books of the month for June are a quirky novella by Stuart MacBride,
Peter James's latest Roy Grace Novel, LEFT YOU DEAD, and Alison Weir's
brilliant novel about Henry VIII's sixth wife, Katharine Parr, plus,
Richard Osman's spectacularly successful
debut novel THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB is now out in paperback! You'll
also find details of Oxford University Press's new editions of Nineteen
Eighty-Four and Animal Farm...
of the month #1 - Stuart
27th May 2021
This time the serial killer
picked the wrong family…
‘MacBride is a damned fine
writer’ Peter James
call him Sawbones: a serial killer touring America kidnapping young
FBI’s investigating – but getting nowhere.
latest victim is Laura Jones. Sixteen years old. Pretty. Blonde. And
the daughter of one of New York’s most notorious gangsters. Laura’s Dad
doesn’t care about the law. What he wants is revenge. And he knows just
the guys to get it.
time, Sawbones picked on the wrong family…
I have an old copy of this,
published ten years ago by Barrington Stokes - I'm surprised it's taken
Harper Collins this long to publish it, but I guess it's to keep
Stuart's followers happy until the next blockbuster, probably a Logan
McRae, comes along in the new year. It's not my favourite Stuart
MacBride, but it's pretty good, and some of the scenes are reminiscent
of scenes from Stephen King's The Stand, which can't be a bad thing.
Well worth a look, although you won't immediately recognise it as being
of the month #2 - Peter James: Left You Dead
13th May 2021
BODY. NO TRACE.
and Eden Paternoster start their Sunday the same way they always do –
with a long drive, a visit to a country house and a quick stop at the
local supermarket on the way home.
this Sunday ends differently – because while Niall waits and waits in
the car park for Eden to pick up supplies, Eden never returns. She’s
not waiting for him at home, and none of their family or friends have
heard from her.
without a trace, Niall is arrested on suspicion of her murder. When DS
Roy Grace is called in to investigate, it doesn’t take long to realize
that nothing is quite as it seems – and this might be his most
mysterious case yet .
This is by far the very best
Peter James Roy Grace novel I have ever read, and at the same
time it is by far the very best crime novel I have ever read in terms
of the accuracy of police procedures. There are very few clues as to
what will be the eventual lutcome, or as to who the villain is, and for
me, this superb book was reminiscent of the early days of British crime
fiction in the hands of someone like Carter Dickson (John Dickson Carr)
and his brilliant locked room mysteries that enthralled me back in the
1960s. This is a magnificent tour de force of British crime
fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's inspired me to get hold of a
copy of the very first Roy Grace novel, DEAD SIMPLE, which I've never
read, and start making my way through the entire series. Absolutely
of the month #3 - Alison
Weir: Six Tudor Queens - Katharine Parr, the Sixth Wife
13th May 2021
WOMAN TORN BETWEEN LOVE AND DUTY.
husbands dead, a boy and a sick man. And now Katharine is free to make
her own choice.
ageing King's eye falls upon her. She cannot refuse him... or betray
that she wanted another.
becomes the sixth wife - a queen and a friend. Henry loves and trusts
her. But Katharine is hiding another secret in her heart, a deeply held
faith that could see her burn...
PARR. HENRY'S FINAL QUEEN. HER STORY.
bestselling historian Alison Weir reveals a warm, clever woman of great
fortitude who rose boldly to every turn her life took.
come to Alison's Six Tudor Queens series right at the very end, because
Headline were kind enough to send me this blockbuster novel, published
this very month. Ordrinarily I like to start with the first book in a
series and work my way through them, but in this case it doesn't really
matter because they are all self-contained (I managed to get hold of a
copy of Katheryn Howard from our W H Smith after finishing Katharine
Parr, and it's what I'm reading now). I have always thought of King
Henry VIII as the monarch who split with the catholic church of Rome,
founded the church of England and did away with all of the catholic
idolatry and worship of gold and silver etc. It seems, according to
Alison, that it was not that simple and that I was being naive. Reading
this superb history of Henry's sixth wife, it has become clear to me
that what I was taught at school in the 1950s/60s was extremely
simplistic, and that in fact Henry was resistant to change, and in
particular the protestant religion. Indeed, much of the book is taken
up with Katharine covering her tracks as an ardent supporter of
protestantism and going in fear of discovery as one of the foremost
advocates of the sweeping changes that were needed to fully split with
Rome; indeed, it emerges that Henry's deathbed scenes recalled his
close links with the Church of Rome rather than with the teachings of
Martin Luther. I have read hundreds of historical novels during my long
life, probably beginning with the likes of Jean Plaidy, and more
recently the hugely enjoyable novels of Philippa Gregory, but I don't
remember my beliefs that Henry was the man who crushed catholicism once
and for all being cast into doubt. It seems to me that the first truly
protestant king of England was Henry's son by Anne Boleyn, Edward, who
unfortunately reigned for such a brief period. I knew of the battles
between Mary and Elizabeth, but Alison's Katharine Parr has come as
something of an eye-opener, and I can't remember enjoying any medieval
history quite as much as this one. It's brilliant, from start to finish!
