Memo from Turner by Tim Willocks Cape, £14.99, 334 pages If the words ‘South African-set crime fiction’ suggest to you the rigorous, measured novels of Deon Meyer, take a deep breath — the abrasive Tim Willocks is a very different kettle of fish. Memo from Turner — borrowing its title from the Mick Jagger song in Performance — is every bit as viscerally violent as that film. Massively drunk, a young Afrikaner runs down a teenage girl in Cape Town. He doesn’t even know that he has killed her, but his companions do. His mother, Margot le Roux (a powerful local figure), is determined to keep the crime hidden – but she has not reckoned with the tenacious Warrant Officer Turner of Cape Town homicide. The clash of personalities and wills that follows is delivered with unrelenting impact, and there are satisfying echoes here of the late American novelist Robert Stone in the picture of endemic corruption and a desperate protagonist. But neither Stone nor Deon Meyer can touch Willocks’ formidable body count.
A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay Orion, £18.99, 347 pages What is Linwood Barclay territory? It’s the sudden, destabilising event that changes the protagonist’s life – and this is very much at the centre of his latest, A Noise Downstairs. Connecticut professor Paul Davis is battered unconscious with a shovel when he stumbles across a colleague, Kenneth Hoffman, attempting to dispose of the bodies of two women. Hoffman is imprisoned, but Davis, traumatised, is in therapy. Eight months later, he decides to exorcise the malign influence of his colleague by interviewing (and writing about) him. But then Paul is awakened one night by a sound – the clicking keys of a manual typewriter. The resulting typewritten notes, he decides, may be messages from the murdered women – but to those around him, his behaviour starts to seem delusional. There may be traces here of the supernatural novels of Stephen King, but the real cynosure of the book comes from Barclay’s particular strengths: psychological thriller writing of authority embellished with the author’s characteristic narrative twists.