The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith (Sphere £25, 1,024pp)

The Ink Black Heart

by Robert Galbraith (Sphere £25, 1,024pp)

There can be no denying J. K. Rowling’s formidable talents as a crime writer. This is her sixth outing under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith and it underlines just how magnificent a storyteller she is, and one with a sharp eye for the zeitgeist.

This time her disabled war veteran private eye Cormoran Strike, and his partner Robin Ellacott are asked to investigate the murder of the creator of an online cartoon called The Ink Black Heart, who has been trolled by a sinister figure known as Anomie.

Rowling has suffered a similar fate herself online in recent years and she brings all her passion to the revelation of how Strike and Ellacott set out to find the troll.

But it opens gently with Robin’s 30th birthday drinks at The Ritz with Strike, and reveals the tenderness that exists between them — before both are swallowed by the darkness of the web investigation. At more than 1,000 pages it casts a pervasive, enveloping spell.

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman (Viking £20, 432pp)

The Bullet That Missed

by Richard Osman (Viking £20, 432pp)

This third outing for the four intrepid members of the best-selling Thursday Murder Club at Cooper’s Chase retirement village sees Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim take on a threatening ex-KGB colonel, who is determined to have someone assassinated and wants Elizabeth to do it. If she fails or refuses, he announces that he will kill Joyce in retribution.

At the same time, the group are looking into the murder of a local television news presenter. Add to these ingredients a woman who is running a multi-million-pound drugs ring from her prison cell and you have a characteristically insouciant Osman story — packed with wit and nuance.

This is the epitome of what has come to be called ‘cosy crime’ and it works beautifully. But if you have a taste for crime that is stronger it can be a little irritating. There is none of the muscular threat of Ian Rankin, or the subtle menace of Agatha Christie. Instead, it is just the book to take to bed with a cup of cocoa.

by Alaina Urquhart (Michael Joseph £18.99, 256pp)

Written by the co-host of a hugely successful true crime podcast called Morbid, the author also happens to be an autopsy technician, and this story of a serial killer working in the bayous of Louisiana is certainly not for the squeamish.

The killer has a taste for medical experiments, many of which end up on the steel table in the morgue where forensic pathologist Dr Wren Muller works.

Impressively detailed in its analysis, as you might expect from someone who spends their life conducting autopsies, it leaves little to the imagination, but is captivating, with lacings of the occult amid the deaths.

There may be moments when the reader might want to shut their eyes, but the joust between the killer and the pathologist makes that impossible.

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