Coming over the next two weeks – my fiction picks to 18th September

Here’s my latest selection of new fiction titles. These are titles appearing in hardback/paperback for the first time. In some cases the ebook might already be available. All titles are based on the listings found in The Bookseller, so I’m not working from a list of all titles being published.

Just a reminder I don’t see any advance copies, my choices are based on the blurb, gut instinct and what takes my fancy at the time.

(NB This post features Affiliate links from which I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases)

Index

Crime, Thriller and Mystery

General Fiction

Historical (I tend to take this as pre 1960’s ie not in my lifetime!)

Crime, Thriller & Mystery

Are You Sara? by SC Lalli

Two women named Sara each get into a rideshare. . . but only one makes it home alive. Which Sara was the real target?

Law student Saraswati “Sara” Bhaduri holds down two jobs in order to make her way through school, but it’s still a struggle. She’s had to do things to pay the bills that most people wouldn’t expect from “a nice Indian girl.” It seems like an ordinary busy Tuesday night at the local dive bar until her boss demands Sara deal with a drunk girl in the bathroom.

The two become fast friends. Why? Because they both have the same name. And despite their different circumstances, the two connect. When they both order rideshares home, they tumble in the back of the cars and head out into the night.

But when Sara awakes in her rideshare, she finds she’s on the wrong side of town—the rich side—and she realizes: she and Sarah took the wrong cars home.

With no money, Sara walks back to her apartment on the shady side of town only to discover police lights flashing and a body crumpled on her doorstep: Sarah.

Was Sarah Ellis or Sara Bhaduri the target? And why would anyone want either of them dead?

Sweet Dreams by Anders Roslund

Two little girls go missing on the same day in Stockholm. Their disappearances are never explained. In time, the investigations are abandoned.

A chance discovery puts Detective Ewert Grens back on the trail five years later. His own personal trauma makes him determined to find out what happened to these children who were snatched from a supermarket and a car park and never seen again.

His search leads him into the recesses of the dark web and the discovery of a paedophile ring that can only be cracked from the inside. Grens is forced to call upon his retired partner, Piet Hoffman, the best undercover operative he knows, to try to infiltrate the group.

They will have only one chance – but are they up to the darkest challenge of their lives?

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

It is an ordinary Thursday and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club are concerned. A decade-old cold case leads them to a local news legend and a murder with no body and no answers.

Then a new foe pays Elizabeth a visit. Her mission? Kill. . . or be killed.

As the cold case turns white hot, Elizabeth wrestles with her conscience (and a gun), while Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim chase down clues with help from old friends and new. But can the gang solve the mystery and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

The Fourth Enemy by Anne Perry

A sensational fraud case provides Daniel Pitt with his greatest challenge yet . . .

When a heart attack forces Marcus fford Croft to retire from his chambers, his daughter Miriam and son-in-law Daniel are relieved that he is stepping down and handing over to Toby Kitteridge. But Daniel and Toby are concerned that their new recruit, Gideon Hunter KC, who is a brilliant barrister with a penchant for taking risks, could jeopardise their chambers’ hard-won reputation . . .

Daniel’s old friend Inspector Ian Frobisher then alerts him to the fact that one of England’s most influential newspaper tycoons, Malcolm Vayne, is about to be arrested for fraud. Hunter jumps at the chance to prosecute in such a high-profile and controversial case, and Daniel soon finds himself assisting with a chilling criminal exploration into a murky world of power, greed and pure evil that endangers Miriam’s life . . .

The Girls Who Disappeared by Claire Douglas

THREE GIRLS MISSING

Twenty years ago, Olivia Rutherfood crashed her car while driving home with three friends.
When she regained consciousness, she was alone – her friends had vanished.

THEY WERE NEVER SEEN AGAIN

Now, journalist Jenna Halliday visits the town where it happened, determined to unlock the girls’ disappearance.

But Olivia won’t speak. And as Jenna probes further, the locals grow frightened . . .

How many secrets can one small town hide?

You Can Stay by Elle Connel

She’s the perfect host. He’s the perfect victim.

