Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
A small town divided by prejudice. A secret that won't remain silent... The stunning new novel from the Sunday Times top ten bestselling author of The Silent Sister and Big Lies in a Small Town. This unmissable and gripping Book Club read will stay with you. 1965. A young white female student becomes involved in the fight for civil rights in North Carolina, falling in love with one of her fellow activists, a Black man, in a time and place where an interracial relationship must be hidden from family, friends and especially the reemerging Ku Klux Klan. As tensions rise in the town, she realises not everyone is who they appear to be. 2020. A recently widowed architect moves into the home she and her late husband designed, heartbroken that he will never cross the threshold. But when disturbing things begin to happen, it's clear that someone is sending her a warning. Who is trying to frighten her away, and why? Decades later, past and present are set to collide in the last house on the street...
What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant? What would you do to get it back? Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance. But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother's secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake. Unsettled Ground is a heart-stopping novel of betrayal and resilience, love and survival. It is a portrait of life on the fringes of society that explores with dazzling emotional power how we can build our lives on broken foundations, and spin light from darkness.
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 World 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.
Eleven guests. Three nights. One murderer... This is the haunting and atmospheric new thriller from rising star of crime fiction, Rachael Blok. In a gorgeous mansion in the Hertfordshire countryside, sisters Lois and Ebba prepare to launch their new venture. Archipelago is an exploitation-free tech company whose virtual reality game promises to unite the worlds of technology, politics and the environment. Invited to the launch party are their investors: current and ex-politicians, international business moguls and activists, one of whom - Marieke - has been receiving online abuse and death threats for her views on eco-politics. DCI Maarten Jansen has been summoned to join the house party. He is sure the threats are from online trolls with nothing better to do - he's only offering police protection because his boss wants to put the VIP guests at ease. But when eight of the guests are involved in a suspicious helicopter crash, Maarten starts to uncover long-buried secrets - and a murderer in their midst...
OK let’s be clear, Her Majesty, the Queen, does not investigate. At least, not as far as we know. Bennett is very clear about this. She explains on her website and elsewhere, that this book, together with The Windsor Knot, the first in what is now a wonderful series, are works of fiction. They are made up for our reading pleasure. But. What if Her Majesty did? As Bennett has written, “If the Queen wanted to, she would make a great detective, with access to any expert she wants and a deep understanding of her world of politics and palaces,” where, of course, all the real crimes take place. The monarch Marple is of course an utterly wonderful idea, and Bennett is such a talented writer and storyteller that the suspension of disbelief is effortless as she draws you into a world that soon moves from seeming all too possible to become delightfully credible. A Three Dog Problem is centred on the mysterious appearance of a painting of the Royal Yacht Britannia in a Royal Naval exhibition and a body floating in a palace swimming pool, but really it doesn’t matter what the story is about. The true pleasure in this is that Bennett has really thought through how Her Majesty might actually conduct an investigation, then packed it with authentic details and more twists and turns than a palace intrigue, and created the unforgettable character of Rozie, Her Majesty’s trusted and ingenious Private Secretary, the Watson or Mma Makutsi to the Queen’s Holmes or Mma Ramotswe. Not since another authorial Bennett wrote The Uncommon Reader has our reigning monarch been so charmingly and affectionately portrayed in print and S.J. Bennett has surely put herself in the running for an MBE for “services to Royal literary inventiveness.” It is an honest-to-goodness, laugh out loud, wonder of a book filled with regal delight.
Any new story by Minette Walters is grounds for great rejoicing and The Swift and The Harrier, her fourth historical fiction, is an impeccable stand alone that, from the opening eight words “As the hour for the priests’ execution approached…” holds you in its thrall until the very last word of the final line. Set 1642, in Dorset, tensions between friends and neighbours reflect the mood of the nation, as allegiance to the King and Crown confronts the rising tide of Parliamentarianism and bloody war stalks the land. Jayne Swift is a trained and talented physician, from a loyal Royalist family, who heals without fear or favour. Dedicated to treating the sick and injured whatever their belief or politics, she wins the respect of all who know her through her diligence and professionalism, at a time when female physicians were barred from formal practise, and so being to medicine, albeit in fiction, what Sofonisba Anguisolla was, in reality, to art a century before. As counterpoint to Swift’s openness and straightforward morality is William Harrier, whose mysterious appearances, and apparent duplicity, mark him as a connected but untrustworthy character, for whom the war is but a means to achieve a greater good. Impressively imagined and so beautifully written, The Swift and the Harrier is a perfect story, full of Walters’ trademark sense of place and time, with characters that are so fully formed and natural you feel you know them, and all wrapped in a story so well drawn that the images it creates in your imagination will endure long after you finished reading it. It is a complete, perfect, triumph of a tale.
