Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani

Reviewed by Terence Jagger This is a tricky book to read, though I enjoyed much of it. It is funny and observant, but painful too. Kimani has a strong view on the total evil of colonialism and its creatures, and this unalloyed negativity and cynicism can be corrosive, however justified much of his criticism is.…

The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton

Reviewed by Basil Ransome-Davies At the close of James Joyce’s moving and magisterial story ‘The Dead’ the reader learns that ‘snow was general all over Ireland… falling faintly through the universe … on all the living and the dead’, and the settling, drifting whiteness is given its full emotional force in a tale of imprisoned…

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Reviewed by Harriet We’ve reviewed two of Laura Lippman’s novels in Shiny, here and here. One was a police procedural and the other a standalone – Lippman’s output is fairly evenly divided between the two. She’s known as a crime writer, but if that’s not your genre of choice, don’t dismiss her novels, which rise…

The Extremist by Nadia Dalbuono

Reviewed by Marina Sofia You might be forgiven for expecting this book set in Italy to be translated from Italian, given the Italian sounding name of the author. In fact, Nadia Dalbuono has studied in the UK, worked for many years as a TV consultant and documentary maker for Channel 4 and ITV, and writes…

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Reviewed by Harriet I forget everything between footsteps. ‘Anna!’ I finish shouting, snapping my mouth shut in surprise. My mind has gone blank. I don’t know who Anna is or why I’m calling her name. I don’t even know how I got here. I’m standing in a forest, shielding my eyes from the spitting rain.…

Home by Amanda Berriman

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin This is a heartbreaking ache of a book: it explores some harrowing themes, opens doors to experiences we should all be aware of, and is gripping and terrifyingly tense. But there’s a joy glowing at the heart of Home that elevates it above your average tear-jerker or page-turner. A joy that…

Daphne by Will Boast

Reviewed by Annabel The vogue for using ancient myth to inspire contemporary novels continues unabated. Last year, Kamila Shamsie updated the story of Antigone in Home Fire, in which a family is riven by politics. Now living in the US, English author Will Boast uses the myth of Daphne to drive his debut novel.You don’t…

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Reviewed by Max Dunbar Command the Mermaid Speak Last year a monster emerged from London’s sewers. The ‘fatberg’ – as the city’s waste disposal experts called it – was a giant composite of body waste, disposable nappies, antiseptic wipes, pet gravel, shopping trolleys and God knows what else that ends up in the tunnels underneath the…

Felix Culpa by Jeremy Gavron

Reviewed by Rob Spence The German artist Kurt Schwitters developed a method, which he called “Merz”, by which his canvases would be constructed using hundreds of fragments of material – bits of newspaper, bus tickets, images cut from magazines – to make collages which were often startling in the juxtapositions they presented. In this very unusual…

Savages: The Wedding by Sabri Louatah

Translated by Gavin Bowd Reviewed by Annabel This debut novel is the first volume of Louatah’s planned Saint-Étienne quartet named after the French city in which its protagonists reside. Saint-Étienne is south-west of Lyon and capital of the Loire department, right in the middle-east of France. This is perhaps a deliberate choice, for the protagonists…

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Emily Ruskovich’s Idaho is an impressive debut, both in its writing and its treatment of a difficult subject: the murder of a young child in the most shocking of circumstances. It comes garlanded with praise from the likes of Andrea Barrett, Chinelo Okparanta and Claire Fuller, all thoroughly deserved. One hot…

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

Reviewed by Annabel Joanna Cannon’s first novel, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was a huge bestseller; I’ve not read it, but I will after having read her second, Three Things About Elsie. TTWG&S was a mystery with young protagonists who turn detective to find out what happened to a neighbour who has gone missing.…

Rainsongs by Sue Hubbard

Reviewed by Jean Morris Rainsongs will take you to remote vistas in the west of Ireland. It’s a lovely, vividly transporting novel. Apart from the wind and waves, it’s completely quiet. The sea dark as tar and the white crests rolling into the far distance like streaks of light on a negative. This is the…

Peach by Emma Glass

Reviewed by Lucy Unwin There are moments when Peach is stunningly realistic; the raw sensations capture a pure essence of trauma. But this is far from a realistic book. To read and enjoy it you need to be prepared to embrace the bizarre, the surreal and the downright ridiculous. It’s a book of impressions, and…

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

Reviewed by Harriet I have certain reservations about novels in which the central character is someone who really existed. Sometimes it works really well, as for example in the case of Mrs Engels by Gavin McCrea, or the Josephine Tey novels of Nicola Upson. Other times, though I won’t name names, I’ve been a bit…