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Best new crime fiction: John Connolly’s The Instruments of Darkness is a moving addition to the Charlie Parker series

Also reviewed: Abir Mukherjee’s Hunted; Kellye Garrett’s Missing White Woman; Fiona McPhillips’s When We Were Silent; and Daniel Weizmann’s Cinnamon Girl

Balancing supernatural elements and detective work as memorably as ever, John Connolly’s The Instruments of Darkness (Hodder & Stoughton, £22) – his 21st Charlie Parker novel – offers much for new and returning readers alike. All the regulars are back, including Parker’s oldest allies Louis and Angel, joined by a compelling addition to the series, Sabine, who has her own painful connection to the dead.

The plot begins with a missing young boy, Henry, who’s quickly presumed murdered. When suspicion falls on his mother Colleen, her lawyer hires Parker to help save her from an overzealous prosecutor and a community eager to condemn her: “a child was missing, and his mother was about to be dragged into the machinery of the law. It chewed people up, the innocent as well as the guilty, and called the result justice, but only a fool would accept that as true.” To prevent that, Parker and friends must find Henry while dealing with varied forces including a violent white nationalist group (Connolly’s books have long been unsparingly critical about the US far right) and the ominous backwoods Michaud family.

As Connolly brings these strands together in a dramatic conclusion, the story remains grounded in its characters, even the most minor of whom are vividly and empathetically drawn. That abiding empathy has long been Parker’s DNA, a quality that’s only become more central as he’s aged, and it helps make The Instruments of Darkness a moving entry in this remarkable series.



In a departure from his well-received Wyndham & Banerjee series of historical mysteries, Abir Mukherjee’s Hunted (Harvill Secker, £14.99) is a contemporary thriller, rich and taut.

Hunted follows three narrative strands as they converge amid a wave of terror bombings. FBI agent Shreya Mistry follows leads that her colleagues dismiss, while coping with an ageing father and an increasingly distant teen daughter. Aliyah Khan, a young Londoner, is on the lam across the US with Greg Flynn, both of whom have left the Oregon cult that, with its shadowy goals, is behind the bombings. Aliyah’s father Sajid, who fled violence in Bangladesh only to see his elder daughter put in a coma by a police beating in London, sneaks into the US with Greg’s mother Carrie in a desperate bid to find and save their children. A range of secondary characters – the cult leader who’s “Amish with a hint of assault rifle”, Shreya’s colleagues, the rest of Aliyah’s family – fill out the cast to good effect.

Hunted’s political stakes are high, but where many thrillers give their characters just enough background to let them pass for human, Mukherjee emphasises family ties, building an affecting sense of his leads’ inner lives that gives real weight to the climax. Mukherjee handles these converging elements with skill, wit and compassion in this engaging and thoughtful new novel.


Kellye Garrett’s skill at infusing characters and plots with a thrilling pulse is on full display in Missing White Woman (Simon & Schuster, £16.99). Breanna and her new high-finance boyfriend, Ty, have rented a luxurious Airbnb in Jersey City for a long weekend of romance and Manhattan sightseeing. On their last day together, Breanna awakens to find Ty missing and a woman lying in a pool of blood on the floor. Breanna quickly grasps the threat: “A dead white woman. A missing Black man. They’d say he did it. That he was on the run.”

As always with Garrett, this novel centres on a richly drawn main character. Breanna’s fear and confusion are intensified by the grief she feels in having too briefly experienced the promise of a new life for herself, in love and on the long-deferred cusp of starting her own business. This, after years spent paying an enormous price for an injustice done to her in college, one that derailed her ambitions and squeezed her into a life below the radar. The events in Jersey City force her and her past into the public arena, where she hits the bleeding edge of hashtag culture and amateur true-crime investigators before turning both to her advantage.

Telling details fortify this thriller’s portrayal of black men and women pragmatically navigating white communities, from physical neighbourhoods to digital media. This portrayal distinguishes Garrett’s meticulously crafted addition to her already impressive catalogue.


In her debut novel, When We Were Silent (Bantam, £16.99), Fiona McPhillips has produced a complex story of power, abuse and secrets, centred on a series of traumatic events at the posh girls’ school Highfield Manor in 1986, events that ripple through sections set in contemporary Dublin.

The novel opens in the present, introducing the narrator, Louise “Lou” Manson, a lecturer in Trinity’s School of English. As she’s reluctantly drawn to testify in a new abuse case against Highfield, dark secrets from Lou’s past threaten to spill across her life with her wife Alex and their daughter Katie. The book’s centre of gravity, though, is in the sections set in 1986. There, we meet teenaged Lou not long after the suicide of her best friend Tina Forrester, who had been a student at Highfield, where the swim coach Maurice McQueen has long been grooming and raping his proteges, including Tina. Aiming to prove his guilt, Lou enrols at Highfield as the first step in a revenge plot that she hopes will stop the abuse.

Once immersed in that privileged world, Lou’s plan spins out of her control, with dramatic public consequences. Veiled but never really forgotten, those consequences re-emerge amid the new abuse charges. This contemporary narrative almost wilts in the shadow of the very effective 1986 scenes, where McPhillips gives persuasive voice to the emotional chaos that colours teenage life, and to the abuse and complicity that wrought so much suffering for so many.


Tipping its fedora to various California predecessors, most distinctly Chandler and Macdonald, Daniel Weizmann’s Cinnamon Girl (Melville House, £17.99) is populated with characters haunted by the brass rings that slipped through their fingers or, as some see it, were stolen from them. Weizmann shows a soft eye for this Los Angeles of trailer parks and aged dreamers stranded in the past, and that gaze lingers poignantly over the city’s collective heartbreak.

Adam Zantz, a Lyft driver and private detective in training, is also a failed musician. He’s bailed on one challenge after another, a pattern that cost him what little family he had left. When his late uncle’s closest friend asks Zantz to exonerate his dead son – long presumed guilty of a murder – Zantz reluctantly agrees, more to atone for his familial failures than because he thinks he can solve this decades-old case.

Quickly growing more complex than he expected, the investigation takes Zantz through a Macdonaldesque web of failed Hollywood dreams, lurid parental betrayals and lingering adolescent disappointments. With all of its nods at noir PI models, who were often more tender toward their characters than their reputations would sometimes suggest, this is from start to finish a surprisingly gentle, almost innocent novel, and all the better for it.