Bookcase

Stourbridge News: Bookcase Bookcase

A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.

By Kate Whiting

New fiction

Light Shining In The Forest by Paul Torday is published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £12.99 (ebook £6.99). Available January 31.

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen writer Paul Torday's latest work uses the stark environment of the North East as an effective backdrop in this page-turner concerning the mysterious disappearance of three children.

All three seemingly have very different lives, with each case headed under the emotionless police conclusion of "a child goes missing every five minutes".

It takes the unlikely alliance of a bored regional journalist and a faceless government bureaucrat to help uncover the mystery of each case, and what may link them.

Torday's exploration of human anguish and pain, interspersed with the dark, haunting rural environment, provides the template, while his biting social comment showcases a writer at the very top of his game.

9/10 (Review by James Cleary) The Friday Gospels by Jenn Ashworth is published in hardback by Sceptre, priced £17.99. Available January 17.

Jenn Ashworth takes inspiration from her religious roots in The Friday Gospels, her third novel.

It recounts a not-so-ordinary day in the life of a Lancastrian Mormon family, when son Gary is due to return from the customary two years of missionary service in America.

While invalid matriarch Pauline prepares excitedly for his arrival, the other family members are busy conducting their own darkly consequential plans.

Despite the novel offering a twist on the usual dysfunctional family drama, and being peppered with lovely prose, its plot is sadly just not gripping enough to sustain the reader's attention.

In terms of an insight into the Mormon culture, it misses a trick by assuming the reader is already aware of the sect's traditions and rituals.

6/10 (Review by Zahra Saeed) The Burning Air by Erin Kelly is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £16.99. Available January 17.

A momentary lapse of judgment results in far-reaching and terrible consequences in Erin Kelly's new psychological thriller.

Kelly, whose much-praised debut The Poison Tree was adapted for TV, catapults us into a world of deceit and revenge, where nothing is quite as it seems.

In The Burning Air, we follow the MacBride family to their second home in Devon, where they gather to scatter the ashes of dead matriarch Lydia.

Daughter Sophie, battling to save her own marriage, leaves her young baby with her brother's new girlfriend but returns to find the girl and her precious baby have both vanished.

What follows is a skilfully woven web of revelations, showing how past mistakes come back to haunt in the future.

Flitting between past and present and told through the perspective of no less than five characters, it is a chilling, atmospheric book that is almost impossible to put down.

Kelly takes an unflinching look at middle-class attitudes, posing some uncomfortable questions: how far are we prepared to go to protect those we love and what happens when ordinary people are confronted with extraordinary events?

There is no let-up in the tension as we hurtle towards the shocking conclusion.

9/10 (Review by Gill Oliver) Sutton by J R Moehringer is published in hardback by Blue Door, priced £12.99. Available January 17.

Pulitzer Prize winner J R Moehringer has turned his attention to a different subject following his best-selling memoir The Tender Bar and Open, which he co-wrote with tennis champ Andre Agassi.

This time he looks at one of the most notorious criminals in US history - prolific bank robber William 'Willie' Sutton.

The Brooklyn-born criminal with Irish roots was considered one of the country's 'public enemies' and appeared on the FBI's first 'most wanted' list after he stole an estimated two million dollars from banks during the Prohibition era, earning him the title of a real-life Robin Hood.

After spending half of his adult life in prison, he was released on Christmas Eve 1969 and obliged only one interview, driving around New York with a reporter and photographer.

The resulting article reportedly contained errors but all three are no longer around to correct the story.

Flitting from past to present, Sutton is Moehringer's imagining of what happened that day as the notorious outlaw relives his story from his childhood years to the days before he got captured.

It's fascinating, compelling and highly absorbing.

7/10 (Review by Shereen Low) Nine Days by Toni Jordan is published in hardback by Sceptre, priced £16.99. Available January 31.

Australian author Toni Jordan's sixth novel is an elegant yet punchy read which bounces back and forth between the war years and the present day.

A family drama about a pendant, a shilling, hard graft, growing pains, love and loss, Jordan's style warmly envelops her reader into a world of panache and grace.

The many generations of the Westaway clan - the Catholic matriarch Jean, her children Francis, Kip and the loyal yet sad Connie - make up this heartbreaking tale of sacrifice, dedication and betrayal.

The author's story was inspired by a 1940s newspaper photograph of an unknown couple saying goodbye as the man goes off to war.

An absorbing and well-loved read, Jordan's an accomplished purveyor of stories.

7/10 (Review by Denise Bailey) Children's book of the week: Code by Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs is published in hardback by Random House, priced £12.99. Available now.

From the forensic anthropologist turned author comes another gripping science fiction novel for the young adult audience.

Kathy Reich's Code sees the Virals, who have turned into mutants after being infected by an experimental strain of canine parvovirus, return in a game of clues and riddles.

When a mysterious box is uncovered with a cryptic message inside it, the technophile teenagers rise to the challenge to solve puzzles set by the elusive Gamemaster.

