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On the case: Three new crime novels you should investigate right now

Black Rock by John McFetridge

Prayer by Philip Kerr, Putnam, 432 pages, $31

Prayer is, above all, a thriller, but it is also an examination of prayer. It shows us God's works "though a glass, darkly."

The setting is Houston, Texas, where FBI agent Gil Martins sees evil on a daily basis. Not just the usual murder and misery, but the horrors of terrorist attacks and the demented fantasies of serial killers. One day, in the throes of a deep moral crisis, Martins offers God a prayer. He wants proof of God's existence. What follows is everything but.

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As always, Kerr reaches far and doesn't quiet succeed, but Prayer is still well worth the read.

Gold Web: A Klondike Mystery by Vicki Delany, Dundurn, 328 pages, $17.99

It's 1898, in Dawson City, Yukon, and a man drops dead at Fiona MacGillivray's feet. His last works are "MacGillivray. Culloden." Fiona hasn't a clue – but she'll find one. This is Delany's sequel to the excellent Gold Mountain, which introduced readers to Fiona in the midst of the great Alaska Gold Rush. Delany brings back all her previous characters, including Fiona's son and a fine-looking Mountie to save the day. This one is great fun.

Black Rock by John McFetridge, ECW, 424 pages, $14.95

John McFetridge leaves his usual crime scene of Toronto and returns to his roots in this excellent historical procedural set in Montreal in the rough year of 1970. For those not yet born: there were real bombs in the Bourse, riots at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia), kidnapped cabinet ministers, and Canadian Army forces in the streets.

Against this backdrop, McFetridge has written the story of a young beat cop in search of a serial killer. It seems everyone is intent on ferreting out the FLQ while a murderer searches for his next victim. Well done history and a really good plot line.

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