Devonshire. Cream teas? Quaint thatched cottages, slumbering hay ricks, jugs of cider? Forget it. Belinda Bauer's Devonshire is as far away from the picture-postcard idyll as you can get. Here, its clouds are "dirty", its streams are "fast, deep and dark", and women are killed after being forced to telephone home and say goodbye to their mothers. Told from the point of view of Ruby Trick, a ten-year-old girl, Bauer's latest, deliciously dark novel is yet another cracker. The undeniably high quality of the writing is what raises this author head and shoulders above her contemporaries in the crime-writing field; indeed, these aren't 'crime' novels, but rather novels which happen to have crimes in them. The finely-drawn characters linger long after the book has been read; what first appear to be throw-away phrases, mere asides, return to haunt you. For instance, a terrified girl flees her killer, "a high, reedy 'Help!' squirting from her every few strides" (oh, that "squirting"!); a discarded copy of the Sun, with "paper tits dissolving to porridge in the rain". A strong thread of dark humour runs through all of Bauer's novels and this reader frequently found himself chuckling with glee. If this is your first Belinda Bauer, then I envy you - you have four other novels in which to wallow. Personally, I can barely wait for the next one.