Whitehouse: Risk of Harm
8th July 2021
The gripping new crime thriller
from the bestselling author of Before We Met and Critical Incidents
Lyons is back in her hometown of Birmingham and now a DCI with Force
Homicide, working directly under Samir, the man who broke her heart
almost twenty years ago.
a woman is found stabbed to death in a derelict factory and no one
comes forward to identify the body, Robin and her team must not only
hunt for the murderer, but also solve the mystery of who their victim
Robin and Samir come under pressure from their superiors, from the
media and from far-right nationalists with a dangerous agenda, tensions
in Robin's own family threaten to reach breaking point. And when a cold
case from decades ago begins to smoulder and another woman is found
dead in similar circumstances, rumours of a serial killer begin to
order to get to the truth Robin will need to discover where loyalty
ends and duty begins. But before she can trust, she is going to have to
forgive – and that means grappling with some painful home truths.
thriller I can ever remember reading set in the heart of the midlands,
in Britain's second city. Absolutely enthralling stuff from Lucie
George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four
Published 28th January 2021
'If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face―forever.'
1984 Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949),
George Orwell's final novel, was completed in difficult conditions
shortly before his early death. It is one of the most influential and
widely-read novels of the post-war period, and has been a huge
international bestseller over many decades. Continually in print, it
has long been controversial, both in its immediate Cold War context and
in later history.
is in some ways a realist novel, but in others is more akin to a work
of science fiction, a dystopia or a satire. It also has strong
affiliations to Gothic in its plotting, motifs and affective states.
Full of horror and terror, it contains prophetic dreams and a central
character who thinks of himself as a 'monster', a 'ghost' and 'already
dead'. Like Frankenstein and Dracula, it is fascinated by the power of a documentary remnant addressed to an unknown reader.
probably should have read 1984 back in the 1960s when I was starting my
A Level English Literature course, as background reading, but none of
my teachers ever suggested it, and as far as I knew none of my friends
had read it, despite most of us being well into science fiction. I
haven't read it yet, but OUP have been kind enough to send me a copy of
their new edition, and it will remain on this page, probably into the
July iossue, by which time I shall have had time to read it and write a
George Orwell: Animal Farm
Published 7th January 2021
creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from
pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.'
the downtrodden animals of Manor Farm overthrow their master Mr Jones
and take over the farm themselves, they imagine it is the beginning of
a life of freedom and equality. Soon the other animals discover that
they are not all as equal as they thought, and find themselves
hopelessly ensnared as one form of tyranny is replaced with another.
Animal Farm was
one of George Orwell's most successful books - after its publication
Orwell became one of the best-paid writers in England. Though the text
continues to play a foundational role in the political education of
young people across the world, its allegorical function has become more
difficult to decode as the U.S.S.R recedes into the historical distance.
same applies to Animal Farm. I've seen the film, of course, but cartoon
films can't really convey that much about such a classic, and once
again, I shall keep Animal Farm on the page until the July issue, when
I shall post my review...
George Orwell: A Clergyman's Daughter
Published 7th January 2021
'The face was quite unfamiliar to her, and yet not strange. She had not known till this moment what face to expect'.
