NEW BOOKS FOR DECEMBER 2018
DRACUL by Dacre Stocker, J D Barker
It is 1868, and a 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself inside an abbey’s tower to face off against a vile and ungodly beast. He is armed with mirrors and crucifixes and holy water and a gun – and is kept company by a bottle of plum brandy. His fervent prayer is that he will survive this one night – a night that will prove to be the longest of his life. Desperate to leave a record of what he has witnessed, the young man scribbles out the events that brought him to this point – and tells an extraordinary tale of childhood illness, a mysterious nanny, and stories once thought to be fables now proven true.
THE COMFORTS OF HOME by Susan Hill
Recovering on a remote Scottish island, his peace doesn’t last long. He is pulled in to a murder inquiry by the overstretched local police. A newcomer, popular with the islanders, has died in perplexing circumstances. The community’s reactions are complicated and fragile. It’s good to be back on the job. And when Simon returns to Lafferton, an arsonist is on the rampage and a woman whose daughter disappeared some years before is haunting the police station seeking closure. She will not let it rest, and Simon is called in to do a cold-case review. At home, Simon is starting to get used to having a new brother-in-law – in the form of his Chief Constable Kieron Bright. His sister Cat has embarked on a new way of practising medicine, and his nephew Sam is trying to work out what to do with his life. And then their tricky father, Richard, turns up again like a bad penny.
PARIS IN THE DARK by Robert Olen Butler
Autumn 1915. The First World War is raging across Europe. Woodrow Wilson has kept Americans out of the trenches, although that hasn’t stopped young men and women from crossing the Atlantic to volunteer at the front. Christopher Marlowe ‘Kit’ Cobb, a Chicago reporter and undercover agent for the US government is in Paris when he meets an enigmatic nurse called Louise. Officially in the city for a story about American ambulance drivers, Cobb is grateful for the opportunity to get to know her but soon his intelligence handler, James Polk Trask, extends his mission. Parisians are meeting ‘death by dynamite’ in a new campaign of bombings, and the German-speaking Kit seems just the man to discover who is behind this – possibly a German operative who has infiltrated with the waves of refugees? And so begins a pursuit that will test Kit Cobb, in all his roles, to the very limits of his principles, wits and talents for survival.
THE SYNDICATE by Guy Bolton
Jonathan Craine has left his old life in Hollywood behind him, content to live out his days with his son on a rural farm in California. But when infamous mobster Bugsy Siegel is murdered, Craine is forced to face his past once again. Summoned to Las Vegas to meet mob head Meyer Lansky, Craine is given the impossible task of finder Siegel’s murderers. All he has to help him is an ageing hit man and a female crime reporter with her own agenda. And he knows that if he doesn’t succeed in five days, both he and his son will pay for it with their lives…
THE VOGUE by Eoin McNamee
Late 1944, and two teenagers dance the Vogue in silence on the projectionist’s floor of the Pirnmill Aerodrome. She draws the outlines of their footwork in eyebrow pencil on the white sheet. He loses their bet. Decades later, a ghost returns to Morne to identify a body found in the shifting sands. Names have long since been changed; children long since cast out; lies long thought forgotten. Set against an eerie landscape, awash with secrets, The Vogue is a grimly poetic dance through the intertwined stories of a deeply religious community, an abandoned military base, and a long-shuttered children’s Care Home.
THE WINTER SOLDIER by Daniel Mason
Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War One explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives, at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains, he finds a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus. The other doctors have fled, and only a single, mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete remains. But Lucius has never lifted a surgeon’s scalpel. And as the war rages across the winter landscape, he finds himself falling in love with the woman from whom he must learn a brutal, makeshift medicine. Then one day, an unconscious soldier is brought in from the snow, his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. He seems beyond rescue, until Lucius makes a fateful decision that will change the lives of doctor, patient and nurse forever.
THE HOUSE ON VESPA SANDS by Paraic O’Donell
It is the winter of 1893, and in London the snow is falling. It is falling as Gideon Bliss seeks shelter in a Soho church, where he finds Angie Tatton lying before the altar. His one-time love is at death’s door, murmuring about brightness and black air, and about those she calls the Spiriters. In the morning she is gone. The snow is falling as a seamstress climbs onto a ledge above Mayfair, a mysterious message stitched into her own skin. It is falling as she steadies herself and closes her eyes. It is falling, too, as her employer, Lord Strythe, vanishes into the night, watched by Octavia Hillingdon, a restless society columnist who longs to uncover a story of real importance. She and Gideon will soon be drawn into the same mystery, each desperate to save Angie and find out the truth about Lord Strythe. Their paths will cross as the darkness gathers, and will lead them at last to what lies hidden at the house on Vesper Sands.
