‘Dark Objects’ by Simon Toyne, ‘First Born’ by Will Dean

‘Dark Objects’ by Simon Toyne. Morrow, 400 pages, $27.99

British author Simon Toyne’s Sanctus trilogy — over-the-top apocalyptic conspiracy thrillers — brought him legions of fans and landed him on a couple of best-sellers lists. But Toyne easily slides into more conventional storytelling with “Dark Objects,” an edgy psychological thriller that makes excellent use of its police procedural foundation.

Perhaps conventional isn’t the correct word. While “Dark Objects” follows a linear plot, Toyne pulls out all the stops for a deliciously creepy, believable story that makes sharp turns with realistic characters.

Det. Chief Insp. Tannahill Khan of the North London Murder Squad investigates the killing of a wealthy woman whose body is surrounded by several “dark objects,” including a book on how to process a murder written by Laughton Rees, who is estranged from her father John, the police commissioner.

The investigation quickly takes an odd turn as the woman’s husband is missing. The couple is a bit of an enigma — “no paper trail of any kind,” no online presence, no employment. “ According to the records they don’t exist. “They’re ghosts,” says one of the cops.

Laughton reluctantly agrees to be a consultant on the case, especially when it appears that she is somehow being targeted.

While the police investigation is at the center of “Dark Objects,” Toyne doesn’t neglect his characters. Laughton and Tannahill make a good team, each intelligent and bringing a unique insight. Laughton hasn’t spoken to her father in more than 20 years, blaming him for her mother’s death. On her own, she has built a life that revolves around her 15-year-old daughter, Grace. Tannahill knows he has sacrificed a personal life for his job, a situation his mother, to whom he is close, never lets him forget. Their phone conversations add a bit of levity.

Toyne’s plotting — and delving deep into the psychological aspects — make “Dark Objects” shine.

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‘First Born’ by Will Dean. Atria/Bestler, 368 pages, $17

British author Will Dean, whose 2021 novel “The Last Thing to Burn” showcased his affinity for the psychological thriller, delves even deeper into the complexity of relationships with his superb “First Born.”

This time, Dean turns his attention to the complicated relationship of identical twins who revel in their differences. “There are no such things as identical twins . . . because it’s a blatant lie. A travesty,” claims Molly Raven, who prefers the term “monozygotic,” adding, “Our basic DNA is identical, sure, but that’s about all that is. We were once one person. We are not anymore.”

And it seems Molly makes a point of being different from her adventurous, “I’ll try anything once” sister Katie, who goes by KT. The anxious Molly is afraid of just about everything, her “entire existence is made up of balancing risks.” Does a phone charger set fire if it is older than a few months? Can a grown woman suffocate if she sleeps on her stomach? Molly’s obsession over just about everything has made life difficult for this 22-year-old.

Molly would never move from London to New York City like Katie has done to attend Columbia University on a scholarship that seems a bit dubious. Molly is devastated when it appears that Katie has been murdered in her apartment during the time her parents are visiting. Molly has to overcome her phobias to travel to New York because her parents need her there for support and to find out why Katie was killed.

Dean makes the most of believable tension augmented by Molly slowly overcoming her apprehensions as she gains emotional strength and the forceful plot of “First Born” deepens. Dean realistically shows how hard it is for Molly to deal with her qualms and embrace life. While those fears pull down Molly, they also become an asset as she shows her mettle at being an amateur sleuth.

“First Born” is another clever story from Dean, a rising talent.

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