The Ashes of Berlin by Luke McCallin No Exit Press, £16.99, 445 pages

Let’s not mince words: historical thrillers don’t come any better than The Ashes of Berlin. Oxford-born, Africa-educated Luke McCallin is becoming recognised as one of the most ambitious and accomplished writers in the genre, and this follow-up to the much-acclaimed The Man from Berlin has a panoramic sweep to match its laser-sharp characterisation. Humane German intelligence officer Captain Gregory Reinhardt has returned to a broken Berlin after the end of the war to serve in the civilian police force, but finds that divisions and hatreds still reign in the city. A serial killer is on the loose, and one of his victims is the brother of a Nazi scientist. Reinhardt’s investigations propel him into the dangerous company of those for whom the war is not over. This is peerless stuff, written with the kind of authority that McCallin has demonstrated in the past, and Reinhardt is a multi-faceted protagonist.

Painkiller by N. J. Fountain Sphere, £7.99, 400 pages

On panels and at crime fiction events, the writer Nev Fountain can be counted on to be a pleasingly sardonic presence – hardly surprising, given his background as an award-winning comedy writer for such shows as Dead Ringers and Have I Got News For You. But in his alter ego — writing as N. J. Fountain — he has produced a darker first-person novel, which dispenses with humour and – largely speaking — channels the mechanics of the thriller genre with some adroitness. His heroine, the deeply conflicted Monica, is a woman living on the edge, dealing with constant pain and utilising drugs to survive. But how much of the pain is, in fact, real? Painkiller (sporting some unexpected revelations) is about her attempts to discover the reality of her situation, and the results are shocking. This is not Fountain’s first crime venture, but it might be the one to firmly establish him.


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