However, as they keep solving the clues, what was seen as a harmless game takes a dangerous turn and soon the lives of everyone on Loggerhead Island are at stake.

It is up to Tory Brennan and friends Hi, Shelton and Ben to unmask this ruthless Gamemaster and put an end to his evil machinations.

The third instalment of the Virals trilogy (which is a spin-off of the Temperance Brennan novels), Code is a superhuman fantasy novel that young adults and teenagers will enjoy.

6/10 (Review by Nilima Marshall) Non-fiction The World's Most Dangerous Place: Inside The Outlaw State Of Somalia by James Fergusson is published in hardback by Bantam press, priced £20. Available January 17.

Somalia is a place I admittedly knew little about before beginning this book.

Indeed, this study into the country's recent history, which includes a clan-based civil war that killed 500,000, a devastating famine and the over-bearing brutality of the al Qaida-linked Islamist group al Shabaab, sounded a difficult and heavy read.

But James Fergusson's report is not just a fact-based history lesson.

As the journalist nervously adjusts the helmet on his head, hurries between the bullet-ridden houses and prays the explosions and gunshots aren't too close by, the reader is able to experience the everyday dangers of this country for themselves.

Featuring countless interviews, including conversations with a nine-year-old al Shabaab fighter, an ex-pirate and a series of both corrupt and well-meaning government officials, Fergusson does not hold back or down play the horrors the Somalian people have seen.

The ending message is not totally negative however, but rather one that argues that there is still hope for this deeply troubled place.

A gripping read, excellently written and researched with extraordinary thoroughness.

8/10 (Review by Harriet Shephard) Sorry! The English And Their Manners by Henry Hitchings is published in hardback by John Murray, priced £19.99. Available January 17.

This erudite history of English manners and their conjoined twin, etiquette, provides quite a few laughs but also food for thought.

Author and critic Henry Hitchings shows how manners have evolved through the ages, and continue to do so, although certain basic requirements have remained virtually unaltered.

Although his book sometimes gets a little too abstruse, it also contains many interesting historical facts. For instance, the introduction of the fork to England in the early 17th century, from Italy, had a revolutionary effect in improving our table manners.

In the mid-15th century, John Russell produced a guide to standard behavioural practice in his household. It required a man not to claw at his back "as if looking for a flea, pick his nose or allow droplets to fall from it, belch, exhale over his superiors or fiddle with his codpiece". This remains good advice today, with "zip" replacing "codpiece".

Essentially, good manners require consideration for other people. Modern technology such as the mobile phone, frequently used loudly in public, has hardly aided this process.

7/10 (Review by Anthony Looch) Bang! A History Of Britain In The 1980s by Graham Stewart is published in hardback by Atlantic, priced £25. Available now.

How strange to think that those explosive images of the 1980s - inner-city riots, the Falklands war, and conflict between police and strikers from Wapping to Yorkshire - were created in part by a meeting in the summer of 1978, when Labour premier James Callaghan entertained union bigwigs.

Callaghan took the advice of the unions to delay a general election before the Winter of Discontent catapulted an Iron Lady into Downing Street.

Margaret Thatcher bestrides a stirring tale which is superbly and fairly told by Graham Stewart.

It deserves a wide audience because so many of our current problems date to the 1980s; early dissent with the EU, with Labour and Communists both then demanding an instant exit, the accelerating decline of manufacturing, and so much wealth gushing in via North Sea oil that nobody realised welfare State bills were beginning to boom.

When your attention wanders, there are delightful character sketches too: Tony Benn at his most malevolent, a world away from today's national treasure, and Neil Kinnock singing the Red Flag in the House, long before the ermine eventually overtook him.

Amazingly, Britain produced 4.6% of the world's total oil output in 1985, its value massively boosted by the Iran-Iraq conflict. Then, you may feel as you close this book, the money began to run out...

8/10 (Review by Jeremy Gates) Best-sellers for the week ending January 12 Paperbacks 1 HHhH, Laurent Binet 2 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson 3 Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn 4 The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce 5 The Hairy Dieters: How To Love Food And Lose Weight, Dave Myers and Si King 6 Capital, John Lanchester 7 Life Of Pi, Yann Martel 8 The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, Sue Townsend 9 Stonemouth, Iain Banks 10 The Fast Diet, Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer Hardbacks 1 A Memory Of Light: The Wheel Of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 2 Jamie's 15-Minute Meals, Jamie Oliver 3 Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel, Jeff Kinney 4 My Animals And Other Family, Clare Balding 5 The Chessmen, Peter May 6 1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off, John Lloyd and John Mitchinson 7 Dominion, CJ Samson 8 The Roald Dahl Treasury, Roald Dahl 9 On The Map, Simon Garfield 10 Standing In Another Man's Grave, Ian Rankin :: Please note: This is a re-send of the Book column, adding the latest chart from Waterstone's

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