ANDY FFRENCH checks out some of this week’s book releases, and marks them out of five.

Bloodline by Lynda La Plante is published in hardback by Simon & Schuster, priced £18.99. La Plante’s current heroine Anna Travis isn’t a patch on predecessor Jane Tennison anyway, but grief-stricken by the death of her fiancé, she’s even more lacklustre in Bloodline.

The case is gripping – as you’d expect from La Plante – even if it does feature a rather implausible gang of attractive, gay drug-dealer surfers. What starts as a missing persons case quickly turns into something more gruesome, as the dogged DCI uncovers an apartment full of blood, but no sign of a body.

Putting the missing mechanic’s brassy fiancée in the frame, Travis must piece together everything she can about their victim, soon discovering he lied about his sexuality as well as his frequent trips to Cornwall.

With vivid crime scene descriptions, a colourful cast of villains and cutting police dialogue, it’s more like a TV script than a novel – albeit an engaging one.

Telescope by Jonathan Buckley is published as a paperback original by Sort Of Books, priced £8.99.

The author of Contact and So He Takes The Dog returns with a new story about Daniel Brennan, a middle-aged man nearing the end of his life due to a degenerative disease resulting in disfiguring external tumours.

Older brother Charlie and his wife Janina decide to move Daniel into their home and appoint a new carer, Ellen. As Daniel adapts to his new surroundings and comes to terms with his impending death, he exorcises his gloom by writing a journal – often embellishing circumstances and situations.

Reading his daily entries, Ellen begins to see past her charge’s physical appearance. A charming read with highly descriptive character observations, littered with colourful and delightful snippets of historical, social and literary commentary.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H Wilson is published in hardback by Simon & Schuster, priced £19.99.

It seems natural that Daniel H Wilson, the author of How To Survive A Robot Uprising and How To Build A Robot Army, would turn his attention to a documentary-style novel about an apocalypse brought on by sentient machines.

A survivor pieces together the story of what happened, recounting tales of people dubbed heroes by the machine mastermind. Initially, ominous incidents take place, including the malfunctioning of a pacification robot in Afghanistan, and a robot companion in Japan turning against its owner, before the machines try to exterminate mankind.

But the human resistance uses ingenuity to strike back, turning some of the mechanical monsters against their own kind.

It is an intriguing and terrifying account of an all-too-real future brought to life by clever storytelling.

Blackout by Connie Willis is published in hardback by Gollancz, priced £20.

Blackout is the first part of a two-volume novel by the acclaimed author of The Doomsday Book.

Initially set in Oxford in 2060, this intriguing book follows the adventures of three time-travelling students as they are sent back to observe various key events in the Second World War.

The trio soon have other problems to worry about, as glitches begin to surface in the once-reliable mechanics of time travel.

With increasing chaos and uncertainty surrounding the future of the novel’s main characters, Willis, an accomplished storyteller, is successful in building tension and drama.

However, readers must be content to wait when it comes to having their questions answered, as the conclusion of the tale will only be revealed in All Clear, which is released later this year.