Mark Lawson picks the best of this month’s crime fiction
Unlike other crowns, succession to the title Queen of Crime (bestowed at various times on Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith, PD James and Ruth Rendell) is, ironically, not decided by blood, but by acclaim and achievement. By which measure, certainly one of those rising through the ranks is Sabine Durrant who, along with Sophie Hannah and Belinda Bauer, has continued the Highsmith-Rendell tradition of psychological mysteries.
Durrant follows her tremendous 2016 novel Lie With Me, in which a man who had been offered a free summer holiday with friends stumbles into a modern Greek tragedy, with the equally impressive Take Me In (Mulholland Books, 352pp, £12.99).
Suggesting that the writer is fashioning a new mystery category of sunshine breaks gone wrong, her latest story begins on a Greek island. Marcus and Tessa, smugly successful in the 21st-century growth industries of PR and crisis management, are on the beach with their young son Josh when, through separate moments of inattention, the child almost drowns, but is saved by Dave Jepsom, a nearby British tourist.
In fiction, Good Samaritans are often bad news, and Durrant rewardingly keeps us guessing about just how cuckoo Dave might be, while her use of chapters alternately narrated by Tessa and Marcus adds the complicating possibility that one or both of them may not be seeing the whole picture.
Although the characters are all non-denominational, Take Me In – its title as slyly double-meaning as the earlier Lie With Me – feels a very Catholic novel. Issues of guilt – not restricted to the parents’ seaside child-minding – drive and shape the narrative.
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