MOSKVA by Jack Grimwood,Penguin/Michael Joseph £12.99, 473 pages

Sometimes it’s a good idea to change horses midstream. Jon Courtenay Grimwood has had a distinguished career as a writer of imaginative science fiction, but here he is resurfacing with the more blunt moniker ‘Jack Grimwood’ as a writer of thrillers, with the jacket of his new book hopefully describing it as ‘Fatherland meets Gorky Park’. But has the gear change worked?

1985, Red Square. The naked body of a young man is found by the Kremlin, frozen solid. When the teenage daughter the British Ambassador disappears, doughty Army Intelligence Officer Tom Fox is tasked with finding her, but discovers that the ruthless Soviet establishment doesn’t take kindly to having its secrets exposed.

Hard to know what to praise first here: the operatic sweep of this mesmerising novel; the surefooted orchestration of tension; or the vividly realised sense of time and place — all of these factors mark Grimwood’s Moskva out as something special in the arena of international thrillers.

BEHIND DEAD EYES by Howard Linskey, Penguin £7.99, 532 pages

Bloody-minded, tenacious characters are at the heart of Howard Linskey’s ambitious Behind Dead Eyes: Detective Ian Bradshaw on the trail of a vicious murderer; trenchant journalist Helen Norton digging (at considerable risk to her safety) into a complex criminal conspiracy; and true crime writer Tom Carney trying to find out whether the convicted murderer corresponding with him is an innocent man or a persuasive psychopath. Right up to its final interrogation, this is splendid stuff, written in unvarnished style — with very few missteps. It’s further proof that Linskey (whose The Drop burst onto the crime scene with incendiary force) is one of the most commanding crime fiction practitioners at work today. Don’t be put off by the nearly 500-page length of this one: Linskey justifies every word and draws his interlacing plots together with great assurance.

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