Crime round up: No rocket launchers aimed at women here. Awesome!

Bar the odd bout of ecstatic sex, the world of crime fiction is still very much a lad's landscape, discovers Mark Timlin

Blow Fly by Patricia Cornwell (LITTLE, BROWN £17.99)

When Patricia Cornwell writes a good book, it's really good. When she writes a bad one, it's a real turkey. Check out Isle of Dogs. But then I live on the island, so maybe I'm biased. So is her latest Scarpetta novel a nag or a thoroughbred? A bit of both, actually. It's not a stand-alone novel, but part three of a series that began with Black Notice, continued through The Last Precinct and looks like going on for at least one more volume, which is a bit rough on people who think that a novel should have a beginning, middle and end. However, Cornwell's style and plotting save the day, as this powerful story of Scarpetta's nemesis, The Wolfman, tightens up the tension and the body count goes well into double figures. But I'm not convinced by Scarpetta's niece Lucy, who seems to have morphed into a female Austin Powers, roaming the globe assassinating anyone who gets in her way. So if you haven't read the two previous instalments, will this one make sense? Maybe not, but they're worth checking out in their own right. Don't expect any real conclusion in Blow Fly. There's only a terrible anti-climax where everything wraps up leaving the reader wanting more.

Last Car to Elysian Fields By James Lee Burke (ORION £12.99)

After a couple of disappointing novels, James Lee Burke is right back on form with a new Dave Robicheaux adventure. Robicheaux's creative juices are flowing again - maybe it's because he is alone, his wife is deceased, his adopted daughter is in college and he's sold his fishing business to his old friend Batist who cares for Dave's three-legged raccoon called Tripod. So a solitary Robicheaux roams southern Louisiana dying for a drink and looking for trouble, which he finds easily enough on the trail of the murder of an old blues shouter half a century before. This is a lyrical and lovely novel that takes Burke back to the top of the crime-writing tree where he richly deserves to be.

Men From Boys ed John Harvey (HEINEMANN £16.99)

John Harvey has gathered together a collection of short stories from his favourite male crime writers, illustrating what it's like to be a man in these gender-challenged times. And no, there's not one from me. Funny eh? But no sour grapes. There are some terrific tales here by, to name just a handful, Daniel Woodrell, Lawrence Block and Michael Connolly. George Pelecanos turns up with "Plastic Paddy", another of his tales of Boston lowlife, about a fake Irishman and a coke deal that goes wrong. Jeffrey Deaver's story, "The Poker Lesson", teaches a young man how harsh life can be when the cards are stacked against you. There are stories of tough times, rough times and redemptive times, and my particular favourite is one of the shortest: a story called "Geezers" by Brian Thompson that says all there is to say about being a bloke in fewer than 15 pages. Oh well, perhaps I'll be in volume two.

Remember When by Nora Roberts and J D Robb (PIATKUS £18.99)

After one for the men (and boys), here's a book definitely aimed at women, which is probably why it left me cold. Laine Tavish runs a small antiques shop in an idyllic town in Maryland, and all is serene until a face turns up from her past that could smash her new life. Laine is not all she appears to be. Her dad was a conman whose last job involved stealing a fortune in diamonds and Laine has severed all ties with him, including her name. Then she meets a man who is also not what he seems, and they embark on an affair. The reader has to endure page after page of their ecstatic sex life, which which would have been stopped at the bedroom door by any competent editor. Then suddenly the book jumps 100 years into the future and becomes even more like a bad joke. Nora Roberts and J D Robb are apparently the same person, so it wasn't only the plot that left me baffled.

Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson (HEADLINE £17.99)

After a number of novels co-written with other individuals, James Patterson flies solo once again in his new novel featuring his premier serial hero Alex Cross. Cross is now with the FBI and up against his toughest adversary yet, a Russian mafioso named Wolf, who will stop at nothing in his criminal activities (and for once, the cliché actually has some meaning). I don't want to spoil the ending, so all I will say is that despite all Cross's endeavours, the Wolf will be back, after dealing with an informant by shooting him in the head with a hand-held rocket launcher. Awesome.

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