The remarkable life of the writer Joan Brady is surely a fit subject for an autobiography – but until she writes one, we’ll have to be content with highly assured thrillers such as her latest, Venom. We’d already been acquainted with Brady’s non-pareil skills in the much-acclaimed Bleedout, which had such writers as Jeffery Deaver and Val McDermid queuing up to scatter praise; the new book builds on (and consolidates) the success of its predecessor – not to mention the author’s Whitbread Award-winning Theory of War). Brady’s heroine Helen Fryl looks after her bee colony – and is the custodian of a unique venom that she has had since childhood. But after the man she has a relationship with dies, she takes on a job with a major pharmaceutical organisation. Then people at the company begin to die – and Helen realises to her horror that her own life is on the line.

Joan Brady has had her own problems with the effects of poisoning (see the first paragraph of this review), and transmutes her anger into a novel that has a quite remarkable grip. Her protagonists (including her male lead, ex-con David Marion) are sympathetic, and the evils of giant corporations (a favourite theme of John le Carré) make for satisfying nemeses. Powerful fare.

Venom by Joan Brady is published by Simon & Schuster

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