Crime In Brief: Odd Thomas<br></br>The 37th Hour<br></br>Cut and Run

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The Independent Culture

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz (HARPERCOLLINS £17.99)

I'm a long-time fan of Dean (R) Koontz and currently have 37 titles by him on my shelves, including several written under his (female) nom de plume, Leigh Nicholls. He's a strange writer, crossing genres with a bit of crime, a bit of horror, a bit of fantasy, a bit of this, that and the other. A bit of an odd-ball in fact, which leads me nicely to the hero of his latest novel, Odd Thomas. That's Odd Thomas the title and Odd Thomas the character both. I won't go into how he was baptised Odd, but odd he certainly is. In the best possible way though. Odd sees dead people and they talk to him. But only inside his head, and some people think he's crazy. But in fact, he's just a bit odd. Geddit? It's a little confusing, but well worth persevering with. Using the information the dead impart to him, Odd solves crimes. Mostly murder. But when something really bad is heading for the small town of Pico Mundo in California, it's hard to get the locals to believe him, so Odd's more or less on his own. Often compared to Stephen King, Koontz sells truckloads. Personally I prefer him to King because of his more optimistic take on life. Odd Thomas is one of his finest books, and Odd himself is a superb character whom I'd like to see more of. A hit.

The 37th Hour by Jodi Compton (HODDER £10)

The 37th Hour reads like the kick-off of a series and I hope it is. Set in the twin cities of Minneapolis/St Paul, it features a young county sheriff's detective called Sarah Pribeck whose new husband, also a cop, goes missing on his way to Quantico to take an FBI induction course. According to police logic, after 36 hours the chances of finding a missing person evaporate fast. This is the 37th hour, and it's a gripping piece of storytelling that gets better the deeper the reader gets into it. This could easily hit the bestseller lists. Superb.

Cut and Run by Jeff Abbott (ORION £9.99)

There's nothing like old scores to settle to make a good crime novel, and Cut and Run is full of them. Abandoned families, robbery from the mob, and a man looking for the mother he still loves even after she left him, his father, and his brothers as children to hit the road in search of a more exciting life. So when dad is dying, the now adult son, Whit, takes off himself to track her down. Abbott has written a frighteningly violent novel. It's as though civilisation has finally broken down and the Goths are ruling downtown Houston, as possibly they do. The villains include one particularly memorable and nasty little character who lives his life by self-help tapes. Cut and Run is first class - a little diamond. If crime novels were music, this would be Jerry Lee Lewis, and there's no higher accolade in my opinion.

It Was You

by Adam Baron

MACMILLAN £10.99

Adam Baron's fourth Billy Rucker novel is his best yet. Rucker is a private eye cruising the mean streets of London. Blimey, that takes me back. He's really just a boy playing at cops and robbers until an old friend is killed and everything gets serious. Others die in horrific circumstances and it looks like all the deaths lead back to Billy. He's a truly sympathetic and believable character, trying to do his best to make things better in the Big Smoke. Excellent stuff but definitely not for pregnant women. You have been warned.

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