Someone is hunting Connor. Alone, freezing, in the wilderness of Bodmin Moor, on an elite Special Forces training exercise, he’d be a fool to scorn the kindness of a local stranger. Wouldn’t he?

At first, Eilidh seems to be an impeccable host. She offers Connor food and a warm bed – he finds it nearly impossible to leave her charming farmhouse.

But the choice isn’t his to make.

There have been others before. None, though, as perfect as him.

Why would she let him leave?

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General/Contemporary Fiction

Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake by Mazey Eddings

Chaotic, messy and madly in love.

Lizzie Blake has made endless mistakes. Kitchen fires, pyramid schemes, you name it, she’s done it . . . and made a mess of it too.

One mistake she never makes? Risking anything more serious than a one-off hook-up. But after losing yet another bakery job due to her uncontrolled ADHD, she breaks her cardinal rule and has a two-night stand.

Once burned, twice shy, Rake has given up on relationships. And feelings. And any form of intimacy for that matter. Two nights with charming, chaotic Lizzie might have him lowering his guard, but then he’s heading back to Australia, far away from the surprising feelings that she seems to inspire. But when Lizzie realises she’s pregnant, Rake knows he’ll do anything to be in his child’s life, but emotional vulnerability is off the table.

Except everyone makes mistakes, and Lizzie and Rake might have just stumbled upon the best mistake of their lives.

The American Roommate Experiment by Elena Armas

Rosie Graham has a problem. A few, actually. She just quit her well paid job to focus on her secret career as a romance writer. She hasn’t told her family and now has terrible writer’s block. Then, the ceiling of her New York apartment literally crumbles on her. Luckily she has her best friend Lina’s spare key while she’s out of town. But Rosie doesn’t know that Lina has already lent her apartment to her cousin Lucas, who Rosie has been stalking—for lack of a better word—on Instagram for the last few months. Lucas seems intent on coming to her rescue like a Spanish knight in shining armour. Only this one strolls around the place in a towel, has a distracting grin, and an irresistible accent. Oh, and he cooks.

Lucas offers to let Rosie stay with him, at least until she can find some affordable temporary housing. And then he proposes an outrageous experiment to bring back her literary muse and meet her deadline: He’ll take her on a series of experimental dates meant to jump-start her romantic inspiration. Rosie has nothing to lose. Her silly, online crush is totally under control—but Lucas’s time in New York has an expiration date, and six weeks may not be enough, for either her or her deadline.

The Central Line by Saskia Sarginson

Cora and Jacob live in London’s vast metropolis; he at one end of the Central Line, she at the other.

Their paths have crossed a thousand times without them knowing.

When a chance encounter on the underground brings them together, it seems they’re destined to fall in love.

But although they live in the same city, their worlds are miles apart.

Jacob’s life is uncluttered, while Cora’s is full of complications. And as events begin to divide them, they start to wonder:

Are they meant to be together, or were they never meant to meet?

Girl Friends by Holly Bourne

“Men see women in two separate categories. There are the women they sleep with, and the women they fall in love with. And they will treat you differently based on that.”

From the day they first meet as teenagers Fern and Jessica are best friends. Despite their differences, they are there for each other throughout everything, navigating the difficulties of growing up and fitting in. That is, until Jessica crosses a line that Fern can’t forgive.

But now, more than ten years later, Jessica has unexpectedly reappeared in Fern’s life.

A lot has changed for them both – but can their relationship be different now they are older? Is it possible for either of them to rewrite the role that they have been cast in? Or will their shared history ultimately be doomed to repeat itself?

Lessons by Ian McEwan

While the world is still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain has descended, young Roland Baines’s life is turned upside down. Stranded at boarding school, his vulnerability attracts his piano teacher, Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.

Twenty-five years later, as the radiation from the Chernobyl disaster spreads across Europe, Roland’s wife mysteriously vanishes and he is forced to confront the reality of his rootless existence and look for answers in his family history.

From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Covid pandemic and climate change, Roland sometimes rides with the tide of history but more often struggles against it. Haunted by lost opportunities, he seeks solace through every possible means ­- literature, travel, friendship, drugs, politics, sex and love.

