Weidenfeld, £9.99 stg

Guy Ritchie should take a look at 'Snap' if he is scouting around for his next project. 'Snap' comes hot on the heels of the British gangster film revival and is a trip into the darker reaches of the East End and Essex.

Ostensibly a tale of violence, sex, crime and betrayal, the real craft in this story lies in the portrayal of brotherly love. Two bothers called, confusingly, East and West, go on the run after an accident kills the daughter of the local gang leader. Their trip, part 'Lock Stock', part 'Rain Man', sees author Mark Powell create an unusually intelligent crime thriller. This is more than Brit-lit, or faux-Ritchie, this is a truly original book from a writer who issues his characters with a heart, as well as a gun.

The dialogue crackles with invective and an authenticity that was too often absent from recent Brit flicks. Powell uses his experience living on the streets to examine notions of disfigurement, homelessness and fraternal love. This exciting debut owes a lot to the realist strain of dialogue pioneered by Irvine Welsh in the 1990's, although this time the Scottish brogue is replaced with a cockney one.

The narrative is genuinely intriguing and keeps you guessing until the very end. Too often in thrillers the plot is simply an excuse for a series of violent set pieces but Powell is far more ambitious than that. Not one for the faint hearted, this book requires both patience and concentration to enjoy.

The pace with which characters are introduced, alongside the confusing cockney-isms, mean that it is easy to become disheartened. Don't. Persevere and there is something very unusual and worthwhile here; a London-based crime novel with a plot that doesn't rely on cliché and characters that aren't caricatures.

John Raftery