Bad Blood by Brian McGilloway, Corsair, £13.99, 321 pages
Let’s forgive Brian McGilloway the shopworn title for this one. The Irish-born writer has long been adroit at bringing thorny issues to a general readership (in Bleed A River Deep he tackled issues of pollution and the treatment of illegal immigrants), and in Bad Blood, McGilloway folds another provocative social concern into his rugged narrative. DS Lucy Black is investigating the death of a young man brutally killed with a rock, on his body an admission stamp for a gay club. Lucy is to find a community divided between a gay rights group and a fundamentalist preacher who has called for the stoning of homosexual men. With far right agitators at work on a local council estate, Lucy and her boss Tom Fleming find that, immediately prior to the Brexit vote, the country is deeply divided in disparate ways. Caustic and committed, McGilloway proves that the mores of a society can be anatomised within its popular fiction.
Sympathy for the Devil by William Shaw, riverrun, £12.99, 440 pages
The debate about whether or not crime fiction should aspire to literary values rumbles on, but when a writer demonstrates a consummate use of language and can also incorporate the key imperative of the thriller – page-turning — it’s a cause for celebration. William Shaw is in that select breed, and this one has another kind of synthesis. Apart from the literary/thriller binary, Sympathy for the Devil marries the police procedural with the subterfuges of the espionage genre. A murdered prostitute called ‘Julie Teenager’ had a client book featuring the well-placed and influential. Detective Cathal Breen and colleague Helen Tozer notice that the crime scene has been tampered with, and suspect that there is more than meets the eye to this brutal slaying. Things become very personal for the protagonists, and Breen finds that he is obliged to resist feeling ‘sympathy for the devil’. Perhaps longer than it needs to be, this is still psychological crime writing of a singular order.