Nine of the best new crime thrillers for 2018, from Ruth Rendell to Anthony Horowitz

A collection of hitherto-undiscovered tales by the late Ruth Rendell plus the latest from Anthony Horowitz and Jessica Fellowes appear in Leslie Geddes-Brown's round-up of the latest thrillers in the bookshops.

The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

(Sphere, £12.99) 

Remarkably assured and with pitch-perfect period detail for English life in 1919, this story is set around the Mitford family, although only Nancy, aged 16, is to the fore. A First World War nurse is murdered and nursery maid Louisa gets on the trail; the villain is unexpected. More Mitford books to follow from Country Life’s former Deputy Editor and niece of Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes.

A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward

(Faber & Faber, £12.99)

The story is atmospherically set in Derbyshire and involves the death of a family in a house fire, with a complicated police procedural over the various officers working on the triple murder. The killer seems obvious – the usual suicide after the murders – but DC Connie Childs thinks this solution is too easy. Good stuff.

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The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

(Century, £20)

An unusual crime story about a rich woman who is murdered shortly after organising her own funeral. It’s unusual in that Mr Horowitz casts himself as the protagonist, mixing quite a bit of biography into the fiction. I enjoyed his portrayal of the grumpy and secretive Hawthorne, a former policeman who picks the author as a ghost writer. It keeps you guessing until the excellent solution.

Robicheaux  by James Lee Burke

(Orion, £19.99)

This is the author’s 21st book starring his detective Dave Robicheaux. As always, it’s set in Louisiana, which is really the star of the story. The characters are mostly murderers and mobsters – some, such as the assassin who steals an ice-cream van to feed poor children, with good in them. The villains are not all villainous, the heroes not all heroic.

The Wife by Alafair Burke

(Faber & Faber, £12.99)

This is extremely timely. The famous husband of the wife in the title, Jason Powell, is accused of ‘inappropriate touching’ and his accuser is shortly joined by another, who claims rape. With the ‘he said, she said’ accusations, it’s almost impossible to tell if he’s guilty. Then, the second accuser is murdered. Gripping stuff with an unexpected denouement by an expert writer (daughter of James Lee Burke, see above) who teaches criminal law in America.

I’ll Keep You Safe by Peter May

(Riverrun, £18.99)

Niamh and Ruaraidh Macfarlane weave Ranish Tweed on the island of Harris. Thanks to a fashion designer, it’s become world famous. If you love the atmosphere of the Hebrides and have an ear for the Gaelic (there’s a helpful guide to pronunciation), this is for you. I can also vouch for the authenticity of the tweedy background. The climax is gripping.

Dark Pines by Will Dean

(Point Blank, £12.99)

A Nordic noir novel written, surprisingly, by a Briton who lives in the Swedish forest, forages and practises self-sufficiency, and, as a result, is able to perfectly evoke the sinister atmosphere of the elk-haunted pines. The heroine, reporter Tuva Moodyson, who hates nature and is deaf, becomes obsessed with a murderer who digs out the eyes of each victim. This is Will Dean’s first novel, but it won’t be his last.

A Spot of Folly by Ruth Rendell

(Profile, £14.99)

Ten and a quarter unpublished, newly discovered short stories by the mistress of crime, who died in 2015. The ‘quarter’ is only five lines long, the longest more than 50 pages. They demonstrate why the author was so good. Highly recommended.

Sleep no More by P. D. James

(Faber & Faber, £10)

Six ‘murderous tales’ from possibly the last exponent of the country-house crime novel’s golden age. As with Rendell, P. D. James’s plotting shows just why her books were so successful: she writes about the middle classes with conviction and the quality of her writing is excellent.