A Clergyman's Daughter is
George Orwell's least well-known, most unappreciated novel. Drawing on
his experiences as a hop-picker, teacher, and urban vagrant, it tells
the peculiar story of Dorothy Hare, the daughter of the Rector of St
Athelstan's in the fictional town of Knype Hill. Unacknowledged by her
absent-minded father and gossiped about by his rheumatic parishioners,
Dorothy is suddenly and traumatically catapulted into the unknown. She
wakes up in London, her memory temporarily gone; travels to the Kentish
countryside; spends a night in Trafalgar Square; works for the
authoritarian schoolteacher Mrs Creevy; and then journeys back to her
old, limited life. A novel about loss and return, A Clergyman's Daughter charts the course of a young woman's voyage out and circular homecoming.
In his introduction to the novel, Nathan Waddell lays out the fantastical elements and socio-political dimensions of A Clergyman's Daughter and examines how it drew inspiration from James Joyce's epic modernist novel Ulysses, a book Orwell deeply admired.
THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made
available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each
affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship,
providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable
features, including expert introductions by leading authorities,
helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for
further study, and much more.
blurb describes this as "least well-known and most unappreciated" - in
fact I can honestly say I have not even heard of it, but that's about
to change, and like 1984 and Animal Farm, I shall post my review in the
George Bernard Shaw: Pygmalion, Heartbreak House and Saint Joan
Published 4th February 2021
Pygmalion, Heartbreak House, and Saint Joan are widely considered to be three of the most important in the canon of modern British theatre.
was a world-wide smash hit from the time of its première in Vienna 1913
and it has remained popular to this day. Shaw was awarded an Academy
Award in 1938 for his screenplay of the film adaptation. It was, of
course, later made into the much-loved musical My Fair Lady.
Heartbreak House (1917),
which was finally performed in 1920 and published in 1921, bares the
hallmarks of European modernism and a formal break from Shaw's previous
work. A meditation on the war and the resultant decline in European
aristocratic culture, it was perhaps staged too soon after the
conflict; indeed, it did not have the success of his earlier works,
which was likely due to his experimental aesthetics combined with a
war-weary audience that sought lighter fare. However, while this
contemporary reception was muted, it is now recognised as a modernist
Saint Joan (1923)
marked Shaw's resurrection and apotheosis. The first major work written
of Joan of Arc after her canonization (1920), the play interrogates the
origins of European nationalism in the post-war era. Like Pygmalion,
it was an immediate world-wide hit and secured Shaw the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1925. Drawing upon the transcripts of Joan's trial, Shaw
blended his trademark wit to produce a hybrid genre of comedy and
history play. Despite the historical setting, Saint Joan is highly accessible and continues to delight audiences.
the three previous George Orwell books from OUP, I did read Pygmalion
back in the 1960s when I was educating myself in Southend-on-Sea whilst
we waited to move to Stevenage New Town, and after I'd exhausted all of
the Noel Coward and Terence Rattigan plays. I used to love reading
plays, but find them a little hard going nowadays - but this is a
splendid new edition of Pygmalion, by far my favourite Shaw play, and
it will look grand on my bookshelves, from which I can take it down and
delve into it from time to time. If you've never read a play, and in
patrticular a GB Shaw play, try Pygmalion first - it's a savagely funny
indictment of the "ruling classes" that holds good now just as much as
when it was first publshed. Superb.
Lowe: The Murder of Graham Catton
10th June 2021
It’s time to hear the truth…
years ago, Hannah Catton’s husband was brutally murdered in their home.
The murderer was convicted. The case was closed.
now a podcast called Conviction is investigating this horrific crime –
and they have Hannah in their sights.
Someone knows more than they’re
letting on, and listeners are about to become judge, jury and
executioner as they undercover the truth about the murder of Graham
Katie's excellent second book
will keep you on tenterhooks right up till the last pages - something
every psychological thriller should aspire to, of course. Hannah is a
complex, troubles character, and the revelations start to spill out as
soon as the Conviction podcast that looks at her ex-husband's death are
broadcast. This is a superior quality read, and thoroughly recommended
by me. The perfect summer read.
Cumming: Box 88
27th May 2021
organisation that doesn’t exist. A spy that can’t be caught.
Years ago, a spy was born…
The Cold War will soon be over, but for BOX 88, a top secret spying
agency, the espionage game is heating up. Lachlan Kite is sent to
France to gather intelligence on the Lockerbie bombing. What he
uncovers is terrifying…
Now he faces the deadliest
decision of his life…
Kite has been taken captive and brutally tortured. He now has a choice:
reveal the truth about what happened in France thirty years earlier –
or watch his family die.