THE REBELS REVENGE by Scott Mariani
Even when ex-SAS major Ben Hope is taking a holiday, trouble seems to find him. What started as a relaxing trip to the Deep South spirals into a nightmare when he’s wrongly accused of a vicious murder and forced to go on the run. Target of a state-wide manhunt, the only way Ben can prove his innocence is to unearth a long-forgotten secret and track down the killers who slaughtered an innocent woman in a vendetta dating back generations. His quest takes him into the wild heart of Louisiana’s swampland, where all hell’s about to break loose. The bad guys will soon discover they made a big mistake…
WEIRD BRISTOL by Charlie Revelle-Smith
Did you know that a hoard of gold is probably buried somewhere under Bristol? Did you know that a statue in Bristol actually depicts the moment a king is about to die? Based on the popular Twitter feed from acclaimed author Charlie Revelle-Smith, Weird Bristol is an adventure through the dark, mysterious and secret history of an ancient city. From plagues, wars, ghosts and pirates to inventors, fraudsters, suffragettes and radicals. Only one thing is certain, you’ll never look at Bristol in quite the same way again…
UNDER A POLE STAR by Stef Penney
Flora Mackie first crossed the Arctic Circle at the age of twelve. Years later, in 1892, determination and chance lead her back to northern Greenland as a scientist at the head of a British expedition, defying the expectations of those who believe a woman has no place in that harsh world. Geologist Jakob de Beyn was raised in Manhattan. Yearning for wider horizons, he joins a rival expedition. Jakob and Flora’s paths cross. It is a fateful meeting, where passion and ambition collide and an irresistible attraction is born.The violent extremes of the north obsess them both: perpetual night and endless day; frozen seas and coastal meadows, and the strange, maddening pull it exerts on the people trying to make their mark on its vast expanses – a pursuit of glory whose outcome will reverberate for years to come.
GIRL, BALANCING AND OTHER STORIES by Helen Dunmore
Helen Dunmore passed away in June 2017, leaving behind this remarkable collection of short stories. With her trademark imagination and gift for making history human, she explores the fragile ties between passion, love, family, friendship and grief, often through people facing turning points in their lives: A girl alone, stretching her meagre budget to feed herself, becomes aware that the young man who has come to see her may not be as friendly as he seems.
Two women from very different backgrounds enjoy an unusual night out, finding solace in laughter and an unexpected friendship. A young man picks up his infant son and goes outside into a starlit night as he makes a decision that will inform the rest of his life. A woman imprisoned for her religion examines her faith in a seemingly literal and quietly original way.
LAST CURTSEY by Fiona MacCarthy
Once upon a time the well-bred daughters of Britain’s aristocracy took part in a female rite of passage: curtseying to the Queen. But in 1958 this ritual was coming to an end. Under pressure to shine – not least from their mothers – the girls became the focus for newspaper diarists and society photographers in a party season that stretched for months among the great houses of England, Ireland and Scotland. Fiona MacCarthy traces the stories of the girls who curtseyed that year, and shows how their lives were to open out in often very unexpected ways – as Britain itself changed irreversibly during the 1960s, and the certainties of the old order came to an end.
FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper
Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them. Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side. The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with. Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew.
THE UNCOMMON READER by Alan Bennett
The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely ( JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.
THE SEALWOMANS’S GIFT by Sally Magnusson
1627. In a notorious historical event, pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted 400 people into slavery in Algiers. Among them a pastor, his wife, and their children.
In her acclaimed debut novel Sally Magnusson imagines what history does not record: the experience of Asta, the pastor’s wife, as she faces her losses with the one thing left to her – the stories from home – and forges an ambiguous bond with the man who bought her. Uplifting, moving, and witty, The Sealwoman’s Gift speaks across centuries and oceans about loss, love, resilience and redemption.
THE BLOOD OF ROME by Simon Scarrow
It is AD 55. As trouble brews on the eastern fringes of the Roman Empire, Tribune Cato and Centurion Macro must prepare for war . . The wily Parthian Empire has invaded Armenia, a frontier territory claimed by Rome, ousting King Rhadamistus. The king is ambitious and ruthless, but he is vital to Rome’s strategic interests. General Corbulo must restore him to power, while also readying the troops for war with the powerful Parthian Empire. Corbulo orders new arrivals Cato and Macro, and their elite cohort of Praetorian Guards, to carry out the task. Marching into unmapped and unfamiliar terrain to restore an unpopular king is a perilous mission. Allies cannot be trusted and foes lurk on all sides. The bravery and skill of the Roman army will be tested to the limit . . .
