The Last Mile
David Baldacci (MacMillan) ($34.99)

Despite both being physically imposing ex-football players Amos Decker and Melvin Mars have, on the face of it, little in common.

But both have tragedy in their past, Decker's recently.

He's been newly appointed to the FBI, but is still reeling from the murder of his wife and family (see the first book in the Decker series


Memory Man

), and angrily bingeing on junk food; Mars, in much better shape thanks to a rigorous cell work-out regime, is on death row in Texas, where he's been for the last twenty-one years for murdering his parents.

Decker hears a news item on NPR (God bless Public Radio), senses something's off and brings the resources of his team and that of his perfect memory (synesthesia - a result of a football accident) to the case.

It reads particularly well when roaming the roads of Texas looking at past and present race issues but you may wish you had some of Decker's perfect-memory (oddly enough a skill Decker rarely needs to use in this outing), to keep up with the plot twists. I'm still mystified over one which anchors the whole story, but that aside - this is another strong Decker outing.

Bad Soldier
Chris Ryan (Hachette) ($34.99)

Ryan's a former SAS corporal - one who's turned to thriller writing to tell the stories the Official Secrets Act won't let him publish. Ryan saw major action in the first Gulf War (he was the only member of the eight-man unit not to be captured or killed) and is a Bear Grylls-like tv presenter in Britain.

He once hosted a show called

How Not To Die

which is a skill the hero of

Bad Soldier

, Danny Black, is expert in.

Bad Soldier

's the fourth outing in the series and sees Black leading a small unit into Daesh (Isis) country.

Their mission is to extract a ISIS commander after intel suggests an ISIS attack in London is imminent. Ryan's note-perfect with the boots-on-the-ground details and action-junkies will be well satisfied - but it's the plight of Syrian migrant Joe that packs the real punch, but, after a strong start he's relegated to a rather minor, if crucial, role in the denouement. Still - once you're into this the pages fly by.

The Kept Woman
Karin Slaughter (Century) ($37.00)

Yes, that's her real name - "I lucked out," she says. "It's a good thing I don't write romances."

Patricia Cornwell's an obvious influence, but Slaughter's world is darker. Set in her hometown Atlanta -

The Kept Woman

is a smart mix of police procedural and psychological thriller. Special Agent Will Trent's past comes back to haunt him when a cop is found dead at an Atlanta warehouse, owned by a dodgy high-profile athlete.

The writing's taut, with a dark, gallows humour. But for such a smart guy - he's solved 89% of his cases - Will's naive when it comes to his personal life and his long-time attachment to troubled ex-partner Angie Polanski - may just be his undoing.

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