Crime In Brief: A Fine Dark Line<br/> Dead Watch<br/> Darkness and Light<br/>

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A Fine Dark Line by Joe R Lansdale (WEIDENFELD £16.99 £15.50 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897)

It's 1958 and rock'n'roll is here to stay. And in Dewmont, Texas, The Monotones and Elvis are on the jukebox when 13-year-old Stanley Mitchel Jr, and his family arrive to open up the Dew Drop Drive-in on a long hot day that summer. But Stanley learns a lot about life and death that year as he discovers a treasure trove of love letters in an abandoned house and, with the help of a retired Indian reservation policeman and his own sister Caldonia, he solves the mystery of the murders of two young women a generation previously, and faces a nemesis who would be happy to see him dead too. As always Lansdale writes with a gentle reverence for the past and the present. I love his books, and this is one of the very best.

Dead Watch by By John Sandford (SIMON & SCHUSTER £11.99 £10.50 (P&P FREE 08700 798 897)

An ex-senator from Virginia goes missing and is presumed dead when a headless body fitting his description is found tied to a tree, while his wife is threatened by The Watchmen, a new political force in the US with sinister motives. Jake Winter, ex-army special forces and now a big-time bureaucrat at the White House, is called in to solve the problem with extreme prejudice. Which he does, as the body count rises and the plot thickens. Political thrillers aren't really my thing, but Dead Watch has the unmistakable Sandford touch, and that's good enough for me.

Darkness and Light by John Harvey (WILLIAM HEINEMANN £12.99 £11.50 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897)

Retired coppers in crime fiction never stay retired for long. And Frank Elder, John Harvey's latest hero, is no exception. That's good for Harvey fans, of which I'm one. The sister of a friend of Elder's ex-wife goes missing in Nottingham, and sadly ends up dead. What's more, the circumstances of her death are worryingly similar to an unsolved case of Frank's from way back in the past, so it's all systems go to try to solve the old and new crimes. Harvey is one of the stalwarts of British crime, and Darkness And Light should enhance his reputation even more. One of the best of the year so far.