LONG ROAD TO MERCY by David Baldacci
It is thirty years since FBI special agent Atlee Pine’s twin sister, Mercy, was taken from the room they shared as young children. Notorious serial killer Daniel James Tor, was caught and convicted of other murders, and while there’s no proof, Atlee believes he knows what happened to Mercy. Tor still resides in a high-security prison in Colorado. Assigned to the remote wilds of the western United States, Atlee has never stopped the search for her sister, and, wracked with survivor’s guilt, she has spent her life hunting down those who hurt others. She will always ask herself, ‘Why her, and not me?’. Now, Atlee is called in to investigate a case in the Grand Canyon when a mule is found dead with strange carvings on its body, and its rider missing. She knows about killers and perhaps understands them better than any profiler in the FBI, but it soon becomes clear that she will need to put her skills to the ultimate test in this investigation.
CHRISTMAS ON THE LITTLE CORNISH ISLES by Philippa Ashley
For Maisie Samson, this Christmas is going to be different. After years working in a busy Cornish pub, she’s moved back to quiet Gull Island where she grew up, to help her parents run the family inn. But even though she can’t wait for the festive season to arrive, Maisie cannot shake the memories of what happened to her last Christmas – the day she lost everything. She keeps herself busy, setting up the tree and hanging mistletoe ready for her first proper family Christmas in years. Until a new arrival to the island walks into her bar and changes everything. Australian backpacker Patrick is looking for a job for the low season. When Maisie takes him on, she doesn’t expect him to last the week, but to her surprise Patrick is the perfect fit. Charming and handsome, could Maisie allow herself to hope that she and Patrick could be more than just colleagues?
NEW BOOKS FOR AUGUST 2018
THE MISSING GIRL by Jeny Quintana
Anna Flores was just a child when her adored teenage sister disappeared. Unable to deal with the pain, Anna took the first opportunity she had to run from her fractured family, eventually building a life for herself abroad. Now, thirty years on, her mother has died, and Anna must return home to sort through her possessions. In doing so, she has to confront the huge hole her sister’s disappearance left in their lives, leaving just one question unanswered: what really happened to Gabriella?
I’LL KEEP YOU SAFE by Peter May
Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane co-own the Hebridean company Ranish Tweed. On a business trip to Paris to promote their luxury brand, Niamh learns of Ruairidh’s affair, and then looks on as he and his lover are killed by a car bomb. She returns home to Lewis, bereft. Niamh begins to look back on her life with Ruairidh, desperate to identify anyone who may have held a grudge against him. The French police, meanwhile, have ruled out terrorism, and ruled in murder – and sent Detective Sylvie Braque to shadow their prime suspect: Niamh. As one woman works back through her memories, and the other moves forward with her investigation, the two draw ever closer to a deadly enemy with their own, murderous, designs.
THE LOVE LETTER by Lucinda Riley
When Sir James Harrison, one the greatest actors of his generation, passes away at the age of ninety-five he leaves behind not just a heartbroken family but also a secret so shocking, so devastating that it could rock the English establishment to its core . . . Joanna Haslam is an ambitious young journalist, assigned to cover the legendary actor’s funeral. The great and the good of the celebrity world are there. But Joanna stumbles on something dark beneath the glamour: the mention of a letter James Harrison has left behind, the contents of which others have been desperate to conceal for over seventy years. As she peels back the veil of lies that has shrouded the secret, she realizes that there are other forces attempting to prevent her from discovering the truth. And they’ll stop at nothing to reach the letter before she does.
