The best recent crime and thrillers – review roundup

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The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett; The Second Cut by Louise Welsh; The Maid by Nita Prose; Wahala by Nikki May and Real Easy by Marie Rutkoski

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett (Viper, £14.99)
Hallett’s bestselling debut The Appeal, an intelligent mystery set within the deceptively genteel confines of a local am-dram group, was a modern epistolary novel, told in emails. Her second is even better, and presented as audio files, complete with intriguing mistakes made by the transcription software. Recorded on an iPhone by ex-con Steven Smith for his probation officer, they are records of his attempts to find his old English teacher, who disappeared on a school trip to Bournemouth, erstwhile home of Blytonesque children’s writer Edith Twyford. Twyford’s books are catnip to conspiracy theorists; they’re thought to contain a code that may have something to do with their author’s activities during the second world war. Steven, with help from his former classmates and a librarian, sets out to crack it – and, in the process, solve the puzzle of his own life. This fiendishly clever book, which manages to be both tricksy and surprisingly moving, is the perfect antidote to the post-Christmas carb stupor.

The Second Cut by Louise Welsh (Canongate, £14.99)
Twenty years after Welsh’s award-winning debut The Cutting Room comes the return of gay auctioneer Rilke, now middle aged but still tiptoeing around the edges of Glasgow’s criminal underworld. When old friend Jojo is found dead after giving Rilke a tip-off about a lucrative house clearance in Galloway, the police are inclined to write it off as the result of a decadent lifestyle – Jojo had a fondness for Grindr hook-ups and chemsex parties – but Rilke decides to investigate. The house clearance isn’t quite what it seems, either. There’s the abandoned car in which two people died, the terrified Asian man who may be on the run from people traffickers, the terrier found locked in a chest – and what’s happened to the elderly lady who owned the place? Complex and very atmospheric, with plenty of sardonic humour and sharp observations about injustice, like its predecessor this is a hardboiled gem.

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