No Exit Press, UK£5.99

Retired ex-cop and all-round shady boy Nick Sharman returns for his sixteenth outing in Mark Timlin's pacy but predictable 'All The Empty Places'.

As the novel opens, we find that Sharman has reached a crossroads in his life. Financially comfortable but with few personal attachments in his life, he has resigned himself to a lonely existence when a chance meeting and ensuing romance changes things. Irrevocably.

Sheila is the emotionally and physically bruised ex-girlfriend of Johnny Tufnell, a violent ex-con who is keeping a suspiciously low profile. As Nick and Sheila’s newfound romance continues to blossom, Nick finds himself contemplating a future which had previously seemed impossible; a future of love and companionship built on the totally unfamiliar foundation of trust. But, of course, things are never quite that simple when Mr Sharman is involved...

Perhaps the oddest thing that can be said about 'All The Empty Places' is that its strength is also its weakness. Unlike many crime novels, Timlin's latest offering proceeds at a pace that can only be described as relentless. This, ironically, is also where the novel falters. With fifteen previous outings under his belt, it is perhaps acceptable that Sharman is developed in conjunction with past episodes. Sheila, however, is never instilled with the richness of character which the early chapters demand.

Action-packed, violent and gritty, 'All The Empty Places' won't do anything to disgrace the crime genre. It remains, however, a solid rather than spectacular read.

Tom Grealis