MY ABSOLUTE DARLING by Gabriel Tallent
At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall. She knows how to snare a rabbit, sharpen a blade and splint a bone. She knows that her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him. But she doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see. Or why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done. Sometimes the people you’re supposed to trust are the ones who do most harm. And what you’ve been taught to fear is the very thing that will save you …
RECORD OF A SPACE BORN FEW: WAYFARERS 3
Centuries after the last humans left Earth, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. Humanity has finally been accepted into the galactic community, but while this has opened doors for many, those who have not yet left for alien cities fear that their carefully cultivated way of life is under threat. Tessa chose to stay home when her brother Ashby left for the stars, but has to question that decision when her position in the Fleet is threatened. Kip, a reluctant young apprentice, itches for change but doesn’t know where to find it. Sawyer, a lost and lonely newcomer, is just looking for a place to belong. And when a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who still call the Fleet their home can no longer avoid the inescapable question:
CLOCK DANCE by Anne Tyler
Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life: when she was eleven and her mother disappeared, being proposed to at twenty-one, the accident that would make her a widow at forty-one. At each of these moments, Willa ended up on a path laid out for her by others. So when she receives a phone call telling her that her son’s ex-girlfriend has been shot and needs her help, she drops everything and flies across the country. The spur-of-the moment decision to look after this woman – and her nine-year-old daughter, and her dog – will lead Willa into uncharted territory. Surrounded by new and surprising neighbours, she is plunged into the rituals that make a community, and takes pleasure in the most unexpected things.
SPITFIRE: A VERY BRITISH LOVE STORY by Jon Nichol
A rich and heartfelt tribute to this most iconic British machine. By focussing on the men (and women) who flew the Spitfire, John Nichol has brought a fresh and powerful perspective to the story. And by recording their bravery, humility, camaraderie, tragedy and sheer joy in flying their beloved Spits he has done them – and us – a valuable service’
MRS OSMOND by John Barrick
Having fled Rome and a stultifying marriage, Isabel Osmond is in London, brooding on the recent disclosure of her husband’s shocking, years-long betrayal of her. What should she do now, and which way should she turn, in the emotional labyrinth where she has been trapped for so long? Reawakened by grief and the knowledge of having been grievously wronged, she determines to resume her youthful quest for freedom and independence. Soon Isabel must return to Italy and confront her husband, and seek to break his powerful hold on her. But will she succeed in outwitting him, and securing her revenge?
TELLING TALES: THE FABULOUS LIVES OF ANITA LESLIE by Penny Perrick
Anita Leslie (1914-85), best known for popular biographies of her relatives including Jennie Churchill, Winston’s mother, was also an unlikely war heroine. In 1940, Anita volunteered as an ambulance driver. By the end of the war, she was the only woman to have been awarded both the Africa Star and the Croix de Guerre, alongside the other medals for her service across all four fronts of WWII, as recounted in her remarkable memoir Train to Nowhere. In this revealing biography, Penny Perrick brings Anita to life: her complicated early years, her love for her children, her passion for Ireland, her career as a writer, and the ongoing family drama about Castle Leslie. Telling Tales is a scintillating and poignant account of this flamboyant woman.
THE BUTCHERS DAUGHTER by Victoria Glendenning
It is 1535 and Agnes Peppin, daughter of a West-country butcher, leaves her family home in disgrace to live out the rest of her life cloistered behind the walls of the Shaftesbury Abbey. Blessed with a sharp mind, she quickly rises through the ranks of the sisterhood to become the Abbess’s assistant. While Agnes grapples with the complex rules and hierarchies of her new world, King Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Head of the Church of England. Religious houses are being formally subjugated, monasteries dissolved, and the great Abbey is no exception to the purge. With her place of refuge razed and the sisterhood disbanded, she is free at last to be the master of her own fate. But freedom comes at a price as Agnes descends into a world she knows little about, using her wits and testing her moral convictions against her need to survive by any means necessary…
THERE THERE by Tommy Orange
Jacquie Red Feather and her sister Opal grew up together, relying on each other during their unsettled childhood. As adults they were driven apart, but Jacquie is newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. That’s why she is there.
Dene is there because he has been collecting stories to honour his uncle’s death. Edwin is looking for his true father. Opal came to watch her boy Orvil dance. All of them are connected by bonds they may not yet understand. All of them are there for the cultural celebration that is the Big Oakland Powwow. But Tony Loneman is also there. And Tony has come to the Powwow with darker intentions.
WTF; A TIMES BEST SELLER by Robert Peston
As with his previous bestsellers, WHO RUNS BRITAIN? and HOW DO WE FIX THIS MESS?, in Robert Peston’s WTF? he draws on his years of experience as a political, economics and business journalist to show us what has gone bad and gives us a manifesto to put at least some of it right. Framed by two letters to his father (who died in early 2016) WTF? is Robert Peston’s highly personal account of what those who have ruled us for years got so badly wrong, and what we need to do to mend the terrible fractures in our society. With characteristic passion and clarity he looks at what must happen to prevent democracy being subverted by technocratic geniuses with the ability to manipulate social media, how and whether it is possible to make a success of leaving the EU, what the lessons should be of the appalling Grenfell Tower tragedy, whether robots can be stopped from taking our work, what can be done to staunch the widening gap between rich and poor, and how to raise living standards for all.
