When Belfast private detective Dan Starkey is approached by Moira Doherty about her missing son Billy, he is none too pleased. Sure, he needs the money that a new case will bring in, but this one means hiking all the way out to Derry. He drops the kindly old woman back at the bus station with every intention of turning the case down, but when the concerned mother turns out to have been a political firebrand and professional anarchist from back in the day, the case gets more interesting for him. Against his better judgement, he heads out to Derry. Moira, however, is nowhere to be found and the city is in upheaval after a body has been found on the city’s Peace Bridge. Starkey quickly finds himself in a seedy underworld of drugs, porn and a host of unpleasant characters intent on creating a new generation of mayhem in Northern Ireland.
Pieter Vos is a top cop felled by dope and the disappearance of his daughter Anneliese three years ago, a disappearance that all his sleuthing skills was unable to crack. As a result he lost his partner to the politician Wim Prins and all interest in life. However, Vos is recalled to life and Marnixstraat police bureau Amsterdam by the eerily similar disappearance of Prins’ daughter Katja – even though Prins refuses to believe that she has been kidnapped because the girl is a drug addict.
Vos is dragged into police work again by the klutzy Bakker, a country bumpkin with red hair known as ‘the aspirant’ and made fun of by the big city cops.
Adeliza is an isolated, lonely child, until Lottie rescues her by teaching her a way to communicate. For Adeliza has lost the limited sight and hearing she was born with after an illness, and she has stopped speaking too. Her mother has retreated to her room and Adeliza becomes a frustrated and angry child, even violent. Then Lottie comes along and teaches her finger signing. Adeliza becomes an enthusiastic student, keen to explore the world about her. She starts to write to Lottie’s twin brother Caleb, and later gets to meet him.
Rebecca Mascull packs a lot into this historical novel set in Victorian and Edwardian Kent, and later in South Africa during the Boer War between rival groups of white colonists.
LAPD detective Jacob Lev sounds – and probably feels – like a bit of a cliché. Single, overworked and a borderline alcoholic, he habitually lets down his blind father Sam, promising to visit then letting work get in the way. Not that his work is interesting any more. Depressed and exhausted, his bosses have reacted to his failing productivity by demoting him to a dull job in the traffic division, crunching numbers that seem to have no effect on anything. Then, one morning, he awakes to find a beautiful brunette in his shabby apartment, who he has apparently spent the night with yet cannot remember meeting. As she leaves, an even greater mystery is about to enter his life – the news that some unspecified aspect of his skill set has seen him transferred from traffic into Special Projects, a unit that apparently no one else has heard of either.
In 1996, Joanna Rakoff took a job at a prestigious New York City literary agency, lying about her ability to type on an electric typewriter. She found herself on a steep learning curve, needing to master the typewriter, an audio transcription machine, a new vocabulary and a set of unbreakable rules relating to a writer called Jerry. Her scary boss instructs her never to give people Jerry’s contact details, and to try and end phone conversations as quickly as possible. Only after the conversation does she notice the office shelves full of J D Salinger books and realise who “Jerry” is.
This is not really another book about Salinger – while the famously reclusive writer becomes an important figure in her life, Joanna doesn’t even expect to meet him or speak to him, and she has never read his books.
This ambitious novel takes its title from Yeats and continues in an Irish vein bringing in everything that Bengali literature lovers know about Ireland, like the shadow of Ben Bulben, the oppressive landlords, beautiful Irish women with red hair and the Potato Famine, all of it written in the rhythms of Irish speech. No Country starts with a murder in modern America, with a cop from Hungary present, and then begins to move back in time. Kalyan Ray maps a violent past and present on a canvas in which identities are lost along with countries and lovers fall away.
For a long time the bad character in Deepti Kapoor’s debut novel seems to be Delhi which, with its coffee shops, its sleaze and its Sufi gathering dominates the book in poetic prose quickly delivered and very easy on the eye. The mysterious ‘he’ with his bulging eyes, dark skin and mouthful of teeth could quite easily be a metaphor for the city where a girl ripe for marriage and hemmed in by her Aunty looks for a chance of excitement and escape. Rana Dasgupta says as much in his blurb, this is 21st century Delhi shown up warts and all. Kapoor’s is a story of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, a search for self and a wish to damage on the heels of lost love.
Released earlier this month, Crossing the Line is the eighth novel in Kerry Wilkinson’s Jessica Daniel series. I haven’t read any of the previous novels, but this one is intriguingly pitched as the start of “season 2”, a place where the plot arc allows new readers to more easily jump on board without feeling lost. For me this worked well; characters were introduced smoothly and gradually, while past events were referred to where necessary without ever feeling you were in the middle of an info-dump aimed at new readers. I had no problems picking this up as a newcomer, and indeed liked it enough to make me want to investigate some of the previous seven books featuring Jessica. It does make me wish that some other long-running novel series would think in terms of “seasons” to help bring new readers into their books without first trawling through an intimidating amount of back story, though.
The Tea Chest is Josephine Moon’s first novel and it really is a welcome treat. It is the sort of book that you can lose yourself in for hours at a time as you get to know the characters and get drawn in to the story.
The Tea Chest in question is actually an old fashioned tea shop which sells a wonderful range of teas to suit every palate. Its former owner and inspired designer Simone has left her half share in the Tea Chest to her trusted employee Kate whose task is to continue the inspired and original concept as she tries to set up the store that Simone had planned in London. For this she will need a great deal of help and luckily two other women, Leila and Elizabeth, are both at a time of crisis in their own lives and are looking for employment.
I love Alice Peterson’s books – what more can I say? I have never yet been disappointed by any of her books and each time I read the next one I can’t believe that it will exceed my enjoyment of the last – but it always does. Which is why I am heartily declaring One Step Closer to You as my favourite read of the year so far.
One Step Closer to You tells the story of Polly Stephens, a recovering alcoholic, and her young son, Louis. She has managed to put her troubled childhood and an abusive relationship behind her and is now a good mother to her son and also enjoys her job working in a local bakery. She still needs the support of her sponsor and her weekly AA meetings though and at one of these meetings she is surprised to see a fellow parent, Ben, from the school that Louis attends.
If you are the sort of person who wonders when women started wearing knickers, what people did before the flushing toilet became standard, or why people in much of the past seemed to have feared eating fruit, then If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home is probably the book for you. Written by Lucy Worsley (Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces), it was prepared to accompany a BBC4 documentary of the same name that was first shown about three years ago (and which I unfortunately missed). Having seen several of Worsley’s other documentaries, though, I hoped that her engaging, chatty style would be as evident in her writing as it was in her presenting.
Divided into four sections, If Walls Could Talk gives us an informative and often surprising history of the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen from the earliest sources available to the present day.
This is a continuation of the Private series, one of James Patterson’s most popular worldwide which is based around the exclusive detective agency, Private, headed by Jack Morgan with offices across the globe. In India, the setting is Mumbai, the centre of Bollywood glamour, glitz and finance which results in a collaboration between Ashwin Sanghi and the world’s No 1 thriller writer.
Ashwin Sanghi has been making headlines with books like Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key. Given the fact that the thriller focuses on whisky swilling Santosh Wagh who is the Indian head of Private India, it is obvious that Sanghi’s contribution is vital to pad out the Mumbai crime details and to provide information that Patterson would not have had access to without in depth research. And one is tempted to give Sanghi credit for the Durga connection in the novel, which is probably not too presumptuous an assumption.