SEVENTEEN by John Brownlow (Hodder £14.99, 416pp)
by John Brownlow (Hodder £14.99, 416pp)
This fresh and entertaining take on a hitman thriller comes from a British-Canadian screenwriter and opens with a violent attack in a Berlin office building, which sees Seventeen — the eponymous assassin — take a string of lives without hesitation.
No sooner has he completed the task than his anonymous handler asks him to kill again in the city. It transpires that Seventeen is now being asked to track down and assassinate his predecessor — codenamed Sixteen — who disappeared completely several years ago.
So begins an enthralling game of cat and mouse in which the two hitmen do all in their power to eliminate one another using every ounce of the skills they have built up over years of killing. Add a feisty young woman who suspects what Seventeen is up to, and an older woman who has feelings for Sixteen, and you have a taut, moving story that tugs at the heart strings — in spite of the violent opening.
It is no surprise it has been snapped up by Hollywood.
THE AMBASSADOR by Tom Fletcher (Canelo £16.99, 320pp)
by Tom Fletcher (Canelo £16.99, 320pp)
Written by a Downing Street foreign policy adviser to no fewer than three prime ministers — Blair, Brown and Cameron — this story of a killing in the British Embassy in Paris oozes authenticity.
Ambassador Ed Barnes is horrified when a charismatic human rights activist dies with her throat cut inside the Embassy itself.
The French authorities want to call it suicide, but Barnes embarks on his own investigation into what he believes is murder — much to the annoyance of the female Foreign Secretary who happened to be a guest at the Embassy on the day of the killing.
Barnes is summoned back to London, but takes matters into his own hands to track down the man he believes may be behind the killing, and who clearly wants to exact some form of revenge.
Vivid and atmospheric, it rockets around the world with intoxicating verve. Not quite Frederick Forsyth perhaps, but hugely engaging nonetheless.
THE BLACKHOUSE by Carole Johnstone (Borough Press £14.99, 400pp)
by Carole Johnstone (Borough Press £14.99, 400pp)
Johnstone’s first novel, Mirrorland, was terrific, and this second confirms her exceptional talent as a storyteller. Set on a fictional island in the Outer Hebrides, it focuses on the remote village of Blairmore. The troubled heroine, Maggie Mackay, has been haunted by what she believes may have happened there when she was five. As a child, Maggie accused someone on the island of murdering a man, but the locals denied it fiercely, even though it created a media frenzy.
Now she is back to confront her demons, but her return stokes up old memories and threatens to reveal secrets which many islanders would rather remained hidden.
Add to that an isolated, haunted house, where Maggie is staying, and a handsome neighbour who may not be what he seems, and you have an extra dash of Gothic chill to send a shiver down the spine and make the plot darker. This serpentine tale lingers in the mind long after the final page. Splendidly creepy.