‘Ambitious… intriguing and atmospheric.’

The Best Recent Crime Novels – review round up

The Other Mrs Walker by Mary Paulson-Ellis (Mantle, £12.99), an ambitious if unwieldy and sometimes overwritten debut, begins in 2010, when an elderly woman known only as “Mrs Walker” dies alone in a freezing Edinburgh flat. Shortly afterwards, middle-aged Margaret, washed-up, dishonest and broke, returns from London to an equally chilly welcome from her mother. Desperate for a job, she winds up trying to discover the dead woman’s identity. Timeslip parallel narratives covering much of the 20th century detail insanity, poverty, exploitation, child murder and a series of women who are desperate to escape the confines of their lives and sever their ties with the past. It is pretty clear from the off that Margaret is, unwittingly, tracing her own family history – and the setup means that the reader ends up knowing far more than she ever will – but, despite some longueurs, this unsentimental, labyrinthine tale is both intriguing and atmospheric.

Laura Wilson