In a battle unlike anything he
has faced before, Kite must use all his skills to stay alive.
This brilliant spy novel is perfect
for fans of TV series Spooks, and now out in paperback, it will reach a
much bigger audience. Pure enjoyment, brilliantly written.
Marsons: Twisted Lies
13th May 2021
When the lifeless body of a
man is found on an industrial estate, Detective
Kim Stone arrives
on the scene and discovers he's been tortured in the worst way
as she breaks the devastating news to the victim's wife, Diane Phipps,
Kim can't help feeling that something isn't quite right about the
woman's reaction. Twenty-four hours later, the victim's family
disappears into thin air. Then a second body is found staked
the ground in a local nature reserve. Desperate to crack the
open quickly, Kim and her team unravel a vital clue - a fiercely
guarded secret that links both victims and could cost even more
lives. A secret that some police officers are also
protecting. Faced with deceit from those she should be able to
trust, family members who won't talk, and local reporter, Tracy Frost,
opening a can of worms on the case of a woman murdered by her husband a
year ago - Kim is in deep water like never before. Kim must
the motive if she is to find the killer who is systematically targeting
and torturing his victims. But can she unlock the shocking truth and
stop him before he strikes again? An
absolutely jaw-dropping crime thriller from the number
one, multi-million-copy bestselling author of the incredibly
addictive Detective Kim Stone series.
Osman: The Thursday Murder Club
13th May 2021
FIRST BOOK IN THE #1 BESTSELLING THURSDAY MURDER CLUB SERIES BY TV
PRESENTER RICHARD OSMAN
a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a
week to investigate unsolved murders.
when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday
Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a
few tricks up their sleeves.
our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it's too late?
Mariani: The Pandemic Plot
13th May 2021
ex-SAS major Ben Hope is urgently recalled to the UK from his base in
France to assist with a family crisis, little does he know that he’s
about to be drawn into one of the most dangerous missions of his
career: his son Jude has been accused of a brutal murder, and all the
evidence points to his guilt.
prove Jude’s innocence Ben embarks on a wild chase, facing up against
mysterious killers and piecing together a fragile web of clues. What
connects an all-female criminal gang from the early 1900s called the
Forty Elephants, a century-old vendetta and a shadowy government
conspiracy that claimed millions of innocent lives?
the way Ben teams up with his former acquaintance, rugged Detective Tom
McAllister. They’re heading for a showdown in the wilds of Cornwall,
and the villains have no intention of letting Ben come out of it alive
. . .
Damien Boyd: Dying Inside
22nd June 2021
Kate trusts Della, and Della
downfall is each other.
Kate moves to London after the disappearance of her sister, she’s in
need of a friend. A chance meeting leads Kate to Della, a life coach
who runs support groups for young women, dubbed by Kate as ‘the Janes.’
takes a special interest in Kate, and Kate soon finds herself entangled
in Della’s life – her house, her family, and her husband. It’s only
when she realises that she’s in too deep that Della’s veneer begins to
crumble, and the warnings from ‘the Janes’ begin to come true.
is Della so keen to keep Kate by her side? What does Kate have that
Della might want? And what really lies beneath the surface of their
A twisty psychological thriller
for fans of Louise Candlish and Harriet Tyce.
Gothic romance/mystery feel about it, which in my opinion is a really
good thing... I thoroughly enjoyed this one!
J Newman: Falling
10th June 2021
just boarded a flight to New York.
are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.
you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s
family was kidnapped.
family to live, everyone on your plane must die.
only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and
crashes the plane.
Enjoy the flight.
Hunter: The Serial Killer's Wife
27th May 2021
Every marriage has its secrets…
and Tom Hardcastle are the envy of their neighbourhood – they have the
perfect marriage, the perfect house, the perfect family.
the police knock on their door one evening, Beth panics. Tom should be
back from work by now – what if he’s crashed his car? She fears the
the worst is beyond imagining.
the interrogation begins, Beth will find herself questioning everything
she believed about her husband.
25th May 2021
The first time Adrian met her
father was the day he tried to kill her...
