Happy Little Bluebirds by Louise Levene (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Louise Levene’s last novel, The Following Girls, was a pitch-perfect satire on ‘70s schoolgirl life whose period detail rang more than a few bells for me. I can’t vouch for the authenticity of that detail in Happy Little Bluebirds, set in Hollywood just over a year before the attack on Pearl…

Music Love Drugs War by Geraldine Quigley

Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth The Troubles are exploding – in the best possible sense – onto the literary scene: two decades after the Good Friday Agreement, Anna Burns’s masterfully haunting Milkman was awarded the Booker Prize. However, the novel’s success came with criticisms of its difficulty, with various commentators describing it as everything from ‘impenetrable’…

The Sect Of Angels by Andrea Camilleri

Translated by Stephen Sartarelli Reviewed by Gill Davies In addition to the Inspector Montalbano novels, best known to English readers from the TV adaptations in the BBC4 Saturday night crime slot, Andrea Camilleri has also written historical crime fiction. The Sect of Angels, first published in Italian in 2011, is set in Sicily in the…

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Reviewed by Rob Spence English-language fiction set in colonial Malaya tended in the past to focus on the lives of the Empire types who ruled the roost back then: Somerset Maugham is particularly guilty of this, and even Anthony Burgess’s masterly Malayan Trilogy, peopled as it is with characters drawn from all of the ethnic…

Picnic in the Storm by Yukiko Motoya

Translated by Asa Yoneda Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth The title of Yukiko Motoya’s short story collection Picnic in the Storm could easily be a description of the author’s literary life. In her native Japan, Motoya is reaping prize after prize, yet the young writer writes about the ordinary and everyday with an ease and a…

Girl Balancing by Helen Dunmore (pbk)

Reviewed by Harriet It was a great loss to the world of fiction when Helen Dunmore sadly died in 2017. Fortunately for her admirers, of which I am happy to be one, she left a legacy of short stories, some never before published, which have now appeared in one volume. Her son, who edited this…

All Among the Barley by Melissa Harrison (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Both Melissa Harrison’s previous novels are notable for their vividly evocative descriptions of the English countryside, the kind of thing readers are treated to in the very best nature writing. All Among the Barley goes several steps further with a powerful piece of storytelling set in the early ‘30s when a…

Winterman by Alex Walters

Reviewed by Rob Spence East Anglia has quite a lot of previous when it comes to crime fiction: Colin Watson’s chronicles of Flaxborough, James Runcie’s Grantchester mysteries, and Nicola Upson’s Josephine Tey series all make use of the particular topography of the fen country. Looming over them all of course is Dorothy Sayers’s The Nine…

Vox by Christina Dalcher (pbk)

Reviewed by Lindsay Bamfield Dr Jean McClellan is a leading neurolinguistics scientist working on a cure for Wernicke’s aphasia, the devastating language disorder that can result from brain injury. But for the last year she has not been allowed to work – because she is a woman. The oppressive Pure Movement is in power and…

Graceland by Bethan Roberts

Reviewed by Annabel When I saw that Bethan Roberts’s new book had Elvis on the cover, I was instantly intrigued. Having followed Bethan’s career for some years, (she hails from the town where I live), I wondered what Graceland would be about. Her last novel, Mother Island (reviewed here with Q&A here) was a tale…

To Kill the Truth by Sam Bourne

Reviewed by Rob Spence We live in an age of fake news, propagated by politicians, celebrities and media organisations. Perhaps we always have – from the tricks of Elizabethan propaganda to the Zinoviev letter, there has always existed a tendency to invent, inflate and distort the truth, to present “alternative facts” as Kellyanne Conway characterised…

Slow Motion Ghosts by Jeff Noon

Reviewed by Annabel I first discovered Jeff Noon’s weird take on our world when his debut novel Vurt was picked up by a major publisher after being an indie original that went on to win the Arthur C Clarke Award in 1994. In Vurt, its sequel Pollen, prequel Nymphomation, and Automated Alice which shares some…

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Reviewed by Annabel I’ll say it up front, Jane Harper’s third novel, The Lost Man, was totally unputdownable! Not having read her first two, The Dry and Force of Nature (which Gill reviewed for Shiny here), I will have to return to them and catch up. They featured a Melbourne detective, Aaron Falk, but The Lost…

The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Translated by Sam Garrett Reviewed by Alice Farrant Two venturesome women on a journey through the land of their fathers and mothers. A wrong turn. A bad decision.[1] The Death of Murat Idrissi is a tale of the migrant dilemma; the desperate measures someone will go to escape, but also the struggle to belong. In…

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

Reviewed by Alice Farrant Helen Franklin is self-repressed, restricting herself from all that is pleasurable or happy. She merely exists alongside Prague, parallel to its beauty. When suddenly, she is given a manuscript of accounts all linked to a spectre named Melmoth, she is forced to look back to the events that built her self-imposed…

Things We Nearly Knew by Jim Powell (pbk)

Reviewed by Susan Osborne Jim Powell’s Things We Nearly Knew is a slice of American smalltown life seen through the eyes of an unnamed bartender. I enjoyed Powell’s second novel, Trading Futures, a couple of years back, admiring its narrator’s waspishly funny inner monologue. His new novel is infused with a gentler humour, the themes…

Dark Water by Elizabeth Lowry

Reviewed by Anne Goodwin Twenty-one-year-old Hiram Carver, assistant surgeon on the USS Orbis in 1833, senses something special about William Borden when he first sees him on board. The sailor exudes a quiet dignity that his upper-class superior officers seem to lack. So when he hears the story of Borden’s heroism in saving the lives…

Middle England by Jonathan Coe

Reviewed by Annabel By the time I’d finished reading Coe’s latest novel, it was about a fortnight after publication and by this time he (and his publisher Penguin Viking) could claim a big publicity success. There had been spreads about the book and Coe in all the broadsheet arts pages, reviews in the latest issues…

Berta Isla by Javier Marías

Translated by Margaret Jull Costa Reviewed by Anna Hollingsworth I’m not one for classic spy stories: I don’t care if the martinis come shaken or stirred, and as much as I love anything set in the 70s, I gave the much-praised TV adaptation of le Carré’s The Little Drummer Girl a miss. But Javier Mariás’s…