TONY BLACK - PAYING FOR IT
Published: July 2008
Setting: Edinburgh
Protagonist: Gus Dury
Series?: 1st
First Line: "Funerals make my eyes water."

Synopsis: Gus Dury is an ex-journalist with an estranged family, a failed marriage and a drink problem. He's busy doing nothing much other than pickling himself in alcohol when one of his closest friends asks him to investigate the rather brutal death of his son. Gus is not keen, but takes the job on to help his friend. In the process of the investigation he finds things out about himself, as well as about the case. Politics, vice, corruption and an Edinburgh the Tourist Board don't advertise on the posters. Isn't it great when you discover a new author that makes you say 'wow'? Tony Black is one of those.

RAY BANKS - NO MORE HEROES
Published: February 2008
Setting: Manchester, UK
Protagonist: Cal Innes
Series?: 3rd
First Line: "I've been staring at Daft Frank for the last five minutes, wondering why he hasn't turned into a puddle of sweat."

Synopsis: Cal Innes has come down in the world. The ex PI now has a codeine habit and is working for slum landlord Donald Plummer, evicting people who don't pay their rent. Worse, he's got a partner known as Daft Frank. When one of Plummer's properties is set on fire, Cal rescues a child from the burning building, becoming an unlikely and reluctant hero in the process. He's then hired by Plummer to find out who set the fire, but getting back into the PI game turns out to be less attractive and more violent than it seems on the surface. And it really doesn't help Cal's codeine addiction. I really enjoyed the first two in the series, but this one is even better - tough, mean and brilliant flashes of razor wit.

ALLAN GUTHRIE - SAVAGE NIGHT
Published: April 2008
Setting: Edinburgh, Scotland
Protagonist: The Savages and the Parks
Series?: Standalone
First Line: "When he opened his sitting room door, the last thing Fraser Savage expected to see was a corpse."

Synopsis: Black market tobacco, samurai swords, decapitations, kidnappings...just your normal night out in Edinburgh then. The key word here is revenge as two not particularly nice families try and one-up each other in the blood and guts stakes as events unfold (with great skill) over one savage night. And when I say 'not particularly nice' I mean really really scary. However, the book is also extremely funny in a warped 'I really shouldn't be laughing' type of way. What Al Guthrie does with masterful talent is to take a whole cast of unsympathetic characters and make you care about what happens. You're unlikely to want to meet any of them in a dark alley, but you just can't stop reading about them.

CHRISTA FAUST - MONEY SHOT
Published: February 2008
Setting: Los Angeles
Protagonist: Angel Dare
Series?: Standalone (or maybe first in a series, she says hopefully!)
First Line: "Coming back from the dead isn't as easy as they make it seem in the movies."

Synopsis: Angel Dare is a former porn star turned talent agent. But forget all that glamour - right now, she's been beaten up, shot, and stuffed in the trunk of a car, and, well, things can only get worse. Angel is a wonderful creation - streetwise but not hard, tough yet vulnerable, flawed but eminently likeable. I fell in love with her from the first page. A retro hard-boiled dame with a modern twist. Breezy, pacy, stylish and violent. Wonderful stuff. I absolutely loved it.

SIMON WOOD - PAYING THE PIPER
Published: November 2007
Setting: San Francisco
Protagonist: Scott Fleetwood
Series?: Standalone
First Line: "Scott leaned on his horn and roared through the red light."

Synopsis: Revenge seems to have been my theme of the month. Scott Fleetwood is a newspaper reporter whose career was made by the case of a kidnapper known as The Piper. Several people are of the opinion that Scott was responsible for the death of one of The Piper's kidnapping victims. That was a few years ago and nothing has been heard of the kidnapper since. Until now. Now The Piper has one of Scott's sons. This is an exciting, fast paced thriller with loads of twists and turns. Simon Wood keeps up the tension and the mystery the whole way through.

JO NESBO - THE REDBREAST
Published: 2000 (but translated version 2006)
Setting: Norway
Protagonist: Harry Hole
Series?: 1st I think
First Line: "A grey bird glided in and out of Harry's field of vision."

Synopsis: In an intricate and complicated plot that switches back and forth between the present day and World War II, Nesbo shows us how the past haunts the present with a story of modern day neo-Nazis, young Norwegian soldiers fighting for Hitler on the Eastern Front, traitors, betrayal, racism. In the middle of all of this tension, the American President is due to arrive in Norway for a peace conference. Policeman Harry Hole - a thoughtful, soft hearted man despite his prickly, rather grumpy exterior - is a bit of a maverick in the police department and his superiors don't quite know what to do with him after an unfortunate shooting accident.

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