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…

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Reviewed by Gill Davies Following on from her highly-acclaimed first novel, The Dry, Jane Harper has written a second gripping story featuring the harsh Australian outback and a detective called Aaron Falk. Both novels have a powerful, often disturbing, sense of place; and both take us beyond the generic boundaries of crime fiction to think…

Edith and Oliver by Michelle Forbes (pbk)

Reviewed by Annabel Somehow, I managed to miss Belfast author Forbes’s debut, Ghost Moth, set during the early years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which received excellent reviews. Having now read and very much enjoyed her second novel, I should remedy that and search out a copy. For Edith and Oliver, Forbes has moved back…

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Reviewed by Basil Ransome Davies    This novel borrows its title from Fritz Lang’s canonical film noir (which is also a teasing, ironic comedy of the repressed returning) and Finn’s first-person narrator, Dr Anna Fox, is a woman with a camera looking out of her window into her neighbour’s. A voyeuse, in short, as if…

Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Translated by Sam Taylor Reviewed by Harriet Moroccan born novelist Leïla Slimani is not the first woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, though she’s only the 13th woman to do so since the prize was established in 1903. Her novel, Chanson Douce, now translated as Lullaby, is however the first…

Zen and the Art of Murder by Oliver Bottini

Translated by Jamie Bulloch Reviewed by Terence Jagger We are not in Japan, but Germany; set in the snowy Black Forest, not far from the French border, this novel starts with ‘maverick chief inspector’ Louise Boni being told to investigate a strange, lonely man wandering through the snow, an unknown Japanese monk. She is resentful…

The Red-Haired Woman by Orhan Pamuk

Translated by Ekin Oklap Reviewed by Rob Spence A new novel by Orhan Pamuk is always an event, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s an absorbing story, set in the recent past, but overshadowed by ancient epic tales that insinuate themselves into the lives of the protagonists, and propel them to their fates. In the…

The Apothecary’s Shop by Roberto Tiraboschi

Translated by Katherine Gregor Reviewed by Terence Jagger Venice 1118 Anno Domini. In early twelfth century Venice set we our scene, although the cod historical touch is maybe just a little unfair, there is quite a lot of ‘the Year of Our Lord’, single Italian words thrown in for effect and so on, and some…

American War by Omar el Akkad

Reviewed by Max Dunbar Altered States of America  Joan Didion’s recently released notebooks capture the feeling of the American South as it must have been as she drove through it in the summer of 1970: a fatalism I would come to recognise as endemic to the particular tone of New Orleans life. Bananas would rot,…