LIFE 3.0: BEING HUMAN IN THE AGE OF HUMAN INTELLIGENCE by Max Tegmark
AI is the future – but what will that future look like? Will superhuman intelligence be our slave, or become our god? Taking us to the heart of the latest thinking about AI, Max Tegmark, the MIT professor whose work has helped mainstream research on how to keep AI beneficial, separates myths from reality, utopias from dystopias, to explore the next phase of our existence. How can we grow our prosperity through automation, without leaving people lacking income or purpose? How can we ensure that future AI systems do what we want without crashing, malfunctioning or getting hacked? Should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons? Will AI help life flourish as never before, or will machines eventually outsmart us at all tasks, and even, perhaps, replace us altogether?
FIRST PERSON by Richard Flanaghan
Young and penniless, Kif Kehlmann, is rung in the middle of the night by notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl proposes a deal: $10,000 for Kehlmann to ghostwrite his memoir in six weeks. Kehlmann accepts but soon begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. Is he ghostwriting a memoir, or is Heidl is rewriting him? As the deadline draws closer everything that is certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Ziggy Heidl – and who is Kif Kehlmann?
RED SKY AT NOON by Simon Montefiore
Imprisoned in the Gulags for a crime he did not commit, Benya Golden joins a penal battalion made up of Cossacks and convicts to fight the Nazis. He enrols in the Russian cavalry, and on a hot summer day in July 1942, he and his band of brothers are sent on a desperate mission behind enemy lines. Switching between Benya’s war in the grasslands of Southern Russia, and Stalin’s plans in the Kremlin, between Benya’s intense affair with an Italian nurse and a romance between Stalin’s daughter and a journalist also on the Eastern Front, this is a sweeping story of passion, bravery and human survival where personal betrayal is a constant companion, and death just a heartbeat away.
THE SINGLES GAME by Lauren Weisberger
Sweeping from Wimbledon to the Caribbean, from LA to mega yachts in the Med, The Singles Game is a brilliantly entertaining romp through a world where the stakes are high – and no-one plays by the rules. When Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Silver makes a pact with the devil, infamously brutal tennis coach Todd Feltner, she finds herself catapulted into a world of stylists, private parties and secret dates with Hollywood royalty. Under Todd it’s no more good-girl attitude: he wants warrior princess Charlie all the way. After all, no-one ever won by being nice. Celebrity mags and gossip blogs go wild for Charlie, chasing scandal as she jets around the globe. But as the warrior princess’s star rises, both on and off the court, it comes at a high price. Is the real Charlie Silver still inside?
THE IBERIAN FLAMES by Julian Stockwin
1808. With the Peninsula in turmoil, Napoleon Bonaparte signs a treaty to dismember Portugal and put his brother, Joseph, on the throne of Spain. Meanwhile, Nicholas Renzi, the Lord Farndon, undertakes a deadly mission to stir up partisan unrest to disrupt this Napoleonic alliance with Spain. Thrust into the crucible of the uprising, Captain Sir Thomas Kydd is dismayed to come up against an old foe from his past – now his superior and commander – who is determined to break him. Kydd will soon face the greatest decision of his professional career. Bonaparte, incensed by the reverses suffered to his honour, gathers together a crushing force and marches at speed into Spain. After several bloody encounters the greatly outnumbered British expedition have no option other than make a fighting retreat to the coast. Only the Navy can save them.
THE SUMMER OF IMPOSSIBLE THINGS by Rowan Coleman
How far would you go to save the person you love?
Luna is about to do everything she can to save her mother’s life.
Even if it means sacrificing her own.
THE MAN I THINK I KNOW by Mike Gayle
Ever since The Incident, James DeWitt has stayed on the safe side. He likes to know what happens next. Danny Allen is not on the safe side. He is more past the point of no return. The past is about to catch up with both of them in a way that which will change their lives forever, unexpectedly. But redemption can come in the most unlikely ways.
OLD BAGGAGE by Lisa Evans
It is 1928. Matilda Simpkin, rooting through a cupboard, comes across a small wooden club – an old possession of hers, unseen for more than a decade. Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign she was a militant. Jailed five times, she marched, sang, gave speeches, smashed windows and heckled Winston Churchill, and nothing – nothing – since then has had the same depth, the same excitement. Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies. Giving the wooden club a thoughtful twirl, she is struck by an idea – but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection with Mattie’s militant past, one which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for.