Crime fiction round-up: Stuart Neville’s new horror is unsettling but deeply rewarding

Plus thrills from Nicci French, Elly Griffiths, John Banville and Otto Penzler

Coercive control forms the spine of Stuart Neville’s terrifying The House of Ashes. Photograph: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

Coercive control forms the spine of Stuart Neville’s terrifying The House of Ashes. Photograph: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

Like Rebecca, the urtext of coercive control narratives, Nicci French’s new psychological thriller The Unheard (Simon & Schuster, £12.99) begins with a dream: Tess Moreau feels she is falling, about to die. She wakes, but is still in the dream, back where it all began, examining a drawing by her three-year-old daughter Poppy of a stick figure tumbling from a tower.

“He did kill her,” Poppy solemnly announces, but cannot say who or where. The next day, having wet her bed the night before, the child is hurling a wooden cow at her bedroom wall and shouting, “Kingc*nt, kingc*nt, kingc*nt!” Initially Tess thinks something must have happened during one of Poppy’s sleepovers with her father, Jason, especially since his new wife’s sketchy brother has moved in, but soon the list of suspects broadens to include an intrusive male neighbour, a friend’s husband who minds Poppy, even Tess’s boyfriend, Aidan.

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