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The best recent thrillers – review roundup – The Guardian

A chain of child abductions, a suspicious death by drowning and a cult’s mass suicide. Plus, the latest in the Harry Hole series

A female journalist investigates the mysterious death of a black woman in a fountain in 60s Baltimore in Laura Lippman’s Lady in the Lake.
Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters

The Chain[3]

Adrian McKinty
Orion, £12.99, pp368

Adrian McKinty’s explosively brilliant The Chain opens as a 13-year-old girl, Kylie, is kidnapped from a bus stop as she checks the likes on her Instagram feed. A policeman is shot dead by the kidnappers a couple of pages later, but it’s quickly clear this is not your typical kidnapping crime. Then Kylie’s mum, Rachel, gets a call, and it all starts to become horribly, terrifyingly clear: Kylie’s kidnapping is just the latest in a chain that stretches back years. If Rachel kidnaps another child and pays a ransom, and her victim’s parents then abduct another child, Kylie will be released. If she doesn’t, Kylie will be killed. “It’s that simple,” she’s told. “That’s how The Chain works and goes on for ever.” This is genuinely unputdownable, as Rachel follows “the thread into the heart of the labyrinth”. McKinty’s brilliance lies in exploring just how far a parent will go to rescue their child. These are people committing dreadful crimes – crimes they are horrified by – but they carry them out nonetheless. Terribly plausible.

Lady in the Lake[4]

Laura Lippman
Faber, £12.99, pp352

“Maddie Schwartz, pushing 40, has nothing to look forward to,” observes one of the characters in Laura Lippman’s Lady in the Lake. Maddie thinks otherwise, leaving her husband and son to work on the local Baltimore newspaper. She is desperate for a byline – “ambition comes off this one like heat”, says one man – but this is 1966. She lacks experience and isn’t taken seriously. Maddie is “the kind of woman who laughs at men’s jokes even when they’re not funny”. But when she finds out that the body of a black woman, Cleo Sherwood, has been discovered in a fountain, and that no one else seems to care, she starts to investigate, using every tool at her disposal to pick away at the dangerous secrets and closed ranks that surround this story. Lippman is such a skilful writer, her narrative flitting between perspectives to bring 1960s Baltimore, a world of racial tensions and sexual inequality, to vivid life.

The Poison Garden[5]

Alex Marwood
Sphere, £12.99, pp400

The body count is ridiculously high within the first few pages of Alex Marwood’s The Poison Garden, as police officers discover a mass suicide at a survivalist, doomsday cult in the Welsh mountains. Only a few members of the cult have survived, among them 22-year-old Romy, who is pregnant and trying to navigate the confusing realities of our world, and her two younger siblings, “orphans of a storm created by other people’s wicked choices”. Moving between timelines, Marwood slowly elucidates the world Romy grew up in, where the children are taught about the dangers of “yew trees and foxgloves and deadly nightshade… adders and hemlock and unwashed wounds” as soon as they can talk, where strange mating rituals and death from tetanus are commonplace. In the present day, Romy learns more about who her mother was and what she ran away from to join the cult, and gradually the reasons for all this death become clearer.


Jo Nesbo
Harvell Secker, £20, pp544

Jo Nesbo says that he’s “been brutal to Harry before but never this brutal”. He’s not kidding: in the latest Harry Hole novel, the 12th in the series[7], the Norwegian detective is wallowing in epic amounts of Scandi noir. Back on the booze and facing the worst loss of his life, Harry is in a very dark place. As he sets out to solve a killing – and to face off against an old enemy, Svein Finne, who is out of prison and wreaking havoc – he knocks back industrial amounts of alcohol to numb the pain, has dazzling moments of intuition and charms most of the women whose paths he crosses, despite reeking of stale booze. The twists play out brilliantly; the translation by Neil Smith is flawless. This is the king of Norwegian crime on top form. Fans might only ask he give his protagonist a little less of a brutal ride next time round.

To buy The Chain[8], Lady in the Lake[9], The Poison Garden[10] or Knife[11], go to[12] or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £15, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99


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Penguin orders independent review of book over antisemitism claims – The Guardian

Julia Neuberger to analyse Pedro Baños’s How They Rule the World, which includes passages about the Rothschild family

‘Clearly expresses robust opinions’ … Pedro Baños

Penguin Random House[2] has asked Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger[3] to independently review one of its books, Pedro Baños’s How They Rule the World, after allegations of antisemitism made against the author continue to grow.

Concerns had been raised over imprint Ebury’s decision to cut 30,000 words from the English-language edition of the Spanish book, including passages about the Rothschild family, a banking dynasty often subject to antisemitic conspiracy theories. Baños, a colonel in the Spanish army, had also called the Rothschilds “dominant” and has compared them to the Illuminati in interviews. The cover of both the English and Spanish editions also features octopus tentacles – imagery long associated with antisemitism.

Ebury said last week that it had [4]undertaken a thorough review[5] into the book and concluded that while the author “clearly expresses robust opinions”, they had found no evidence of antisemitism. But on Friday, Ebury asked Neuberger to conduct an external review of both the English language and a translation of the Spanish edition of the book, along with any other aspects that she feels are relevant to making an overall assessment. Neuberger – author of Antisemitism: What It Is. What It Isn’t. Why It Matters – was also asked by the publisher to consult with a small number of other independent experts.

Neuberger, who has not finished her review, told Radio 4 on Monday that the UK edition of the book was definitely not antisemitic and said it was unfair to describe the tentacle imagery as antisemitic, saying it had been used to denote people controlling other people since the 19th century.

Looking at the 30,000 words cut from the Spanish edition, she said Baños’ writing “betray[s] a sort of fascination” with the Rothschilds, “that they’re very powerful and very rich and sort of secretive”.

She told the Today programme: “It’s not antisemitic in itself, but it hints at stuff about the Jewish conspiracies: powerful, half-hidden, secretive groups mainly of Jewish men bankers. That all goes back to something called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is a fake – it was proved to be a fake actually in London in 1921 – but nevertheless it keeps reappearing..

“I think what would push it over the line is if he’s known to have made lots of allusions, if you like, to some kind of Jewish conspiracy. Because that is antisemitism. I think where people allege that there is a Jewish conspiracy to control the world or control banking or whatever it is, that is antisemitism … because it evokes the stuff about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and we know that that itself is pretty nasty.”

She said there were some questions to be asked about the edits that were made, and that Baños’s past needed to be looked at more closely.

Penguin Random House[6] chief executive Tom Weldon said the external review was “an unusual step, which is a mark of how seriously we view the complaints made and the complexity and sensitivity of the issues involved”.

He added: “We will give full consideration to the review and any conclusions and recommendations it makes within the context of our long-held commitment to publish responsibly across a spectrum of opinion and a diversity of voices.”


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