His journey raises important questions. Can we take full charge of the course of our lives without damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape us and our memories? What role do chance and contingency play in our existence? And what can we learn from the traumas of the past? contingency play in our existence? And what can we learn from the traumas of the past?

The Reason by Catherine Bennetto

How much is the smile from the person you love worth to you?
 
Brooke’s life has derailed. Her social life and career have evaporated, her daughter is desperately unhappy and being bullied at school, and, for a 43-year-old, she probably spends way too many weekends at her parent’s. But the reason for all this is no mystery. A year and a half ago, Brooke’s husband died.
 
But Brooke does have one secret. Her husband’s death, the worst thing that has ever happened to her, has made her unbelievably rich.
 
Despite her despair, Brooke suddenly realises she has the power to make her daughter’s life, and the world a little brighter.

There’s Been a Little Incident by Alice Ryan

A witty and warm debut novel from a young Irish writer. A story of family, grief, and the ways we come together when all seems lost.

Molly Black has disappeared. She’s been flighty since her parents died, but this time – or so says her hastily written note – she’s gone for good.

That’s why the whole Black clan – from Granny perched on the printer to Killian on Zoom from Sydney – is huddled together in the Dublin suburbs, arguing over what to do.

Former model Lady V presumes Molly’s just off taking drugs and sleeping with strangers – which is fine by her. Cousin Anne, tired of living in Molly’s shadow, is keeping quiet, and cousin Bobby is distracted by his own issues.

But Molly’s disappearance is eerily familiar to Uncle John. He is determined never to lose anyone again. Especially not his niece, who is more like her mum than she realises.

When Things Are Alive They Hum by Hannah Bent

When Things Are Alive They Hum poses profound questions about the nature of love and existence, the ways grief changes us, and how we confront the hand fate has dealt us.

Marlowe and Harper share a bond deeper than most sisters, shaped by the loss of their mother in childhood. For Harper, living with what she calls the Up syndrome and gifted with an endless capacity for wonder, Marlowe and she are connected by an invisible thread, like the hum that connects all things. For Marlowe, they are bound by her fierce determination to keep Harper, born with a congenital heart disorder, alive.

Now 25, Marlowe is finally living her own life abroad, pursuing her studies of a rare species of butterfly secure in the knowledge Harper’s happiness is complete, having found love with boyfriend, Louis. But then she receives the devastating call that Harper’s heart is failing. She needs a heart transplant but is denied one by the medical establishment because she is living with a disability. Marlowe rushes to her childhood home in Hong Kong to be by Harper’s side and soon has to answer the question – what lengths would you go to save your sister?

When We Were Bright and Beautiful by Jillian Medoff

You can have everything, and still not have enough. 

Cassie Quinn may only be twenty-three, but she knows a few things. One: money can’t buy happiness, but it’s certainly better to have it. Two: family matters most. Three: her younger brother Billy is not a rapist.

When Billy, a junior at Princeton, is arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Cassie races home to Manhattan to join forces with her big brother Nate and their parents, Lawrence and Eleanor. The Quinns scramble to hire the best legal minds money can buy, but Billy fits the all-too-familiar sex-offender profile—white, athletic, and privileged—that makes headlines and sways juries.

Meanwhile, Cassie struggles to understand why Billy’s ex Diana would go this far, even if the breakup was painful. And she knows how the end of first love can destroy someone: Her own years-long affair with a powerful, charismatic man left her shattered, and she’s only recently regained her footing.   

As reporters converge outside their Upper East Side landmark building, the Quinns gird themselves for a media-saturated trial, and Cassie vows she’ll do whatever it takes to save Billy. But what if that means exposing her own darkest secrets to the world?

Last Day of School by Jack Sheffield

Change is in the air for Jack Sheffield and the Ragley village school.

It’s 1987, and after a decade as head teacher at Ragley-on-the-Forest School, Jack Sheffield is looking to the future. He and his wife are expecting a new baby, the school is preparing for the introduction of the new National Curriculum, and the coming year promises a whole host of other surprises. Whether it’s combing the church for an escaped pet mouse or dealing with the obnoxious new school governor, life in the village is always entertaining.

