Narrative theme: Social issues

Quicksand of memory

Quicksand of memory

Author: Michael J. Malone Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/12/2021

Scarred by their pasts, Jenna and Luke fall in love, brimming with hope for a rosy future. But someone has been watching, with chilling plans for revenge ... An emotive, twisty, disturbing new psychological thriller by the critically acclaimed author of A Suitable Lie and In the Absence of Miracles. Jenna is trying to rebuild her life after a series of disastrous relationships. Luke is struggling to provide a safe, loving home for his deceased partner's young son, following a devastating tragedy. When Jenna and Luke meet and fall in love, they are certain they can achieve the stability and happiness they both desperately need. And yet, someone is watching. Someone who has been scarred by past events. Someone who will stop at nothing to get revenge... Dark, unsettling and immensely moving, Quicksand of Memory is a chilling reminder that we are not only punished for our sins, but by them, and that memories left to blacken and sharpen over time are the perfect breeding ground for obsession, and murder... 

Fall

Fall

Author: West Camel Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/12/2021

Estranged brothers are reunited over plans to develop the tower block where they grew up, but the desolate estate becomes a stage for reliving the events of one life-changing summer. Twins Aaron and Clive have been estranged for forty years. Aaron still lives in the empty, crumbling tower block on the riverside in Deptford where they grew up. Clive is a successful property developer, determined to turn the tower into luxury flats. But Aaron is blocking the plan and their petty squabble becomes something much greater when two ghosts from the past - twins Annette and Christine - appear in the tower. At once, the desolate estate becomes a stage on which the events of one scorching summer are relived - a summer that shattered their lives, and changed everything forever... Grim, evocative and exquisitely rendered, Fall is a story of friendship and family - of perception, fear and prejudice, the events that punctuate our journeys into adulthood, and the indelible scars they leave - a triumph of a novel that will affect you long after the final page has been turned.  

Psychopaths Anonymous, 4

Psychopaths Anonymous, 4

Author: Will Carver Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/11/2021

When AA meetings make her want to drink more, alcoholic murderess Maeve sets up a group for psychopaths ... The dark, unpredictable, electrifyingly original new thriller from critically acclaimed author Will Carver. Maeve has everything. A high-powered job, a beautiful home, a string of uncomplicated one-night encounters. She's also an addict: A functioning alcoholic with a dependence on sex and an insatiable appetite for killing men. When she can't find a support group to share her obsession, she creates her own. And Psychopaths Anonymous is born. Friends of Maeve. Now in a serious relationship, Maeve wants to keep the group a secret. But not everyone in the group adheres to the rules, and when a reckless member raises suspicions with the police, Maeve's drinking spirals out of control. She needs to stop killing. She needs to close the group. But Maeve can't seem to quit the things that are bad for her, including her new man... A scathing, violent and darkly funny book about love, connection, obsessions and sex - and the aspects of human nature we'd prefer to hide - Psychopaths Anonymous is also an electrifyingly original, unpredictable thriller that challenges virtually everything. 

The Crystal Crypt

The Crystal Crypt

Author: Fiona Veitch Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/11/2021

Whoopee, isn’t this just the bee’s knees of a murder mystery! I’ll stop with the 1920’s slang now, but seriously, this really does rather beautifully conjure up the years after the Word War One. Sleuth and reporter Poppy investigates the death of a female scientist in Oxford. I have just adored every one of the Poppy Denby Investigates series which began with the Crime Writers’ Association Endeavour Historical Dagger Award shortlisted The Jazz Files, a wonderful historical mystery that I described as: “supplying oodles of 1920’s fizz and fun alongside a firm foundation from the suffragette movement and scars of the First World War”. These books could be classed as cosy as well as historical crime, but I’d say the cosy comes with a good twist of provocative nudges and digs. The Crystal Crypt is the sixth to feature Poppy, is it the last? Potentially, as a few of the loose ends from the series are rather nicely tied up. Poppy really does know her onions (sorry, sorry, definitely no more 1920’s sayings from me), she’s likeable, bright, and forward-thinking. The surrounding characters are fabulous too, though a favourite of mine has to be the wonderfully witty Rollo Rolandson. Fiona Veitch Smith encourages the plot to sing, while allowing the reader to investigate not only the crime, but also the social and political issues of the time. The Crystal Crypt is a wonderfully entertaining, vivid, yet thoughtful historical murder mystery that I can most definitely recommend.

