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THE MURDER RULE by Dervla McTiernan (HarperCollins £14.99, 304pp)

THE MURDER RULE by Dervla McTiernan (HarperCollins £14.99, 304pp)

THE MURDER RULE

by Dervla McTiernan (HarperCollins £14.99, 304pp)

This devilishly clever story centers on an idealistic young law student, Hannah Rokeby, who wants to join the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia which aims to overturn miscarriages of justice.

He currently has one particular case in sight – Michael Dandridge. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to death only to have the case sent back for a new trial, which is now fast approaching.

Yet Hannah is anything but what she seems. His mother is not undergoing cancer treatment at a local hospital, as she claimed – instead, she is a barely functional alcoholic and her daughter is not so much interested in seeing Dandridge released but in him. see condemned again.

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But then the subtle and elegant twists begin as Hannah finds herself rocked by uncertainties. Meticulously planned and beautifully executed, it’s a glorious story to rival John Grisham.

THE BLOOD TIDE by Neil Lancaster (HQ £14.99, 448pp)

THE BLOOD TIDE by Neil Lancaster (HQ £14.99, 448pp)

THE BLOOD TIDE

by Neil Lancaster (HQ £14.99, 448pp)

Intrepid DS Max Craigie, who burst into Lancaster’s formidable story Dead Man’s Grave last year, finds himself once again facing his nemesis, Scottish crime boss Tam Hardie.

The mobster may be in jail, put there by Craigie, but he’s still pulling the strings when it comes to dealing drugs in the Highlands and he’s got revenge on his mind.

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It becomes clear that there is a corrupt officer somewhere in the highest echelons of Police Scotland, Border Force or the National Crime Agency, who is providing Hardie with inside information.

Add to the story a ruthless killer working for justice, and you have a deliciously dark stew boiling in the Highlands. It’s a tribute to Lancaster’s formidable talent – ​​he is, after all, a former Met detective – that every paragraph feels utterly authentic.

NOT LESS THE DEVIL by Stuart MacBride (Bantam Press £20, 480pp)

NOT LESS THE DEVIL by Stuart MacBride (Bantam Press £20, 480pp)

NOT LESS THE DEVIL

by Stuart MacBride (Bantam Press £20, 480pp)

There is no doubt that MacBride is one of the finest mystery writers in this country. In a series of novels, he defined what darkness means in storytelling with his perfectly judged Logan McRae series.

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Here he casts a new detective, DS Lucy McVeigh, who finds herself embroiled in two investigations. First, a vicious serial killer – nicknamed Bloodsmith – is still on the loose, even though it’s been 17 months since he slaughtered his first victim, cutting hearts along the way.

Then there’s Benedict Strachan, who killed a homeless man 16 years ago, when he was just 11 years old. Now 27, he has been released, but seems consumed with fear that someone wants to kill him and begs McVeigh to save him.

Could there be two monsters haunting Scotland? Brave, belligerent and resourceful, McVeigh quickly reveals that she is a hero to be cherished.

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