Chris Ewan - THE GOOD THIEF'S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM
Published: May 2007
Setting: Amsterdam
Protagonist: Charlie Howard
Series?: 1st
First Lines: "I want you to steal something for me."
Chris Ewan writes books about a thief who writes books about a thief who solves crimes. Ewan's protagonist Charlie Howard is a successful crime fiction author and a very good thief, who takes nice lucrative jobs on the side to supplement his income. When he's asked to steal two seemingly worthless monkey figurines for a nice little earner his burglar's radar tells him there's something a bit fishy about the job. And, of course, he's right. Breezy, amusing, a good romp, and Charlie Howard is a loveable rogue - a charming mixture of Raffles and The Saint.

Martyn Waites - THE BONE MACHINE
Published: January 2007
Setting: Newcastle
Protagonist: Joe Donovan
Series?: 2nd
First Lines: "She could no longer tell whether her eyes were open or closed. All was darkness."
The police are hunting a ritualistic killer who appears to be targeting female students in Newcastle. Joe Donovan is hired by the lawyer of what appears to be the main suspect. Meanwhile, Joe and his team are already embroiled in a seedy case that involves sex trafficking. I love this series - Joe has gathered around him a collection of emotionally damaged characters who are brilliantly well drawn. You get to know each one - warts and all - and come to care about them. Dark and full of heart and soul.

Sandra Ruttan - THE FRAILTY OF FLESH
Published: November 2008
Setting: Vancouver
Protagonist: Various police officers
Series?: 2nd
First Lines: Not published yet so I had probably best not put it down.
The discovery of a child's dead body is followed by the horrific possibility that the child has been murdered by his sister, who has subsequently disappeared. The case and personal issues weigh heavy on the hearts and minds of the three main police officers in the book, making it a dark and compelling tale. It's a book that almost hurts to read because of its compassion, pain and raw nerves laid bare.

Andrea Maria Schenkel - THE MURDER FARM
Published: June 2008
Setting: A small village in post WWII Germany
Protagonist: None
Series?: Standalone
First Lines: "I spent the first summer after the end of the War with distant relatives in the country."
On a lonely farm in an isolated village in post War Germany a tragedy occurs. An entire family - mother, father, children and maid - are brutally slain by a killer who has never been caught. The unnamed narrator goes back to try and discover what has happened. This is a fascinating book based on a real case that took place in the 1920s. The book is told as a series of flashbacks and witness statements. There are secrets, lies, people who know things but say they don't. It's a very brooding book with a malignant atmosphere, and really quite sad.

David Levien - CITY OF THE SUN
Published: June 2008
Setting: Indianapolis
Protagonist: PI Frank Behr
Series?: 1st
First Lines: "Jamie Gabriel wakes at 5.44 as the clock radio's volume bursts from the silence.""
Twelve year old Jamie Gabriel sets off on his paper round one day and simply vanishes. Fourteen months later there are still no leads, the police think he's run away and aren't exactly making great efforts to find him. His desperate parents hire PI Frank Behr to try and find him. Behr is reluctant at first - he has his own pain relating to a lost son - but the case becomes very important to him. Wonderfully exciting and well paced plot, vivid scenes, very cinematic. A couple of the plot points were a bit OTT but it worked. One of the best bits for me was the look at how the boy's absence affects everyone else - from the fact that the new paperboy's father takes him on his deliveries in the car, up to the parents who co-exist rather than have any real relationship.

Barbara Seranella - DEADMAN'S SWITCH
Published: April 2007
Setting: California
Protagonist: Charlotte Lyon
Series?: Was to be the 1st of a planned series
First Lines: "Bob Peterson scanned the track before him. He'd been green lit all the way to Beaumont and would easily make up the ten minutes he'd lost in Corona."
Charlotte Lyon is a professional in crisis management who is hired after a train derails. Her role is to find out what has happened, to minimise bad publicity, and to generally take charge. I loved the character of Charlotte (who has appeared before as a teenager in Barbara Seranella's Munch Mancini series). She has had some tragedy in her life, has to cope with her mother who's on a path to self-destruction, and she also has to cope with her own OCD. Her job choice is fascinating given her OCD and her skill at it is because of the disorder rather than in spite of it. Fascinating stuff and a really interesting and likeable protagonist.

Jason Pinter - THE MARK
Published: July 2007
Setting: New York (mostly)
Protagonist: Henry Parker
Series?: 1st
First Lines: "Right as I was about to die, I realized that none of the myths about death were true."
It's Henry Parker's first week on his new job and he wants to be the best journalist it's possible to be. After spending a depressing time writing obituaries he's finally given a more exciting assignment by the paper's star reporter - to go and interview an ex-con. However, his visit leaves a dead body in its wake and Henry has to go on the run from both the cops and the bad guys. An extremely fast paced thriller, loads going on, lots of twists and turns.

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