Mark Timlin is celebrated for his Nick Sharman thrillers (the TV Sharman programmes — with Clive Owen — are being re-released on DVD). In the Sharman books, the London writer pulled off an impressive piece of sleight-of-hand: while giving every impression of gritty urban reality and the life of a cynical London private eye, the actual narratives functioned on an almost hyper-real level, with plausibility less important than sheer narrative momentum. Guns of Brixton is a rejigged version of his earlier Answers from the Grave, and shows the rebarbative Timlin taking his writing to a whole new level, though with a customarily hard-edged narrative. Marcus Farrow’s father was a criminal who moved to the other side of the law, and died at the hands of the brutal Jimmy Hunter in a 1960s bank robbery that goes wrong. Marcus has been patiently waiting for Jimmy to serve his lengthy prison sentence to exact an appropriate revenge. At the same time, Sean Pearse, the criminal’s alienated son, has become a cop. When this incendiary cast of characters get together, it’s inevitable that there will be fireworks. Timlin’s long-term protagonist Sharman makes a cameo appearance, but this is a more ambitious crime novel than most of the author’s other works, and represents a considerable achievement.

Guns of Brixton is published by MaxCrime/John Blake.

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