Crime novels

THE CRUELLEST MONTHBY LOUISE PENNY (Headline, £19.99)

A PSYCHIC medium is visiting Three Pines village, a sance takes place in a creepy deserted mansion, and murder ensues. In this latest outing in Louise Penny's series set in rural Quebec, Chief Inspector Gamache has to cope not only with homicide but with plotting against him in the police force.

A succession of surprises and revelations solves the murder mystery, but does Gamache survive? And what about the role of his dysfunctional underling, Yvette, sent to spy on him by his police force bosses who want to do him down? There is real pleasure here.

THE SINNER BY PETRA HAMMESFAHR (Bitter Lemon Press, 8.99)

THIS is an extraordinarily clever novel about an apparently uncomplicated murder. On a beach in Germany, a man is stabbed to death, apparently without motivation, by a young woman out for a day's swim with her husband and child. Cora Bender does not dispute she's the killer, but Police Commissioner Grovian, faced with an easy assignment, refuses to accept Bender's guilt without an investigation of his own. He opens an appalling can of psychological worms, in which what appears obvious gradually becomes dubious. He solves the mystery – but this gripping book ends on a terrible note of foreboding.

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