With echoes of Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s colourful, kinetic fare, this is lively historical crime from Pulitzer Prize-winning Robert Olen Butler. The Hot Country is the first of an ambitious three-part series featuring doughty American war correspondent Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe Cobb. On the surface, it appears to be a cocktail of adventure, romance and espionage, but it’s soon apparent that the novel is not only shot through with keen intelligence but couched in elegant prose. The author’s own experience as a counter-intelligence agent grants verisimilitude, despite the period setting. It’s 1914, and Cobb is covering the Mexican Civil War. As bullets fly, he is in pursuit of a German diplomat en route to a meeting with the larger-than-life revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. But encounters with a strong-willed young Mexican woman, a slippery double agent and an enigmatic sniper make Cobb’s trip a lively one, both for him and the reader.

The Hot Country, by Robert Olen Butler, No Exit Press, RRP £8.99, 326 pages 9781843445630

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