Crime In Brief: The Twelfth Card<br></br>Velocity<br></br>The Death Collectors<br></br>

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The Independent Culture

Early one morning in the Museum of African-American Culture and History on 55th Street in Midtown Manhattan, a young black girl is attacked by a masked man apparently intent on rape and murder. She gets away, and then Lincoln Rhyme, quadriplegic criminalist and crime-scene expert, and his partner, NY detective Amelia Sachs, get the case.

But perhaps the motive was not rape, just murder, as the girl had stumbled on a secret from the long distant past. A secret involving a fortune.

Deaver's investigators are two of crime fiction's most enduring and endearing characters, and once again he spins a fascinating and intriguing story. A certain hit.

Velocity by Dean Koontz (HARPERCOLLINS £17.99 £16.99 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897)

Down in Napa Valley, California, something wicked stirs. And when Billy

Wiles, a local bartender with a past as black as coal visits his girlfriend in a coma, she stirs too. It's an omen. On the way, Billy finds a note under his windscreen wiper. It threatens murder if he reports it to the cops, and a murder if he doesn't. He thinks it's a bad joke but informs a local deputy anyway. The murder occurs as promised, then there's another note, and the cop turns up dead, and Billy's caught between a rock and a hard place as his past resurfaces, and he knows he will be the prime suspect in multiple homicide.

Koontz hits the bullseye here. There's surprise after surprise, including a killer finale, if you'll excuse the pun. A read-in-one-go novel.

The Death Collectors by Jack Kerley (HARPERCOLLINS £10 £9.50 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897)

It's 1972, and sentencing time for serial murderer Marsden Hexcamp in Mobile, Alabama. Old Sparky is being dusted down, but justice is frustrated as a veiled woman enters the courtroom, shoots Hexcamp and then herself. The guilty man's dying words are directed at Detective Jacob Willow, the man who arrested him.

Fast forward to the present, and collectors will pay big bucks for murder memorabilia. Willow is still intrigued by the Hexcamp case, and becomes the catalyst between then and now, victims and killers, the death collectors and their strange compulsions. A fascinating and frightening take on the genre.