Books Review Crime Fiction with Mat Coward: March 13, 2022

YOU’D think detectives in long-running whodunnit series would have more sense than to go on holiday, but Echo Of The Dead by Alex Gray (Sphere, £14.99) begins with DSI William Lorimer of Glasgow walking up a minor Munro mountain near Glencoe .

Naturally, he happens upon a dead body. It appears to be that of another climbing enthusiast who has presumably met with an accident – ​​but there are one or two things about death that are slightly worrying. This quiet, rural area seems to have a surprising number of missing persons cases, and it’s not long before Lorimer is back, and this time in his official capacity.

Gray’s Lorimer sequence has thrived through 20 years and 19 books because it unfailingly delivers what its readers both want and expect; well-made mysteries in alluring settings that are populated with credible characters.

Six years ago an heiress was kidnapped in Essex, in Never Seen Again by Paul Finch (Orion, £7.99), and any hope that a ransom payment might free her was scuppered by the blundering, unethical intervention of regional crime journalist David Kelman.

Jodie’s never been seen since, while the only work Kelman can get is exposing the mucky secrets of celebrities for supermarket gossip mags. When the kidnapped woman’s brother, the only witness to her disappearance de ella, also meets a tragic end, Kelman is moved to try and make amends. He discovers that Jodie might not be dead after all, in which case someone who was close to her must know where and why she is being held.

Investigative journalism is one of those 20th-century occupations, like coal-mining, that you don’t see much of these days, but Finch has managed to come up with a believable scenario for how a trio of survivors might conduct their trade in the 2020s.

Full of chases, punch-ups, sadistic villains and wicked tycoons, this is a fun thriller, with protagonists I’d like to meet again.

All sorts of unpleasant rich people get their comeuppances in Hot Water by Christopher Fowler (Titan, £8.99). The trouble starts when struggling businessman Steve decides to combine a business trip to Nice with the consummation of his affair with a teenage girl. Her disappearance of her from her villa triggers an avalanche of suspicion and conspiracy in this wincingly and hilariously grim farce.

In one of London’s most close-knit urban villages a terrible crime is committed by two children, in Twelve Secrets by Robert Gold (Sphere, £12.99). It destroyed Ben’s family, and now, years later, he is a leading true-crime journalist reluctantly manipulated into researching an anniversary feature on his own family’s tragedy.

His investigations reveal that much of what he thought he knew about that time is suspect, and that many of those involved on the periphery of the event have failed to tell the whole truth. Another death suggests that someone is still willing to kill to keep their secrets.

A good, solid page-turner, with a final revelation that satisfies by being unguessable but retrospectively inevitable.

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