No Name Lane, by Howard Linskey, Penguin, RRP £7.99, 487 pages

Amoral characters performing lethal actions in fiction can have an exhilarating effect – as in Linskey’s The Drop, a classic British gangster novel. But has Linskey’s move to another publisher drawn his sting, with journos and policemen rather than criminals now at the centre of the narrative? Thankfully – not an iota; this is lacerating fare (beginning with a killer at his macabre work) that makes most current crime fiction look like thin gruel. Disgraced reporter Tom Carney returns to his stamping ground of the North East, where he encounters Helen Norton doing his old job on the local paper. The duo investigate the disappearances of local girls, with beleaguered policeman Ian Bradshaw. However, the first body to be found is not one of the girls, but a decades-old corpse. Does a murder from the past have a connection with an implacable monster of the present day? No Name Lane clocks in at nearly 500 pages, but never falters in its grip.

The Burning Man, by Christopher Fowler, Doubleday, RRP £16.99, 408 pages

If your taste is for straightforward police procedurals, you should steer clear of Christopher Fowler. But if you have a predilection for off-kilter, witty and unorthodox crime fiction (with two of the most winningly eccentric characters in the genre), you’re probably already a fan of the author’s Bryant and May series, of which this outing is one of the choicest. A common misconception about the sequence is that it is period-set, but the books are a skilful synthesis of a phantasmagorical earlier era and the modern age. London is in chaos after a banking scandal. Amidst riots, a homeless man is burned to death, caught between police and rioters. Ageing detectives Bryant and May of the Peculiar Crimes unit begin to suspect that a ruthless murderer is using the civil disorder to enact a gruesome revenge scenario. As ever with Fowler, London in all its sprawling, non-homogeneous splendour is as much a character in the novel as his sleuthing duo.

The Financial Times

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