Undertow by Anthony J Quinn Head of Zeus, £18.99, 309 pages A case of suicide takes detective Celcius Daly out of his jurisdiction and across the Irish border to the benighted village of Dreesh; it’s a place that operates by its own laws under the malign presiding influence of a crime chief with political corrections to the IRA. Daly finds himself in a maelstrom of smugglers, informers, disgraced coppers and even a dispute over the limits of the Irish border – the latter a topical issue at present. Quinn’s novels featuring his maverick, solitary detective Daly (such as Disappeared and Border Angels) have the saturnine sleuth all too aware of his own unhappy Catholic past, but forcing himself to be concerned with the less abstract guilt of others. Finely honed though the plotting is, Quinn’s greatest skill is the evocation of the landscape of his country matched with an astringent examination of betrayal and schism, inextricably linked with the Ireland of the Troubles.
The Vanishing Box by Elly Griffiths Quercus, £16.99, 356 pages Elly Griffiths’s idiosyncratic work has dealt with the collision of the ancient and the modern, and although her latest novel is set in a strikingly evoked Brighton of the early 1950s, we see things through Griffiths’ very modern sensibility. The death of a flower seller which is somehow connected with the Hippodrome Variety Theatre has DI Edgar Stephens involved once again with a charismatic man he knew in the war, the magician Max Mephisto (this is the fourth book in Griffiths’ new series featuring the unlikely duo, proving to be as successful as her earlier Ruth Galloway novels) and his daughter and co-star Ruby. And Elly Griffiths herself dispenses several acts of prestidigitation, invigorating the shop-worn format of the police procedural with a piquant mixture of humour, period detail (including the church-baiting nude tableaux of the day which play a key role in the narrative) and truly beguiling characterisation.