Crime In Brief: Turning Angel<br/> Sweet Gum<br/>

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The Independent Culture

Turning Angel by Greg Iles (HODDER £12.99 £11.99 P&P FREE) 08700 798 897

Some writers have the knack of dragging the reader with them wherever they want to go. Most don't. Greg Iles does, and I'm prepared, on the whole, to go along for the ride wherever it ends. In Turning Angel, we're in Natchez, Mississippi once again: the old south where things don't change much. Sex with a girl under 18 is statutory rape, and when the man is 23, a respected doctor, married with a child, and on the board of the local school attended by the young woman he slept with, all hell breaks loose. She's dead, you see. Murdered.

But that's not all. Suddenly violence flares in the city. More murders. Lynch mobs roaming the streets. Everything goes crazy, and we the readers can only sit back and enjoy the mayhem. Brilliant!

Sweet Gum by Jo-Ann Goodwin (BANTAM £12.99 £11.99 P&P FREE) 08700 798 897

Eugene is a handsome young black man. A black man on the up in his chosen profession as a cocaine dealer, employed by the Faron Brothers - and you don't mess with them under any circumstances. Eugene lives with his mum, Gladys, his sister Simone, and his five-year-old nephew, Nero, a monster of a boy who you wouldn't want to meet down a dark alley at night (or indeed at any other time). Same with the serial killer known as The Meatman who is targeting young girls close to SweetHearts, the lap-dancing club where Simone struts her stuff. So watch out, Sis.

Sweet Gum is a modern parable loosely based on Spenser's The Faerie Queen - a nightmare vision of a London slightly out of kilter with reality. Especially memorable are the scenes in the horrible house belonging to Shifter, who wholesales the drugs. He lives there with two ancient female relatives, one of whom has the hots for Eugene, plus three Rhodesian Ridgebacks called Faithless, Hopeless and Loveless. The dogs have had their vocal cords cut, so that you can't hear them coming. It's bloodcurdling stuff.

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