The Goodbye Coast by Joe Ide (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £16.99)
Joe Ide’s first series featured the Sherlock Holmes-like Isaiah Quintabe. Now comes a contemporary reimagining of Raymond Chandler’s private eye, Philip Marlowe. Ide’s creation shares a name, a job description and a location with his literary progenitor, but has a deal more backstory – including a failed police career and a complicated relationship with his LAPD veteran father – and a deal less alcohol (although Dad makes up for that). When obnoxious film star Kendra Jones hires him, he assumes it’s to solve the murder of her director husband, shot dead some weeks earlier on the beach in Malibu, but she wants him to find and return her 17-year-old stepdaughter. Cody, who believes that Kendra had her father killed, refuses to come home; the truth, of course, is far less straightforward and a lot more dangerous. To complicate matters further, Marlowe falls for a desperate mother whose young son has been kidnapped by his father … The shift away from Chandler’s tight first-person focus risks diluting the whole, but The Goodbye Coast is a terrific read – pacy, with tension, pathos, wonderful descriptions of LA and some lovely one-liners.
Even the Darkest Night by Javier Cercas, translated by Anne McLean (MacLehose, £16.99)
Award-winning Spanish author Cercas turns his hand to crime fiction in a mystery with its roots in the civil war. Even the Darkest Night is the first in what promises to be an excellent series, featuring Melchor Marín, a criminal who, inspired by a desire to discover who killed his mother, joins the police force by dint of hard graft and doctored paperwork. To escape the glare of publicity after foiling a terrorist attack in Barcelona, he is relocated to the Catalan backwater of Terra Alta where, four years later, the police department finds itself in the media spotlight after a local businessman and his wife are tortured to death. Sections alternate between past and present – the backstory here does a lot of heavy lifting – as Marín, thwarted in his attempts to solve the case, redoubles his efforts with tragic consequences. History casts a long shadow over this tale of political and personal loyalties and the various means by which justice – of a kind – may be achieved.
Notes on an Execution by Danya Kukafka (Phoenix, £16.99)
In the introductory note to her second novel, Kukafka makes the point that “average men become interesting when they start hurting women” – our fascination with serial killers such as Ted Bundy allows these men to steal not only their female victims’ lives but their narratives, and causes us to overlook what is lost to family and community when women are murdered. A fictional attempt to remedy this, Notes on an Execution is a masterful slow burn of a novel. The narrative of the killer, an inadequate individual who has made bad choices and is hours away from death by lethal injection in a Texas prison, is rendered in the second person, with a level of success that is vanishingly rare. His tale is balanced by the stories of his mother, his former sister-in-law, and the female detective who succeeds in catching him: a poignant, beautifully written and necessarily uncomfortable read.
The House of Ashes by Stuart Neville (Zaffre, £14.99)
More uber-toxic masculinity here, this time in rural Northern Ireland. Neville’s latest is a grim tale of abuse past and present, split between the former inhabitants of the titular farmhouse – a brutal father and two sons (“the Daddies”) who keep women (“the Mummies”) captive and cowed – and the current occupants. Ex-social worker Sara, whose world, policed by controlling husband Damien, is shrinking by the day, has started to see bloodstains on the kitchen flagstones; then elderly, dishevelled Mary Jackson appears at the door, claiming the house is hers and asking about missing children. Chapters alternate between Mary’s nightmarish upbringing – the “missing children” are the ghosts of those who did not survive the cruelty and neglect – and Sara’s attempts to escape her increasingly trammelled existence. Eventually, their fledgling friendship, beautifully drawn, offers each woman a glimmer of hope.
Whatever Gets You Through the Night by Charlie Higson (Little, Brown, £14.99)
Rather more upbeat, and with far better weather, is Charlie Higson’s return to crime fiction for grownups. Robert McIntyre (not his real name) has come to Corfu in order to rescue 15-year-old Lauren from a paedophile who operates under the cover of an elite tennis training programme that is perilously close to a cult, but it’s not easy. Lauren’s dad has arrived on the island and keeps getting in the way; the kid is busy cooking up her own escape attempt; and other impediments include a drug dealers’ turf war, Albanian gangsters, a psychotic bodyguard and a bunch of rich teenage brats out for kicks. It’s loud, bright, fast and funny – a perfect read for a dreary month.