Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan (trans.George Miller)Bloomsbury, £12.99
Crime authors frequently line up to praise a new novel, but not usually for trying to do something innovative with the genre. However, it’s happening with Based on a True Story (for which Delphine de Vigan has already won the Prix Renaudot and the Prix Goncourt), with the chorus of approval including the formidable Denise Mina. But is this a crime novel or a disturbing story of female friendship that shades into the obsessive? The charismatic ‘L.’ is a source of fascination to a vulnerable writer (also called Delphine), and L., who appears to possess perfect emotional intelligence, inveigles herself into the life of her besotted admirer. But the relationship between the women moves beyond the closest of friendships into something pathological – and dangerous. This is an unnerving picture of a toxic relationship (based on a true story) and it’s no surprise that de Vigan’s study of betrayal is to be filmed by a specialist in this dark territory, Roman Polanski.
Mississippi Blood by Greg Iles HarperCollins, £20
Like its sprawling widescreen predecessors Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree, this new epic is typical Greg Iles fare: colourful, pungent, and always justifying its prodigious length. Former prosecutor Penn Cage (who we met in the earlier volumes of this trilogy) is a haunted antihero dealing with the trauma of his father being on trial for murder. At the same time, a brutal offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan is engineering his destruction due to his incendiary knowledge of the group’s secrets. But Penn’s incarcerated father also nurtures a secret that will affect his family — and even the history of the South itself. The stakes for Penn could not be higher, and he has everything to lose. Operatic in its reach, this is still essentially a tough crime procedural, with courtroom drama in the mix that is far more blistering than the John Grisham variety. Mississippi Blood is Southern Gothic delivered in the most incarnadine of hues.