The Man Who Came Uptown
George Pelecanos
(Orion $37.99)

This is the great Washington D.C author's first novel since 2013's The Double - and while he has been phenomenally successful in TV land (The Wire, Treme and most recently The Deuce), it's great to see him back on the page. TMWCU is not so much a return to form - his work since the mid aughts has been wonderfully lean and heartfelt - but a perfect summation of Pelecanos's talents. Like 2009's The Way Home this is a story of uncertain redemption that has a strong personal connection to Pelecanos's own (young) life.
Redemption here lies in the power of books dispensed by a prison librarian, but the action soon moves to the mean (and increasingly gentrifying) streets of D.C.

Here Pelecanos edges away from easy thriller conventions and moves closer to Steinbeck territory (who's quoted here). The result is a moving look at the small triumphs and moral struggles of a changing America and one of the best books of the year.

See my interview with Pelecanos here.


Some Die Nameless
Wallace Stroby
(Hachette $29.99)

Stroby is one of those writers mentioned in Pelecanos's novel and this is a fast-paced stand-alone that will hopefully push him to a wider audience (do search out his excellent Crissa Stone series).
There's much to celebrate here - great characters - (a ragged ex-mercenary Devlin whose retirement is soon curtailed when an old partner visits; a tough, enterprising Philly journalist who starts digging deep into a row house homicide), a compelling story with contemporary political overtones and action sequences that feel authentic.
It adds up to an old school thriller with both smarts and heart.

Heaven Sent
Alan Carter
(Fremantle Press $29.99)

His last novel Marlborough Man was a stand-alone based in the Marlborough Sounds, but Carter here returns to his Fremantle-based Cato-Kwang series. Carter - who made documentaries for much of his life - only started writing after his wife volunteered to 'bring home the bacon'. The new career blossomed and has won him numerous awards including this year's Ngaio Marsh Best Crime Novel for Marlborough Man.
Cato's fourth outing finds him with a new wife and daughter - but soon a series of murders of Fremantle's homeless begin a case that hits close to home. Carter's wry style will appeal to fans of Mark Billingham and Ian Rankin.

Sunday Girl
Pip Drysdale
(Simon & Schuster $29.99)

The press release evoked immediate suspicion - "The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones".
New talents signed on the strength of a "like this" laundry list rarely live up to the hype. Neither, in the end, does this but Perth-based Drysdale's a talent worth watching and Sunday Girl - a hip London-based novel of relationship revenge - with a bit of help from Sun Tzu's The Art of War - will find plenty of admirers.
These sort of novels depend on the author creating reader empathy with the lead character, something I didn't manage.
Taylor Bishop's been trapped in an abusive relationship with forty-something, bad boy Angus.
When he leaves - instead of celebrating - she comes "face to face with the other parts of my psyche... The fragile petty, venomous parts."