Playing with Fire, by Tess Gerritsen, Bantam Press, RRP £17.99, 283 pages
Tess Gerritsen has dismayed some of her crime writing confrères with her penchant for unsparing gruesomeness. But – honestly — who would one of her novels expecting something anodyne? The new book is disturbing but in a very different fashion from her earlier work. In Playing with Fire, Gerritsen’s usual heroines, Detective Jane Rizzoli and medico Maura Isles, are hors de combat. This standalone novel (which begins in thriller mode) deals with contemporary America and wartime Italy, linked by a piece of music. A violinist in the modern era purchases a waltz in an antiquarian store, and acquires a strange connection – perhaps supernatural — with the Jewish composer of the piece. The theme of the treatment of Jews by Italian Fascisti has clearly engaged new creative energies in the author, and her customary narrative skills are firmly in place (though the modern sections are – inevitably – less compelling), but Gerritsen aficionados may find themselves yearning for the return of Rizzoli and Isles.
She Who Was No More, by Boileau-Narcejac (tr. Geoffrey Sainsbury), Pushkin Vertigo, RRP £7.99, 190 pages
A welcome reissue of the classic Les Diaboliques/The Fiends, saddled with a linguistically correct but rather awkward English retitling. But do readers still know the names of the joint authors? Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac enjoyed a spectacularly successful dual career in their native France (Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo was based on their The Living and the Dead). The surprise for most readers when reading this taut and ingenious thriller is the gender-switch in murderers from the famous Henri-Georges Clouzot film. Ravinel is a killer. His wife Mireille has been drowned in her bath, and (along with his mistress Lucienne) he has dumped her corpse in a river to give the impression of suicide. But if Mireille is dead, how can she be writing to him from beyond the grave? Unfortunately, the plot of Les Diaboliques has been plundered so often that the original has lost something of its novelty, but it’s still a supreme example of polished crime plotting.