Crime with an accent: British thrillers are ripping reading
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Gerard O'Donovan, an Irish journalist, sets up an intriguing conflict-of-interest situation between two attractive Dubliners who presumably still have most of their teeth in his write-by-the-numbers suspense debut.
Handsome detective Mike Mulcahy returns to Ireland from Barcelona after his Interpol war-on-drugs assignment ends to soon fall into bed with Siobhan Fallon, curly-haired star reporter for a third-rate Sunday rag.
Mike is bummed, though, when he's ordered to lend a hand in the investigation of a brutal religion-tinged sex crime because the victim is the teen daughter of an important Spanish politician.
The Irish authorities try to put a lid on the incident, but Siobhan blows the case wide open thanks to a baddie inside the Gardai, the Irish national police. Mulcahy is blamed unfairly for provocative pillow talk cluing Siobhan to the inside dope.
Mr. O'Donovan also educates Americans on Irish journalism, which seems largely based on paying for information, from cops to witnesses, calling into question the integrity and ethics of the news organizations.
As the assaults featuring painful mutilations with a cross motif mount up, Mulcahy is thrown back into the case thanks to his talents and sensitive nature.
Although it's clear early on who the psycho is, nicknamed "The Priest," Mr. O'Donovan builds suspense carefully and cleverly, leading us to a pulse-raising climax at a huge cross in a Dublin park.
Contemporary crime fiction from Great Britain and Ireland is laden with rueful social commentary on how everything's gone to hell; Mr. O'Donovan hews to the trend, fueled by the recent economic collapse of the former "Celtic Tiger."
One question: Why does the dust jacket call the Priest a serial killer, although his crimes are really assaults?
Another question: What does Roy Orbison have to do with anything?
Anyway, the atmosphere of "The Priest" is redolent of Guinness and unwashed knickers, just the thing for St. Patrick's Day.
-- Bob Hoover,
This impressive debut thriller by British author Imogen Robertson got its start when she won a prize for writing the best first 1,000 words of a novel.
An auspicious beginning for any author and Ms. Robertson made the most of it. She's taken a hoary old trope -- murder and mayhem at an isolated English estate -- and turned it into something authentically moving and scary.
It's 1780. Harriet Westerman is the wife of an English sea captain on a voyage, living a conventional and boring life. Things change when Harriet discovers the body of a man on her Sussex property. His throat has been viciously cut. She summons Gabriel Crowther, an amateur anatomist who wants nothing more than to be left alone, for help. The trail leads to Thornleigh Hall, the estate next door, where "instruments of darkness" are being prepared for further victims.
Ms. Robertson has created two likable protagonists. Westerman, running the estate in her husband's absence, is a brilliant woman, but it's 18th-century England, so who cares what she thinks? Crowther does and becomes her partner in investigating increasingly shocking murders.
The author has a wicked way with suspense and vividly portrays the era's grim anarchy that seethed in England's back alleys. A ripping homage to Dickens, Austen and Conan Doyle, "Instruments of Darkness" will keep you up at night, and then, like me, waiting for the sequel.
-- By Mary Ann Gwinn,
The Seattle Times
"The Complaints" are Scotland's cops who investigate other cops. Malcolm Fox, who works out of the Edinburgh division, is an earnest worker and a reformed alcoholic.
Fox is investigating officer Jamie Breck, whom he connects to child pornography and prostitution rings when his sister's abusive partner is brutally murdered. Breck is the chief officer assigned to the murder case.
Facing a double conflict of interest, he is eventually taken off the Breck case and barred from the murder case involving his sister. He defies both orders as he begins an uneasy friendship with Breck.
Soon the two find themselves on the wrong side of the law, under investigation from The Complaints and suspended from duty. Both men suspect a set-up from the start, but they don't know whom they can trust, including each other.
The events that follow are complex and compelling, a plot masterfully spun by the prolific Ian Rankin, who matches the elements that have marked the novels of his successful Inspector Rebus series.
Here, the author brings to life the entire Lothian and Borders Police force, and it's not a pretty picture.
With Fox as its flawed but admirable sleuth and Breck his iffy sidekick, "The Complaints" is part mystery, part buddy story, part morality essay. Mr. Rankin never lets the reader down for a single page.
-- By Robert Croan,
First Published March 13, 2011 12:00 am