Edited by Kate and Sarah Beal, the industry innovators behind Muswell Press, writer and poet Golnoosh Nour, and editor Matt Bates, who curates the publisher’s LGBTQI+ list, Queer Life, Queer Love is the glorious result of a global call-out for original submissions. Keen to not only push "the boundaries of gender and sexuality, but also the boundaries of literature itself," no constraints were set on the form submissions might take. And the result is a triumph - a showcase of variously stirring, subversive, intoxicating and moving poetry and prose, short stories and narrative non-fiction that delivers the anthology’s desire to “honour a young, lost, queer life”, “to create more space to encourage and salute the diversity of queer writing, and to celebrate the richness of queer life experience”. Among the anthology’s engaging non-fiction offerings we have Jonathan Kemp’s piece on identity and the early 1990s re-appropriation of the word “queer” as a “critical and disruptive force rather than a stinging insult”. Then there’s Sal Harris’ beautifully inventive writing on transition - its meaning, its reasons, its magic - and Katlego Kai Kolanyane-Kesupile’s punch-packing piece on being a Black transgender woman. The fiction and poetry is every bit as dazzling and varied, too - a striking, shifting kaleidoscope of lived experiences and wisdom that speaks to the soul. Brilliantly curated, the dynamic, diverse writings in Queer Life, Queer Love will have readers in their thrall.
In this her third dystopian thriller, Dalcher gives another chilling look into an alternative future where a woman and her daughter seek refuge in a women-only colony after the country sinks into total economic collapse. Darker than her other reads, but still female-centric and speculative, this tells the tale of widowed Miranda Reynolds and her sixteen-year-old Emma whose only hope for survival is Femlandia, a male-free colony set up decades earlier by Miranda's estranged mother. It's another twisty turny rollercoaster ride of emotion and thought-provoking themes. It's raw, it's disturbing in places, the characters are incredibly flawed and I flew through it at pace. Pulled in from the very first few pages and hooked until the end, for me Dalcher is firmly becoming the queen of speculative fiction.
A simply joyous and magical relationship story to brighten up the darkest of times. Carmen’s sister Sofia comes to her somewhat reluctant rescue when Carmen is made redundant. The Christmas Bookshop goes to the top of my favourite books by Jenny Colgan, she is one of the most consistently fabulous romance writers out there, and if I need a boost I know just where to head. Yes there’s romance, you’ll also find intruiging family relationships and inviting new friendships. When we meet Carmen she’s not at her best, she’s definitely not perfect (who is!), and because she’s multi-dimensional it adds extra layers to this Christmas tale. I particularly loved the cast of characters, even the smallest part has depth, and then of course there is the Bookshop, which is divinely intriguing and welcoming. Edinburgh becomes a winter wonderland, with snow, beautifully decorated shops, and even if you’ve never been, the descriptions ensure a spellbinding sparkle. With a plot that weaves and twists its magical course with charm, The Christmas Bookshop is a truly lovely festive romance, and we’ve added it to our Star Book collection.
It has been 15 years since award-winning Finnish copywriter Tuomainen launched his career as an author and in that time he has delighted readers and critics with 6 books that have seen him hailed by The Times as “the funniest writer in Europe,” and “the King of Helsinki Noir” by the Finnish press. It’s hard to really capture and express just how brilliant this man’s writing is, but imagine, if you will, Ian Rankin’s gift for crime thrillers channelled through the skew-wiff comic genius of Christopher Brookmyre, or to put it another way, think of Carl Hiaasen in thermals, Mukluks and a big, down parka for, yes, he is that good. To even think that there might be a tale to be told of a staid insurance actuary inheriting a problematic adventure park takes courage. To then be able to grip readers' imaginations for three hundred pages, to make them laugh so hard they soak the pages of the book by squirting tea from their nose and then make them weep so fiercely that the tears trickle down their thighs, takes huge talent. But there is also nigh-on writing genius here as, woven into what is essentially a crime thriller, albeit a raucous, rip-roaring comic one, is a genuine sense of pathos, a real understanding and expression of human frailties, the random doubts and failures, that make The Rabbit Factor such a wonderfully engaging and enduringly humane read. Be in no doubt, this is quality, top drawer, writing and storytelling of the sort that makes you feel good to be alive and oh-so-grateful to be literate.
The BRAND NEW Christmas read from the bestselling author The gloriously festive sequel to readers' favourite and Sunday Times bestselling novel Happiness for Beginners SPEND THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR AT HOPE FARM . . . Christmas is fast approaching at the new Hope Farm. Owner Molly Baker has been convinced to organise an open day to raise some much-needed funds ahead of the New Year, but the nativity tableau is proving challenging. With anti-social sheep, awkward alpacas and a seriously sequined Santa Claus to assemble, Molly is feeling overwhelmed, and in desperate need of some Christmas spirit . . . Despite the chaos of the farm getting in the way of her event planning, Molly is looking forward to spending the holidays with Shelby and Lucas, hopeful that a happy family Christmas is exactly what they need to draw them all together. But while she is busy making plans on the farm, Shelby, it seems, has ideas of his own. As the nativity draws near, the team are working hard to pull off a spectacular festive fete - and make sure the animals and humans remain on their best behaviour. Will this Christmas be merry and bright, or is there more than one surprise in store for Hope Farm?
When ship’s surgeon Gulliver sets off across the seas in search of adventure he has little idea what he will find. His two greatest discoveries are the countries of Lilliput and Brobdingnag. In Lilliput he finds a population of tiny people to whom he appears as a giant while in Brobdingnag the roles are reversed: Gulliver is tiny and Brobdingnags are giants. Swift uses Gulliver’s descriptions of his experiences in these contrasting countries to write a satirical commentary on his own society. His use of Gulliver’s altered relative size gives great scope for studying everyday events in a new way and makes a fine vantage point for telling the contrasting stories. Gulliver is an iconic figure in literature. Read aloud, this abridged edition with is impressionistic yet detailed illustrations by Robert Ingpen will make an excellent way to introduce the story about him to young readers.