered the job as personal secretary by the shiny beauty Elena Shilkov, she is transported to a world of bodyguards, designer clothes and superyachts, but she soon finds out that such luxury comes with a great price . Nothing is what it seems in this novel, which, like the title’s matryoshka, contains secrets in secrets – and Ruth, it turns out, has her very own agenda. Quick and clever, with a pleasant mix of political intrigue and romantic suspense as well as a whodunnit, this is perfect entertainment for a winter evening.

The Quiet People by Paul Cleave

The Quiet People by Paul Cleave (Orenda, £ 8.99)
The latest novel from New Zealander Cleave takes place in Christchurch, where the married crime writer duo Cameron and Lisa Murdoch live with their son Zach. As the seven-year-old disappears, the couple’s boastful statements about being able to commit the perfect crime come back to haunt them. There is also the fact that Zach – euphemistically described as “challenging” – had a public meltdown the day before he disappeared, as does his father, who with his anger management problems and poor impulse control is as painful in the throat as his son. Public sympathy evaporates, and soon the family is in the eyes of a social media storm with protesters outside their house and a series of one-star reviews on Amazon, as suspicion grows that Cameron and Lisa have made a real plot to revive their fluttering careers. A true page turner, with an intriguing premise, a roller coaster plot and a cast of credibly flawed characters.

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