Paperback Review: The Low Road, By Chris Womersley Quercus £7.99

Australian novelist Chris Womersley's 2007 debut, published for the first time in the UK, is hard-bitten noir. At its centre are three very different criminals who converge on an isolated desert ranch: Wild, a genteel doctor with a morphine habit; Josef, an ageing gangster; and Lee, a young hoodlum who has escaped from a debt-collecting job with a suitcase full of cash and a bullet in his gut.

This is an unremittingly bleak novel, the tone reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy at his very darkest. Womersley writes in a dense, clotted prose that seems at odds with the book's thrillerish plot conventions, and characterisation can seem a little clichéd. But there are nevertheless some memorable set pieces here, including a remarkable scene in which Wild attempts to remove Lee's bullet with rusty equipment and trembling hands.