A mind for revenge

Sunday Times, 28 July 2013

A psychoanalyst with a grudge and one of the year’s best crime novels top Joan Smith’s round-up

Most murder victims are killed by someone they know, which is why the police often turn the spotlight on the surviving partner. But the main character in A S A Harrison’s superb novel The Silent Wife (Headline £ 12.99) is as unlikely a murderer as it’s possible to imagine. She’s a psychoanalyst, seeing clients in the airy apartment in Chicago which she shares with her long-term partner, and she prides herself on being unsurprised by her patients’ self-deceptions.

Unfortunately for Jodi, her own life is based on a deception. She doesn’t know it but Todd is having an affair with a much younger woman. For years his blue-collar mates have ribbed him about his brainy feminist wife and suddenly Jodi’s principles are being used against her; the couple never married, the apartment is in Todd’s name and now he wants her out. This perfectly-pitched first novel offers sharp insights into the grievances which accumulate over a long relationship, and the lengths to which a woman will go when her world collapses. It’s been enthusiastically endorsed by leading writers, and it’s poignant that the Toronto-based author died from cancer not long before publication.

Jane Casey’s police procedurals go from strength to strength. In The Stranger You Know (Ebury Press £12.99), DC Maeve Kerrigan is investigating the murders of three young women in London. The killer observes the same rituals each time, and the gaps between the murders are becoming shorter. Kerrigan is an intuitive investigator, often at odds with her macho boss DI Josh Derwent, and the case turns out to have disturbing parallels with the unsolved murder of his girlfriend many years ago. When Derwent becomes a suspect, Kerrigan has to examine her loyalties at the same time as trying to stop a killer.

Lars Kepler is the latest Swedish crime-writing sensation. Kepler is the pseudonym of Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril whose earlier novel, The Hypnotist, sold 100,000 copies in the UK. The Fire Witness (Blue Door £16.99), translated by Laura A Wideburg, begins with a murder at a home for troubled teenage girls. When a woman claiming to be a medium keeps calling DI Joona Linna, claiming to know something about the murder, he doesn’t take her seriously but something about her intrigues him. So does a missing girl, and the trail of violence she has left in a series of foster homes leads Linna to uncover a lurid tale of child abuse.

Jussi Adler-Olsen gets rather deeper into the human psyche in Redemption (Penguin £7.99), translated by Martin Aitken. It begins with a message in a bottle, scrawled in blood by a teenage boy who has been kidnapped. The bottle sets off on a long and tortuous journey before finally landing up in Department Q, where DI Carl Morck investigates cold cases on behalf of Copenhagen police. Although the trail has long gone cold, Morck uncovers a killer who is still operating in one of the best crime novels published this year.

Harry Bingham’s Love Story, With Murders (Orion £12.99) boasts what must be the most startling protagonist in modern crime fiction. In her teens, DC Fiona Griffiths suffered from Cotard’s syndrome, a rare condition which makes people believe they’re dead. Now she’s a detective in Cardiff, where she’s called to a gruesome discovery – part of a woman’s leg – in a freezer. Other body parts begin to appear, some belonging to the dead woman and others which are more recent. The investigation forces Griffiths to confront the mystery of her own origins – she was adopted by a local crime boss – and her strange psychological condition. Brutal, freakish and totally original.


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