Crime and thrillers

The legacy of evil; intrigue at court in Charles II’s London; dark tales of family psychology; and an American classic.

By Laura Wilson





Strange Sally Diamond Liz Nugent PENGUIN SANDY COVE ,£14.99 Sally doesn’t see why everyone is up in arms when she attempts to incinerate her adoptive father’s corpse. Psychiatrist Thomas Diamond, to whom she was a case study as much as a daughter, and with whom she has lived a reclusive life in an isolated County Roscommon bungalow, specifically told her to “put [him] out with the bins”. He has left letters detailing what he knows of the horrific events that led up to her adoption, but we know, from a second narrator, that the truth is even worse … Nugent’s fifth novel is her best yet: evil perpetuates evil in a heartbreaking but humane tale of people damaged beyond repair. The Shadows of London Andrew Taylor HARPERCOLLINS, £20 In the sixth novel in Taylor’s series set in the years after the Great Fire of London, a body is discovered in the blackened ruins of an almshouse that architect Cat Hakesby is rebuilding. Meanwhile, young Louise de Keroualle is being groomed for the job of latest mistress to the now middle-aged “merry monarch” Charles II. With a mixture of real and fictional characters, this tale of intrigue and power imbalance is well up to standard in a series that has set a benchmark for historical mystery fiction. A Flaw in the Design Nathan Oates SERPENT’ S TAIL ,£16.99 This American debut explores family and class tensions in a fight over who controls the narrative. When his sister and her rich husband are killed in a car accident, creative writing lecturer Gil reluctantly agrees to look after his 17-yearold nephew Matthew. Gil’s conviction that Matthew is a psychopath began with an incident on a family holiday, and now it’s increasing by the day. But Gil is also middle-aged, with debts and a stalled career, whereas Matthew has not only won over Gil’s wife and daughters but has his whole life – and a multimillion-dollar trust fund – ahead of him. Great characterisation and plenty of genuine suspense in a psychological thriller par excellence. Mother’s Day Abigail Burdess WILDFIRE, £16.99 There’s a touch of grand guignol to this debut. Abandoned as a baby, Anna lost her adoptive mother early and was consigned to boarding school by a distant father. Unsurprisingly, she has a lot of issues around family, and her alcoholic boyfriend is no help. Anna finds her birth mother at the same time as she discovers that she is pregnant, but Marlene, who initially presents as flamboyant and eccentric, soon turns out to be a manipulative, narcissistic monster. Dark, funny and downright icky in equal measure. The Man Who Lived Underground Richard Wright VINTAGE ,£9.99 Black American author Richard Wright finished The Man Who Lived Underground in 1942, but it is only now being published in its entirety. Set in Chicago, it’s the tale of Fred Daniels, who is picked up by two white cops on his way home from work – a white couple nearby have been murdered, and a culprit is required (“I think he’ll do”). Tortured until he confesses to the crime, Fred manages to escape into the city’s sewers. At once allegorical and brutally realistic, this short novel is a powerful indictment of racism as well as a thoroughly unsettling portrait of a man in the grip of an existential nightmare.