So when Jack is offered an opportunity that could change everything, he knows he has a difficult decision to make. Endings are never easy, but perhaps the thrill of a new beginning is exactly what Jack needs…

Back to Index

Historical

All the Broken Places by John Boyne

Ninety-one-year-old Gretel Fernsby has lived in the same mansion block in London for decades. She leads a comfortable, quiet life, despite her dark and disturbing past. She doesn’t talk about her escape from Germany over seventy years before. She doesn’t talk about the post-war years in France with her mother. Most of all, she doesn’t talk about her father, the commandant of one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps.

Then, a young family moves into the apartment below her. In spite of herself, Gretel can’t help but begin a friendship with the little boy, Henry, though his presence brings back memories she would rather forget. One night, she witnesses a violent argument between Henry’s mother and his domineering father, one that threatens Gretel’s hard-won, self-contained existence.

Gretel is faced with a chance to expiate her guilt, grief and remorse and act to save a young boy – for the second time in her life. But to do so, she will be forced to reveal her true identity to the world. Will she make a different choice this time, whatever the cost to herself?

The Hidden Palace by Dinah Jefferies

An island of secrets. A runaway. And a promise…

A rebellious daughter
1925. Among the ancient honey-coloured walls of the tiny island of Malta, strangers slip into the shadows and anyone can buy a new name. Rosalie Delacroix flees Paris for a dancer’s job in the bohemian clubs deep in its winding streets.

A sister with a secret
1944. Running from the brutality of war in France, Florence Baudin faces a new life. But her estranged mother makes a desperate request: to find her vanished sister, who went missing years before.

A rift over generations
Betrayals and secrets, lies and silence hang between the sisters. A faded last letter from Rosalie is Florence’s only clue, the war an immovable barrier – and time is running out…

The Village Idiot by Steve Stern

A wild, effervescent, absinthe-soaked novel that tells of the life of the extraordinary artist Chaim Soutine

Steve Stern’s astonishing new novel The Village Idiot begins on a glorious spring day in Paris 1917. Amid the carnage of World War I, some of the foremost artists of the age have chosen to stage a boat race.  At the head of the regatta is Amedeo Modigliani, seated regally in a bathtub pulled by a flock of canvasback ducks.  But unbeknownst to the competition, he has a secret advantage: his young friend, the immigrant painter Chaim Soutine, is hauling the tub from underwater.  Soutine, an unwashed, misfit artist (who incidentally can’t swim) has been persuaded by the Italian to don a ponderous diving suit and trudge along the floor of the river Seine.  Disoriented and confused by the artificial air in his helmet Chaim stumbles through the events of his past and future life.
 
It’s quite an extraordinary life.  From his impoverished beginnings in an East European shtetl to his equally destitute days in Paris during the Années Folles, the Crazy Years, from the Cinderella patronage of the American collector Albert Barnes, who raises him from poverty to international attention, to his perilous flight from the Nazi occupation of France, Chaim Soutine remains driven by his unrelenting passion to paint. 
 
To be sure, there are notable distractions, such as his unlikely friendship with Modigliani, who drags him from brothels to midnight felonies to a duel at dawn; there are the romances with remarkable women who compete with and sometimes salvage his obsession. But there is also, always on the horizon, the coming storm that threatens to sweep away Chaim and a generation of gifted Jewish refugees from a tradition that would outlaw their longing to make art.

The Girl from Guernica by Karen Robards

Guernica, 1937

When the bombers appear like a flock of birds over the horizon, Sibil Helinger, 17, is enjoying market day in the small Spanish town of Guernica. With no warning, clouds of German planes are upon them and bombs fall on the town like rain.

Reeling with shock, Sibil spends the next few days frantically searching for her relatives in the smouldering rubble. Though she finds her little sister trapped in the ruins, she discovers her mother and the others are dead.

Years later, while WWII rages, Sibil and her sister are living with their father – an eminent scientist reluctantly working with the Nazis and a member of the undercover German resistance. Sibil has grown into a beautiful young woman fuelled by a dark rage. In short, she has grown into the perfect spy to join the resistance and fight back against those responsible for her mother’s death.

Back to Index

So that’s all for this week.

Happy Reading!

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