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20May

The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup

Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin; Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister; Oxblood by Tom Benn; The Island by Adrian McKinty; and Dear Little Corpses by Nicola Upson

Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin (Hutchinson Heinemann, £16.99)
This compelling cautionary tale is set in an alternative present when it’s possible to have painful memories removed. Patients at the Nepenthe Clinic may choose to be either “self-informed”, remaining aware that they have had a portion of their past erased, or “self-confidential”, having the knowledge of erasure excised along with the memory. However, not only does this willed diminution of the self fail to bring with it the bliss of ignorance but, after the procedure has been shown to be faulty, Nepenthe is compelled to offer restoration to all clients, including those with no memory of having received treatment in the first place. Interconnecting narratives by multiple characters, including former and prospective Nepenthe patients and Noor, a psychologist from the clinic who comes to suspect that her boss is up to no good, weave into an intelligent ensemble piece that raises fascinating questions about how we use memory both to create and dismantle ourselves, and the ultimate mystery of who, or possibly what, “myself” actually is.

Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister (Michael Joseph, £14.99)
Another ingeniously plotted genre-bender – one in which time travels backwards. Set in Crosby, Merseyside, the action begins with conscientious divorce lawyer Jen Brotherhood witnessing her 18-year-old son, Todd, fatally stab a stranger in front of the family home for no apparent reason. The boy tells her and his father that “there was no choice”, and, when taken to the police station, refuses a solicitor. The following morning, Jen’s first thought on waking is to help her son, who is being held in custody – then she realises that it is not the day after but the day before, and the murder has not yet taken place. Each day she regresses, initially by only 24 hours but then to points in her life that have significance for what is to come, and she must search the past for the means to prevent the future crime from happening. It’s easy for characters to become ciphers in books that require this much fancy footwork for the internal logic to remain intact, but McAllister succeeds in making us care, and the result is a tour de force.

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