CRIME NOVELS IN BRIEF

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The Independent Culture
2 Close Call by Gillian Slovo, Michael Joseph pounds 14.99. Detective Kate Baeier is back again (it's Slovo's fifth book about her), this time finding things pretty sticky on the streets of London. She is on the inside track with the police - writing a profile of a Chief Superintendent, then hired to trace a policewoman - before she discovers a tangle of half-truths and evasion that leads her into some seriously mucky stuff. Slovo can sound like Raymond Chandler - "I put instinct on hold, grabbed an A-Z and headed out into Hackney's badlands" - or like a wisecracking social commentator - "she was a woman who had long ago elevated self-neglect to the heights of political correctness" - but she is always pacy and entertaining.

2 Wish You Were Here by Lesley Grant-Adamson, Hodder pounds 15.99. This is a scary story, because (unlike the great majority of murder novels) you can actually imagine it happening to you. Linda - in her own assessment, "depressingly ordinary" - wants to get away. She avoids everyone by pretending to be going abroad, but in fact sets out by car on a solitary jaunt that brings her into collision with Tom. She makes the mistake of talking to him about poetry; a mistake that is only the first stage of an easy and plausible slide into disastrous intimacy. At about this point in the book you start to ask yourself: "How would I know if someone were a killer?" And Linda has made herself the perfect victim ...

2 A Piece of Justice by Jill Paton Walsh, Hodder pounds 15.99. The second tec novel by the well-known children's writer and surprise Booker contender of last year. Her first, The Wyndham Case, also starred the eminently sensible Imogen Quy (a creation more like Miss Marples than V I Warshawski), who here gets involved with a mystery, a dark secret and various forms of foul play through the novel combination of quilt-making, mathematics and the writing of biography. It just goes to show that nothing is safe.

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