Sins as Scarlet by Nicolás Obregón Penguin, £8.99, 391 pages A brace of cutting-edge themes are threaded into the abrasive narrative of Obregón’s novel, from illegal immigration and domestic abuse to transgender discrimination. It is a combustible mix, but as in the earlier Blue Light Yokohama, the author has the full measure of his difficult material. Detective Kosuke Iwata has escaped from his harrowing life in Japan and has found work as a private investigator in Los Angeles. His mother-in-law, who believes him to be responsible for her daughter’s suicide in Japan, forces him to track down the individual who murdered her other daughter, a transgender woman called Meredith. With his vividly evoked Mexican and LA settings, Obregón’s approach to the various social issues swirling here is not rigorous — his real agenda is to deliver a pacey, page-turning thriller, but the underlying seriousness gives real texture. Iwata is a richly drawn, conflicted hero, and this is another savage journey into the dark heart of America.
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.