The current political circus notwithstanding, American readers can still enjoy a special relationship with these works of British crime fiction.
“Joe Country” (Soho, 360 pp., $26.95) extends Mick Herron’s top-notch series about Slough House, where exiled spies suffer death by boredom. Incompetence and/or disgrace have sidelined these “Slow Horses” from MI5’s real work, but they can’t be fired; instead, they’re condemned to pointless busywork.
Herron’s stories always emphasize memorable, full-blooded characters and plot over slam-bang action. Think: John le Carré with an extra dose of dry humor.
Among his characters: River Cartwright, a bright star wrongly sidelined; Roddy Ho, cluelessly convinced of his skills and studliness; Catherine Standish, bravely facing her alcoholism; and their boss Jackson Lamb, always ready to offend with a gleeful insult.
We encounter here a new Horse struggling for redemption, a snowbound search for a missing teenager, and political intrigues surrounding Diana “Lady Di” Taverner, MI5’s steel-spined top dog.
“The Last Thing She Remembers” (Park Row, 400 pp., $15.99 trade paperback) by J.S. Monroe is a smart, swift thriller with an intriguing premise and a wicked final sting.
Talk about unreliable narrators! The book’s opening line is “I can’t remember my name.” The speaker is on the doorstep of a rural cottage. She has no ID but thinks she once lived there. The little else she remembers includes elusive fragments about a friend’s death.
Somewhat implausibly, the cottage’s occupants let her stay, enlisting their village to help her. What develops is a twisty examination of memory and truthfulness, with more than one character hiding some deeply disturbing stuff.
“The Sentence is Death” (Harper, 384 pp., $27.99) is by the scarily prolific Anthony Horowitz, the brain behind works ranging from authorized Sherlock Holmes and James Bond novels to the fiendishly clever “Magpie Murders” and superior TV series including “Midsomer Murders” and “Foyle’s War.”
Horowitz’s narrator — conveniently, a writer named Anthony Horowitz — moonlights as the sidekick of an endearingly obnoxious private eye, Daniel Hawthorne. Horowitz relishes subverting the PI genre, using the case of Richard Pryce, a prominent divorce lawyer killed with a blow from a lavishly expensive bottle of wine.
Pryce had plenty of enemies, with one prime suspect: A poet who suffered when he represented her husband in a bitter divorce — and who had already publicly threatened to brain the SOB with a wine bottle. Not surprisingly, there’s more, much of it centered on a decade-old caving accident in remote Yorkshire.