Abacus, £6.99 stg

Londoner Ervine James is about to mark his dalliance with the private investigation business down as experience when he is presented with the biggest case of his life: Viali Walker, the 22-year-old daughter of prominent black MP Robert Walker, was raped and murdered four months ago, and the police have been unable to find the perpetrator.

Desperate for closure, Walker comes to James with his case. Although now doubting his PI skills, the investigator is intrigued by the murder of the beautiful young woman and swayed by the £5,000 first payment offered by her father. A deal is struck, with James personally citing this as his make or break inquiry.

On closer inspection Viali Walker is not the girl her father believed her to be. Far from the sweetness and light law student, paying her way through college by working in a café, James discovers that Viali was a well-known face in the city's red light district. Her father believes The Foundation, a far right organisation, was responsible for her death, but witnesses claim she was chatting and laughing with her attackers shortly before. James is faced with the question of how members of this organisation could have gained Viali's trust?

Stylistically 'Snakeskin' is a wonderful read, with author Courttia Newland making much original use of simile and metaphor. In terms of story, the book cannot be faulted either. Newland casts a critical eye over contemporary urban British society and the twisting and turning plot is designed to keep readers guessing until close to the end.

Fluid and gripping, 'Snakeskin' is a book begging to be read in one sitting. British writers are renowned for their thrillers and Courttia Newland can take his place among the best. Brilliant.

Joanne Ahern