Crime In Brief: The Last Llanelli Train Blood of Angels<br></br>Conviction<br></br>Grievous Angel<br></br>

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The Independent Culture

Robin Llewellyn is an ageing, alcoholic private eye with an office over a mini-mart in an unfashionable part of Bristol and terrible memories of a friend betrayed. The sort of bloke who sleeps in his office and wears the same shirt for three days. He's no athletic, handsome TV cop, just a man with his own peculiar sense of honour, teetering on the edge of the gutter but still looking for a way to the stars. And then Mrs Dixon turns up. She wants to set her husband up in a blackmail plot. Simple: errant husband plus hooker plus PI with a video camera and microphone equals big payment.

No chance. It's all a scam, and as our hero reels from disaster to disaster, he realises he's nothing more than a patsy in a grander scheme. The Last Llanelli Train is a depressing and bitter tale of a frankly disgusting man, but with enough flashes of black humour to make it more than likeable. I hope Llewellyn returns.

Blood of Angels by Michael Marshall (HARPERCOLLINS £12.99)

The saga of the "Straw Men" continues. Ex-CIA agent Ward Hopkins and his girlfriend Nina Baynam, on leave from the FBI, are holed up in a log cabin in Washington State. They're keeping a low profile after their last, almost fatal adventure, when her boss and an LAPD Homicide detective come calling. Nina is required back on the job looking into a murder in Virginia. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, a bunch of rich kids get too deep into dealing drugs and a couple of them are killed. The connection? Ward's twin brother, a psycho-killer on the run. Marshall does it again with Blood Of Angels. Very highly recommended.

Conviction by Richard North Patterson (MACMILLAN £16.99)

Previously, I've been quite a fan of Richard North Patterson's, but I'm afraid Conviction is a very dull dog indeed. After 15 years on death row for the murder of a nine-year-old girl, brothers Rennell and Payton Price are going nowhere. But Rennell has one last hope - feisty defence lawyer Teresa Peralta Paget and her team, brought in at the last moment to try and save him from the hot needle.

Conviction hops about from the present to the past and I found it hard to care what happened in the end. But I imagine you can guess.

Grievous Angel by Jane Hill (HEINEMANN £10.99)

Grievous Angel is the debut of yet another name to watch. Well, I'm watching and I'm not impressed. Justine Fraser is the unlikely British ex-girlfriend of film star Nicky Bennett (think a young Brad Pitt crossed with Tom Cruise) who's gone missing in California. She trots across the Atlantic to find him when the combined forces of a film company's millions and the FBI and LAPD cannot.

Of course, she's successful and discovers all sorts of things en route that she doesn't like about life, love, him and herself. Chick crime lit - not my favourite sub-genre.

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