Rizzo didn't have the easiest childhood, to put it mildly, but she's
worked hard to put it behind her and to the outside world she is a
beautiful young woman with a successful, high-profile career and a
wonderful family and friends.
out of the blue, she receives a death threat in the post, she is
shocked but puts it down to someone's jealousy of her success and tries
to forget about it. But Adrian doesn't realise that it's more than just
spite. Someone is very, very angry about her happy life and will stop
at nothing to bring it all crashing down.
Stephen King: Billy Summers
3rd August 2021
legendary storyteller and No. 1 bestseller Stephen King, whose
'restless imagination is a power that cannot be contained' (The
New York Times Book Review),
comes a thrilling new novel about a good guy in a bad job.
Summers is a man in a room with a gun. He's a killer for hire and the
best in the business. But he'll do the job only if the target is a
truly bad guy. And now Billy wants out. But first there is one last
hit. Billy is among the best snipers in the world, a decorated Iraq war
vet, a Houdini when it comes to vanishing after the job is done. So
what could possibly go wrong?
spectacular can't-put-it-down novel is part war story, part love letter
to small town America and the people who live there, and it features
one of the most compelling and surprising duos in King fiction, who set
out to avenge the crimes of an extraordinarily evil man. It's about
love, luck, fate, and a complex hero with one last shot at redemption.
won't put this story down, and you won't forget Billy.
24th June 2021
to Willow Close, where everyone is a suspect . . .
the day Nina and Conrad Best move into their new home in
picture-perfect Willow Close a body is discovered.
inside with their belongings, they see horrified neighbours gather by
the police cordon - one of the residents has been attacked and brutally
killed in the woods.
someone must have seen the murderer, the police interview all the
residents of the Close. They soon find out that each neighbour harbours
their own secrets.
residents of Willow Close are far from what they initially seem and
strange, even dark, things happen behind their closed doors.
and Conrad had thought they'd found their dream neighbourhood. But have
they moved into a nightmare?
27th May 2021
epic conclusion to the globally bestselling historical series.
years fighting to reclaim his rightful home, Uhtred of Bebbanburg has
returned to Northumbria. With his loyal band of warriors and a new
woman by his side, his household is secure – yet Uhtred is far from
safe. Beyond the walls of his impregnable fortress, a battle for power
the south, King Æthelstan has unified the three kingdoms of Wessex,
Mercia and East Anglia – and now eyes a bigger prize. To the north,
King Constantine and other Scottish and Irish leaders seek to extend
their borders and expand their dominion.
in the eye of the storm is Uhtred. Threatened and bribed by all sides,
he faces an impossible choice: stay out of the struggle, risking his
freedom, or throw himself into the cauldron of war and the most
terrible battle Britain has ever experienced. Only fate can decide the
The epic story of how England was
made concludes in WAR LORD, the magnificent finale to the Last Kingdom
Deaver: The Final Twist
13th May 2021
Investigator Colter Shaw is searching for the answer to his father’s
final, posthumous riddle. It will lead him to evidence that will topple
the secretive espionage company, BlackBridge.
believes BlackBridge to be responsible for his father’s murder and
brother’s disappearance. They can outmanoeuvre
the long trail of bodies behind them can confirm.
But they haven’t yet met Colter Shaw.
Don’t slip up.
time the stakes are huge – the fate of a nation is in Colter’s hands.
He must find the solution as to why his father died – but to do that he
needs to stay alive…
20th May 2021
the first wedding, there's
second wedding is unexpected
the third, Delphie thinks nothing could surprise her. But she's wrong .
is enjoying her brother's wedding. Her surprise last-minute Plus One
has stunned her family - and it's also stopped any of them asking again why
she's still single. But when she sees all the missed calls that
evening, she knows it can't be good news. And she's right.
has been living her best life, loving her job, her friends, her
no-strings relationships and her dream house by the sea. Now she has to
question everything she believed about who she is and what she wants.
Is her mum right - is it time to settle down? Or does she want to keep
on trying to have it all?
wedding of a glorious summer brings a new surprise. And as everything
Delphie thought she had is threatened, she has the chance to reshape
her future . . .
small print: Books
Monthly, now well into its 24th
year on the web,
is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul
Norman. You can contact me here.
If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me
remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this
publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll let you know where to send it.