15 March 2008

Mary, Mary (Julie Parsons)

MARY, MARY, the debut novel by Julie Parsons, now available in paperback (PAN) TO SUM UP: Margaret Mitchell’s 20-year-old daughter is missing and the police think she’s over-reacting. Until a beaten and broken body turns up in the canal. IT GOES BEYOND: the tired old murder-mystery-meets-psychological thriller hybrid, by wielding unusual emotional impact and introducing a charming Irish cast. THE REALLY SATISFYING ELEMENT IS: that it’s written in two parts: the first, Mary’s kidnap and murder and the second, Margaret’s revenge. If you’re growing tired of the formulaic James Patterson, this intelligent book is for you.

The Chameleon's Shadow (Minette Walters)

THE CHAMELEON’S SHADOW, a novel by Minette Walters (MACMILLAN) TO SUM UP: Lieutenant Charles Acland returns from Iraq, severely disfigured and psychologically changed. When violent murders begin to plague the area, Acland is a prime suspect. WE LOVED IT BECAUSE: Everyone else writes sob stories in which demobbed soldiers from Iraq are so traumatised that they can be forgiven anything – Walters is braver than that. THE REALLY COOL PART IS: that the chief ‘goodie’ in the story is a 135kg lesbian weightlifter, doctor and kindhearted straight-talker called Jackson (with the potential to become a literary cult heroine).

Days of Atonement (Michael Gregorio)

DAYS OF ATONEMENT, a novel by Michael Gregorio (FABER & FABER) TO SUM UP: Prussia has fallen to the French under Napoleon and a local prosecutor must team up with a French criminologist to solve the horrifying murder of three small children. IT’S UNUSUAL BECAUSE: it’s so brilliantly written – painting a realistic picture of a time, a place and a nation lost to history. WHY IT KNOCKED OUR SOCKS OFF: not since Caleb Carr’s The Alienist has an author woven such a fast-paced and exciting criminological tale against a centuries-old backdrop.


Of Merchants and Heroes (Paul Waters)

OF MERCHANTS & HEROES, a novel by Paul Waters (MACMILLAN) TO SUM UP: Amidst love, politics, honour and war, Marcus is a young Roman determined to avenge his father’s murder and to live life by his father’s high ideals, when he is caught up in events that will shake the world. IT REMINDS US OF: the evocative vividness of Robert Harris’ Imperium and Pompeii. YOU’LL LOVE IT IF: you appreciate novels infused with understated grace and the power to make you lose yourself in their stories of history and humanity.


Stolen Time (Sunny Jacobs)

STOLEN TIME, a true story by Sunny Jacobs (DOUBLEDAY) TO SUM UP: A no-holds-barred account of one woman’s condemnation to death, and then 17 years in jail, for a crime she didn’t commit. THE PART THAT MAY BREAK YOUR HEART: Sunny is eventually exonerated and reunited with her two children, but only two years after her partner’s botched execution. WHY IT KNOCKED OUR STRIPEY SOCKS OFF: It’s a rare look into the strength, resilience and even joy to be found in the world’s darkest places on the soul’s darkest days. And it is all true.


The Faces of Angels (Lucretia Grindle)

THE FACES OF ANGELS, a novel by Lucretia Grindle (PAN) TO SUM UP: Newlywed Mary Warren is stalked and brutally attacked as she explores the streets of Italy – and survives only because her young husband gives his life to save her. But is the indigent who was charged with the crime, actually the man who did it? WHY IT’S A PAGE-TURNER: You feel Mary’s fear, her friends’ anxiety and Florence’s terror – and when the twists come, you don’t spot them until the very last minute. YOU’LL LOVE IT IF: you’ve ever been to atmospheric Italy, felt a chill down your spine in a musty alley, or shivered with delight in a scary movie.