The best new crime reads of the month



The Cleaner by Elisabeth Herrmann

Espionage novels are like a long swim in stormy weather – by turns comforting, slightly terrifying, and a thorough workout. It is, of course, absolute heaven to sit there on your couch with a glass of pinot gris and read about agents double-crossing each other and people getting shot all over the place, while wondering if you can trust a single person who turns up – which is how everyone feels about crime-scene cleaner Judith Kepler. After she’s sent to turn the apartment of a dead woman into a habitable home again, she comes across an envelope from the Yuri Gargarin Children’s Home, a place where Judith herself grew up … if that’s what you call the torturous childhood years she spent there. In the envelope is a file. And on that file is the name ‘Judith Kepler’.

Judith is one of those heroes you come across who seems bigger than the page she’s on: able to deal practically with death, smart enough to find her way to anyone she needs to speak to, dryly cynical, tough as a trainyard full of nails … but humanly, gloriously fallible. The path to her past and why anyone cares about her – especially when no one ever has – plunges her directly into the world of former Stasi members and connects her with a secret, (or, well, three thousand secrets) that some people would do anything to keep. Herrmann’s brilliant, bruising spy thriller is a dangerous tale with bloody consequences that tests a reader’s ability to pay attention – and to know who to believe, in an environment full of lies.



Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Once upon a time, an author called Paula Hawkins wrote a book called The Girl on the Train and sold 15 million copies. Wait – that’s no crime. Let me try again. Once upon a time, a bestselling author wrote her second book: it starts with Nel Abbott jumping off a cliff into the water below. The only one in town who seems distressed is Nel’s daughter, who’s also the only person who believes Nel would never jump into the place she spent all her time researching: the unnervingly named (but historically accurate) Drowning Pool. That is, until Nel’s sister Jules returns, after years of misguided estrangement … and realises that what she remembers about their shared past, and the very history of the town, is as murky as the river.


The Boy on the Bridge by M.R. Carey

In the brilliant The Girl with All the Gifts, M.R. Carey wove a story of devastation: in it, disease struck the world, stripping humans of all they were and leaving them nothing but hungry. Carey pulls us back into this world in The Boy on the Bridge. And (putting aside my excitement that this month’s books have two with ‘boy’ in the title and a glorious zero with ‘girl’), it’s just as much of a heart-stalling, visceral thriller as its predecessor. When a small team leave the delicate safety of Beacon – the stronghold where most of England’s survivors are kept – they travel in the claustrophobic confines of a tank-like vehicle that keeps the hungries out, and the tension and conflict in. Half peopled with scientists aiming for a cure, half with the military keeping them alive, the mission is important, yet the crew is expendable. And then there’s Stephen, the teenager there for reasons no one is quite sure of – but whose presence alone could change everything.


The Strange Disappearance of a Bollywood Star by Vaseem Khan

When Inspector Ashwin Chopra (now retired, which means, in crime fiction parlance, Very Much Still Involved) accompanies his wife, their ward Irfan, and Chopra’s elephant business partner Ganesha to a Bollywood concert headlined by the famous Vicky Verma, he’s expecting just a slightly tiresome spectacle. But after the show ends on a strange note, Chopra gets a call to his detective agency: Verma has vanished, right in the middle of the show. Now the production of Verma’s new movie, the most expensive film in Bollywood history, is at stake, and it’s up to Chopra and the Baby Ganesh Agency to find him. Khan’s writing is always suffused with a great deal of energy and fun, and the third book in Chopra’s series is as delightful as ever to read.


I’ll Eat When I’m Dead by Barbara Bourland

With more than a touch of the high-stakes accroutrements of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, but with characters you’d actually want to be stuck in a room with, I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is set in the world of fashion magazines, namely the blisteringly popular – and socially aware – RAGE Fashion Book. When Hillary Whitney is found dead in a workroom, everyone assumes it’s a cocaine overdose, until the autopsy returns a different thing: starvation. The cops pencil it off as done, but her colleague Cat Ono knows that something’s not quite right … and if no one else will bother figuring it out, then she will. As smart as an on-season suit, sharp as a pointed manicure, and scathingly funny, this is a front-page-worthy surprise.


Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

Maja Norberg has been waiting for this day for nine months: the day her court case starts. All of Sweden is waiting for the guilty verdict to be handed down on the teenager who shot up a school, killing, among others, her boyfriend Sebastian (son of Sweden’s richest man) and her own best friend, Amanda. It’s not quite clear whether Maja, the only one unhurt in the room, was behind the shootings, or a victim – but Maja’s smart-teenager wit, and the unfurling of danger as she revisits the past, make for a thrilling read.


The Baltimore Boys by Joël Dicker (translated by Alison Anderson)

Hot on the heels of Joël Dicker’s international bestseller The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, he’s followed it up with the continued story of writer Marcus Goldman, who (on the heels of his own international bestseller about the Harry Quebert Affair) has taken himself to Florida, for the peace he needs to write something new. There, in Boca Raton, a stray dog leads him to the house of Alexandra Neville: now a famous musician, but, years earlier, a friend. Thinking of her leads Marcus back to his own family story, one of tight brotherhood and loose bonds. The Baltimore Boys is slick with anticipation and never shies away from the dramatic; it’s sure to find its way onto the shelves of all the Quebert fans who couldn’t quite shake the memory of Marcus Goldman.


The Lucky One by Caroline Overington

Walkley and Davitt award-winner Overington returns with another thrilling psychological tour of a family’s deep history: one unearthed after developers buy up an old castle with broad hopes that are halted by the discovery of more bodies than expected in the old Alden family cemetery. The Alden-Stowe family has made quite the name for itself across the sprawling Californian wine country they live in – but as the police are about to discover, there can be many unknown elements in even the most well-known families.


Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

On a boat in Boston Harbour, Rachel shoots her husband Brian dead, and he topples over the side. His last words are I love you, so how has it come to this … from their first meeting, years before, to this last one, blood gushing from his chest? Lehane – a brilliant, beautiful writer – tracks Rachel’s history, from her mother, a never-married marriage-advice author, through Rachel’s youth, to her discovery of Brian. Then, he moves through the depths of their relationship, the surface tension pulled taut across their lives. Brian says he loves her, looks after her when she’s down, but there is always further down to go. And readers will, wisely, follow the clean, penetrating prose of Lehane wherever he takes them.


The Thirst by Jo Nesbo (translated by Don Bartlett and Neil Smith)

In case you were worried that Nesbo had given up on Harry Hole after a few years off, brace yourself for a big sigh of relief: here is book 11 in the series, coming after 2013’s Police. After a brutal murder, Harry is reluctantly summoned to take the case, and confronted with something new: a killer using Tinder for something far more bloodthirsty than its intended purpose. Despite the modern mode of contact, there’s something about the case that brings to mind the one killer he never caught. Nesbo’s Oslo, and Hole himself, bring – as always – a thrilling, heart-in-mouth read to fill your shelves.


The White Road by Sarah Lotz

Ernest Shackleton was the first to mention the effect of the Third Man: someone who appears when you’re at your most alone, most desperate, and most likely to see things that aren’t there. Simon Newman feels the shadow of someone else as he starts to climb Mount Everest, trying to capitalise on the internet fame of an ill-fated caving expedition, where the only survivors were Simon and camera footage of his escape. Is this third man on the icy mountainside real, or the jarring memory of his traumatic past?

Fiona Hardy blogs about Crime Fiction at and puts together the Dead Write column for the Readings Monthly newsletter.

Into the Water

Into the Water

Paula Hawkins

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