Mark Sanderson is one of the most perceptive current critics of crime fiction (as well as being as a noted observer of the London social scene), though neither of these attributes would necessarily qualify him as an adroit practitioner of the crime novel in his own right. But that’s just what he turns out to be with Snow Hill. An earlier, non-fiction memoir, Wrong Rooms, gleaned praise from such luminaries as Melvyn Bragg, and the attention to characterisation in the new book is an indicator that Sanderson recognizes the importance of the personal even in the context of a page-turning crime narrative. And personal Snow Hill most certainly is, with its complex and confrontational treatment of sexuality (both gay and straight) in the context of a pungently-realised 1930s London setting.

Actually, the evocation of topography and locale is one of the principal pleasures of the narrative here, with the area around Smithfield meat market as vividly drawn as Sanderson’s cast of ambitious reporters, compromised coppers and deeply unpleasant villains. It’s a striking crime fiction debut.

Snow Hill

Mark Sanderson

HarperCollins £12 99

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