The Killing Habit by Mark Billingham Little, Brown £18.99 417 pages Those who consider Mark Billingham to be one of the most reliable practitioners of the modern British crime novel point to some added value: he has been building up through his books an all-embracing picture of modern British society. This latest novel utilises real-life crime – the still at-large ‘Croydon Cat Killer’, responsible for the death of hundreds of animals. Tom Thorne, satisfyingly un-PC as ever, is not pleased to be handling the case of a similar pet killer. Working once again with Nicola Tanner – one of the few people who knows how to deal with him — Thorne begins to suspect that, rather than building from animal to human murder (the standard trajectory of the psychopath), the killings may represent a reverse of this scenario. A host of unsolved cases may lead the duo to a malignant opponent. As ever with Billingham, a rich cast of characters and tense situations are marshalled with panache, leading to a final terrifying encounter.
The Old Religion by Martyn Waites Bonnier Zaffre £12.99 372 pages It was only a matter of time before the first post-Brexit crime novel appeared, and readers should be grateful that it’s in the capable hands of Martyn Waites. Tom Killgannon is an undercover policeman forced by a career debacle into the witness protection programme and working as a barman in the isolated Cornish village of St Petrarch. His unexciting life is rocked when teenage Lila, a runaway from a travellers’ commune, steals his wallet, threatening the revelation of his identity and bloody retribution from the criminals from whom he has escaped. Meanwhile, the locals have realised that the stagnant local economy will not be booming despite parliamentary promises made to them. But village leader Morrigan counsels that there is a route to prosperity: a return to the ‘old religion’, with deeply sinister implications. Waites’ taste for English gothic is in the mix here, and his customary evocation of atmosphere is firmly in place — as are some masterful plot revelations.