Books of the Month
Never

Never

Author: Ken Follett Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/11/2021

Expertly researched, visionary in scale and the first contemporary novel in over a decade from international number one bestseller Ken Follett, NEVER is more than a thriller. It imagines a scenario we all hope never comes true, one which will keep you transfixed until the final page . . . A stolen US army drone. A shrinking oasis in the Sahara Desert. A secret stash of deadly chemicals. Each is a threat to the stability of the world but individually are problems that can be overcome. In the diplomatic arena though, everyone will have a different way of dealing with such a threat. And when those in charge disagree and refuse to back down, it will kick off an international chain reaction with potentially catastrophic consequences: a world edging closer to war... Now three people must work tirelessly and with the utmost skill to stop that from happening: A spy working undercover with jihadists. A brilliant Chinese spymaster. A US president beleaguered by a populist rival for the next election. The only question is, in a game of brinksmanship can the inevitable ever be stopped? 

The Rabbit Factor

The Rabbit Factor

Author: Antti Tuomainen Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/10/2021

An insurance mathematician's carefully ordered life is turned on its head when he unexpectedly loses his job and inherits an adventure park ... with a whole host of problems. A quirky, tense and warmly funny thriller from award-winning Finnish author Antti Tuomainen. Just one spreadsheet away from chaos... What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal. And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother - its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters ... and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back. But what Henri really can't compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri's relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets... Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.

Cold as Hell

Cold as Hell

Author: Lilja Sigurdardottir Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/10/2021

Áróra returns to Iceland when her estranged sister goes missing, and her search leads to places she could never have imagined. A chilling, tense thriller - FIRST in an addictive, nerve-shattering new series - from one of Iceland's bestselling authors... Icelandic sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries and aren't on speaking terms, but when their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to find her sister. But she soon realizes that her sister isn't avoiding her ... she has disappeared, without trace. As she confronts Ísafold's abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Bjoern, and begins to probe her sister's reclusive neighbours - who have their own reasons for staying out of sight - Áróra is led into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation. Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister's life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daniel, as she tries to track her sister's movements, and begins to tail Björn - but she isn't the only one watching... Slick, tense, atmospheric and superbly plotted, Cold as Hell marks the start of a riveting, addictive new series from one of Iceland's bestselling crime writers.

Hell Unearthed

Hell Unearthed

Author: Hilary McElwaine Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/09/2021

'Hell Unearthed' is Hilary McElwaine's interpretation and updating of Dante Alighieri's 'Inferno', the first part of his 'Divine Comedy', written between 1308 and 1320. In the original, hell is described in graphic and gruesome detail before leading the reader through purgatory and finally to the salvation of paradise. This author has adapted Dante's work for a modern audience, providing many recent examples of behaviour, which although generally condemned, doesn't always make for comfortable reading. The book keeps to Dante's original map of nine downward circles of hell, through which he is guided by Virgil, who he greatly admired. As the pair travel deeper, the tormented souls they encounter are guilty of more and more serious crimes, though I find it disturbing and hard to accept that, for instance, someone who has betrayed a client in business is on a lower level than a paedophile like Jimmy Savile, because he or she has used their intellect to commit their crime. This is not of course necessarily the author's view but some of her more modern day examples include veritable icons like David Bowie, Princess Diana, Elvis and Horatio Nelson, which many readers, myself included, would view as controversial and upsetting. These are far outweighed though by the examples of Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Al Capone, Myra Hindley and the like, who committed terrible acts of violence against humanity. Also in line with the original, some fictional perpetrators of wickedness are included, which I found rather strange, as there are surely more than enough real life evildoers to fill the chapters, both then and now. This is a very interesting and thought provoking read, regardless of whether you believe in any kind of afterlife or not and I do hope that the author will go on to rework the other two books in the 'Comedy', as Dante is undoubtedly one of the greatest writers of all time and deserves to be introduced to a wider and younger audience in the same way that Shakespeare has been.  Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador

The Origins of Iris

The Origins of Iris

Author: Beth Lewis Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/08/2021

Gosh, this original and thought-spinningly intricate yet quietly simple read speared my emotions. I found myself utterly consumed by The Origins of Iris and absolutely adored every word. When Iris leaves her abusive wife for the wilds of the mountains, she quite literally finds herself when she comes face to face with another version of Iris. Being described by Hodder Studio as Wild meets Sliding Doors was an immediate hook for me, yet there is so, so much more on offer here. Love of course isn’t simple, it can be complex, cruel, even dangerous, and as this novel allowed me access to the layers of emotions within Iris, it entered my inner thoughts too. Beth Lewis skirts the obvious to open unrecognised pathways, she gradually opens up the story and sets information free. Goosebumps skittered down my arms as I felt understanding enter my awareness. I love the way you’re left to explore the complexities, I didn’t question, just let myself and my feelings go. Come the end, the fascinating, wonderful end, I didn’t make a decision as to exactly where I had travelled, I just knew that I had. Delving deeply into what it is to be human, The Origins of Iris is a truly unique and wonderful read.

Star Books
All My Mothers

All My Mothers

Author: Joanna Glen Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/08/2021

What a truly special book this is, thoughtful, refreshing and comforting, this novel has entered my heart and soul. From a young age Eva has questions about who she is and where she has come from. As she grows up, alters and changes, the questions remain and she begins to find answers. I adored Joanna Glen’s debut, The Other Half of August Hope which hurtled straight into our LoveReading Star Books collection, and this, this is just as memorable, just as beautiful, and firmly cements this author as one I will be looking out for. Eva has the most honest and contemplative voice, her voice is so individual that you can hear her, even feel her as she speaks. Even the smallest of her small thoughts planted seeds which rooted, grew, divided, and she entered my awareness and took up residence. Joanna Glen has a real gift, she is able to go beyond the surface of things to find the unfamiliar and make it feel like home. I love it when a book provokes new thoughts and feelings, and that is exactly what All My Mothers does. It also joins the LoveReading Star Book list, and becomes one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month. Congratulations to Joanna Glen, All My Mothers balances fear and wonder, loneliness and belonging, despair and elation, it is a true joy to read.  

Star Books
The Silver Collar

The Silver Collar

Author: Antonia Hodgson Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/08/2021

A tremendously provocative yet entertaining historical crime thriller set in 1728, it’s worth noting that while this takes a journey through some very dark places, a light touch is on hand when needed.  Thomas and Kitty find themselves in the happiest of times, until they discover that someone wants Thomas dead. I’ve always loved this series, which began with Crime Writers' Association Historical Dagger award winning  The Devil in the Marshalsea, and it has progressed with such vivid intensity. While I recommend starting at the beginning, you can actually read these as standalone novels. Thomas and Kitty definitely deserve double billing, each ensures a balance is maintained and allows the plot to really sing (and occasionally glower and smirk). Antonia Hodgson not only encourages us to see and feel the times, she also shows the difficulties that humankind still fall foul of to this day. We really don’t learn do we! Exploring love, friendship, revenge, and the very nature of evil itself, the ending sliced through my thoughts and stayed with me for some time. You can feel the research behind the story, and I delved into her historical notes at the end. The Silver Collar is a cracking and thought-provoking read, and comes as highly recommended in my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month.   If you enjoyed Andrew Taylor’s James Marwood and Cat Lovett series which started with The Ashes of London set in 1666 and The Jackdaw Mysteries Series by S. W. Perry which began with The Angel's Mark set in 1570 then you should most definitely check out The Thomas Hawkins Series.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Girls Who Lie

Girls Who Lie

Author: Eva Björg Ægisdottir Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/07/2021

A chilling tone and unsettling plot is wrapped up inside this cracking police procedural and psychological thriller. West Iceland CID investigate the death of a woman who went missing seven months previously. While suicide was the initial assumption, it's only when Marianna’s body is found that they can establish murder. This is the second in the Forbidden Iceland series, I recommend starting with The Creak on the Stairs which was a bestseller in Iceland, winning the Blackbird Award. While a police procedural, the other characters share the stage which ensures there are some fascinating trails of information to follow. In this book Eva Björg Ægisdottir cements the characters of the policing team. The vivid descriptions and haunting quality of the writing, which is so well translated by Victoria Cribb, ensured I could see and feel Iceland. Two stories sit side by side, each twisting around the other and allowing tension and intrigue access while themes of child neglect and social issues are thoughtfully handled. Girls Who Lie slithers and suggests and coils towards its thought-provoking conclusion, and I will be following this series with interest.  

Books of the Month