Unsafe by John Connor Orion, HK$114 John Connor is the author of an increasingly popular series of English crime novels. Starring Detective Sergeant Karen Sharpe, they look, on the dust jacket, like a Martina Cole: stark photograph of a terrified female. Inside, they're rather Cole-like too: 'Andrew Farrar was so frightened he began to pee himself,' is Connor's opening image. Sharpe is an engaging hub for the story. Mother to 19-year-old Mairead, she is stuck in a failed relationship at home and all manner of grief at the office: cleared of murder in a previous book, Sharpe's superiors are still not convinced she is detective sergeant material. One person who definitely is convinced is Marcus Roth, a trainee who is more than happy to feel the sharp edge of Sharpe's tongue. Sharpe and Roth investigate the death of a young girl, a case that leads rapidly to the aforementioned Farrar and his carer, Mary Bradley. As the novel progresses, we learn that Mary is quite contrary and then some: 'She was just kicking and kicking me,' one victim recalls. 'My memory is patchy after that.' Well, it would be. Unsafe is gripping stuff. You won't feel happier about life exactly, but you will be better acquainted with its darkest corners for reading it.