Reading for pleasure
This month's selection of leisure reading, chosen by the Journal's book review editor
Stav Sherez (Faber and Faber: £7.99; e-book £3.79)
Every fictional detective needs their own patch, their stamping ground. For Stav Sherez’s detectives Jack Carrigan and Geneva Miller it’s London. But not booming, wealthy London: it’s between-the-cracks, transient, hostel-dwelling London. In this, the third outing for Carrigan and Miller, they become involved when Madison, a terrified young Australian woman, turns up at their police station to claim that she witnessed the abduction of her German friend Anna, by someone whose parting shot to Madison was “I’ll be back to claim you.” Although the police are sceptical at first, their investigation leads them into the world of illegal online surveillance, and to a future – indeed, a present – in which none of us can ever be sure that we aren’t being watched by someone who wants to do us harm.
Sherez’s recent works thrive on the tense, yet mutually dependent, relationship between Carrigan and Miller; a relationship which sometimes hints at becoming something more than platonic. But it never becomes a distraction from the pain and misery of those living life on the margins of a wealthy society, and in this case from the fact that we’re really only at the start of a whole new age of crime, in which solving one tech-enabled offence has the same effect as trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. The killer leaves us with a chilling warning: “You think the things I’ve done are bad; just wait and see what the next generation is capable of… You’ll never feel safe again.” This is an outstanding crime fiction novel, and Stav Sherez is getting better and better with every book.
Clara Vine Volume 1
Jane Thynne (Simon & Schuster: £8.99; e-book £2.99)
Clara Vine steps of the train at Friedrichstrasse railway station in Berlin Mitte in 1933, aged 26. She is an aspiring actress who travels to Germany for a part in a film to be produced at the Babelsberg film lot in Potsdam. Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister, has taken the studio under his control. Magda Goebbels takes a shine to Clara and she soon finds herself in the world of the wives of senior Nazis. She also comes into contact with a number of British people who are in Berlin from correspondents to embassy staff, and soon finds herself being asked to provide information on the goings-on and tittle tattle shared amongst the wives. Magda takes Clara into her confidence when it transpires a former lover of Jewish descent seeks to re-engage with Magda. Thynne captures the atmosphere of Berlin in the early days of Nazi power brilliantly. While it appears untenable that an unknown actress could gain the trust of the First Lady of Nazi Germany so quickly, the author weaves her narrative into a satisfying whole.
Murder in the Merchant City
Angus McAllister (Polygon: £8.99; e-book £5.03)
Angus McAllister is a former solicitor and retired professor who wrote extensively on planning law. His website discloses he has written a number of books, short stories and plays of which this is his latest offering. Set in Glasgow, switching between the West End and the sauna in the Merchant City, we follow a number of women who work at the eponymous sauna as their clients are picked off one by one by an unknown killer. To add additional spice, a local newspaper mounts a campaign of photographing and seeking to shame those who enter the sauna. Annette, one of the women who works there, takes a shine to a “punter”, which is reciprocated. She fears however he may be next on the list of those who face death. When Annette thinks she is onto something to disclose the identity of the killer, involving the police is not an option. In a slim volume, the author provides a well drawn cast of characters and moves the plot on apace until the denouement when the killer's identity is revealed.