Blood and Sugar by Laura Shepherd-Robinson, Mantle, £16.99, 429 pages  When historical crime fiction arrives with an encomium from the doyen of the genre, CJ Sansom, attention must be paid. And this debut by a young British writer has set the bar high for her peers in 2019. In June 1781, a tortured body is found on a hook at Deptford dock, bearing the brand of a slaver. But shortly afterwards, Captain Harry Corsham – who has made his mark in the recent wars – discovers that his friend, passionate abolitionist Tad Archer, has vanished. Archer possess information that has the capacity to destroy the British slavery trade, and was accordingly a man with many enemies. Corsham is to find that treading in the footsteps of his friend is dangerous work. Laura Shepherd-Robinson arrives as a fully formed talent who has the full measure of her material: lashings of detailed period atmosphere, distinctive individual characters, and the capacity to find modern social relevance in Britain’s unenlightened past. A novel of astonishing skill.

We Can See You by Simon Kernick, Century, £12.99, 388 pages  We Can See You channels a now-familiar scenario — the successful, well-heeled heroine (here an author and life coach) whose perfect family life is torn apart — but Simon Kernick manages to ring fresh changes (and revelations) at every point. When Brook Connor’s daughter is kidnapped, she and her ex-actor husband are thrown into a spiral of fear and distress. A note left for the couple reads ‘Remember: we can see you’ — and the kidnappers do appear to have a forensic knowledge of every aspect of Brook’s life. But recovering her daughter becomes only one of Brook’s problems when she finds herself wanted by the police for several killings. Kernick’s The Business of Dying over a decade ago showed that the author meant business; he has been prolific since that striking debut, but he remains one of the most consistently suspenseful and ingenious writers in the field of the current thriller.


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