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Sunday, 24 August 2008



Harlequin Mills and Boons this year celebrate their hundredth anniversary. You never see their titles on the best-seller lists but their romances sell by the truckload.

And now they have launched their first non-romance imprint, Black Star Crime which promises to deliver five short (50,000-60,000 words) crime/thriller novels a month. And with their expertise at identifying the market and getting their titles out there the future could be looking bright for the new imprint.

The first book I picked up was Streetwise by Chris Freeman, a Manc now living in New York, and for a punchy, enjoyable crime novel it doesn't disappoint.

The plot revolves around a seemingly senseless killing of a passenger in a taxi cab. The police think the killer was after the driver and hit the passenger by accident and soon cab driver, Cyrus is arrested after the murder weapon is found in the back of his cab. However ex-cop and now cab driver, Joseph Soyinka is convinced that Cyrus is innocent and he is soon up to his neck in drug dealers and psychotic hard men while he tries to prove his friend's innocence and bring the true killers to justice.

The book runs just short of 250 pages and proves that less is often more. The characters are largely well drawn and the New York scenes seem authentic. Sans filler and padding, the story moves at a breakneck pace much like the novels in the highly regarded Hard Case Crime series which are of a similar length. The stylistic themes of this work also owes a great deal to the pulp/hard-boiled tradition but it is very much a modern day narrative.

I enjoyed this book and also purchased the other four titles out this month. It's the quality of the storytelling that is going to make or break this series and from the first book the signs are very good indeed.

The other four titles are:
Murder Plot - which from the blurb sound like a traditional crime novel with a doctor taking over the investigation. The book is set in 1975.

Runaway Minister - which seems to be a thriller involving an international assassin.

A Narrow Escape - this is billed as a D.I. Hillary Greene. The blurb tells us that she is under investigation for corruption, thanks to the shady dealings of her late husband. And having to investigate a murder that leads to some powerful and dangerous drug pushers.

A Perfect Evil - a republication of the Alex Kava classic.

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