The Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette (Serpent's Tail, £7.99)

The late Manchette specialised in economic, pared-down writing which works particularly well in a story about a hired hitman where extreme violence is part of the everyday job. First published in 1981, his tale of French assassin Martin Terrier, who's trying to get out of the business, still feels fresh thanks to the stylised prose.

Welcome To Braggsville by T Geronimo Johnson (Fourth Estate, £12.99)

For some, Johnson's work belongs to a type that could be classed as deliberately exhibitionist, showing off his cleverness and adroitness with language to the highest degree. For others, this coming-of-age tale of Southerner student D'aron Davenport is exactly what contemporary literature should be doing, moving fast and furious, full of energy.

The Night Watch by Patrick Modiano (Bloomsbury, £8.99)

Modiano's deceptive simplicity, where straightforward sentences conceal deeper and complex meanings, is also utterly spellbinding, and in this novella about an initially amoral double agent who works for both the Resistance and the Gestapo in Nazi-occupied Paris purely for his own benefit, he spins a particularly sticky and discomfiting web.

The Librarian by Mikhail Elizarov (Pushkin Press, £12.99)

The winner of the 2008 Russian Booker, Elizarov's expansive and experimental novel begins like non-fiction, then adapts short story methods and finally emerges into a first-person narrative, as librarian Alexei joins a hidden band of folk dedicated to finding the works of forgotten Soviet writer Gromov. Satire, polemic and fantasy merge together.