Top five: Crime picks for Dad on Father’s Day

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If your old man already has a drawer full of ties, novelty socks and monogrammed hankies from previous Father’s Days, then how about giving him something a little bit more challenging? Here are stories to keep him intrigued, amused, thrilled and puzzled – five top crime novels from Crime Fiction Lover’s collection of reviews, in such varied settings as modern Britain, 1917 Baghdad, wintry Washington and grainy black and white Hollywood of the 1940s…

The Baghdad Railway Club by Andrew Martin
This is the eighth and latest in the Jim  Stringer series. Jim is a railwayman who first appeared in The Necropolis Railway, where he solved a mystery concerning the funeral railway line from Waterloo to Brookwood cemetery. Now, it’s 1917 and Jim is older, if not wiser. Having been wounded on the Somme, he’s sent out as an undercover investigator to British-occupied Baghdad. In the fly-blown heat Jim is caught up in treachery, intrigue and murder. Andrew Martin’s love for, and knowledge of railways is married to expert plotting and a superb ear for authentic dialogue in this outstanding book.
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Shatter The Bones by Stuart MacBride
Scottish police procedurals have become very fashionable, but in the embattled Aberdeen copper DS Logan McRae, MacBride has created the perfect anti-hero. His relationship with his boss, the scabrous Inspector Steel, is central to the novels. She can be dismissive, verbally brutal and supportive in turn, while McRae battles the violence, greed and sheer criminality of The Granite City. This highly topical story involves the kidnapping of the stars of a TV talent show, and the race against time to find them is played out in the full glare of the tabloids and unscrupulous publicity agents.  The language is frequently profane and the violence is often sudden and shocking, but the pace and tension are ferocious.
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A Detailed Man by David Swinson
The central character is a Washington, DC policeman, Ezra Simeon. He is called on to investigate the brutal murder of an escort girl. Simeon is a fascinating and original creation. He suffers from Bell’s Palsy, which has partially paralysed his face, and he is constantly struggling to put his self-absorption to one side as he works the wintry streets of the capital to bring the girl’s killer to justice. This is anything but a standard detective story, and the plotting and outcome are bravely unconventional. This is a thoughtful and provocative read which grips from start to finish.
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Good As Dead by Mark Billingham
DI Tom Thorne has become one of the country’s favourite coppers. Billingham portrays him as a standard maverick – uncomfortable and abrasive with authority, but totally principled and not afraid to take short-cuts. Here, he is faced with a hostage situation. One of his own policewomen, Helen Weeks, is caught up when Mr Akhtar decides to take hostages in his shuttered-up shop, demanding the truth about the death of his son Amin while in prison. Thorne promises Mr Akhtar that he will find the truth, but soon finds he has bitten off more than he can chew. The tension ratchets up page-by-page as Thorne locks horns with his superiors in an attempt to end the siege peacefully.
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The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler
In Philip Marlowe, Chandler created the absolute classic private eye, oft imitated but never bettered. The Little Sister was extensively reworked for the 1969 film Marlowe, with James Garner in the starring role. A mousy girl from Kansas with the unlikely name of Orfamay Quest enlists Marlowe to search for her missing brother. The search leads Marlowe through the usual murky undergrowth of 1940s LA, with its cast of crooked cops, corpses and movie people. Marlowe negotiates the mean streets with his usual dogged honesty and world-weary wisecracks. This book is a welcome reminder of just what a fine writer Chandler was. The Little Sister may be excellent crime fiction, but it is also a work of the highest literary merit.
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