The best of the best: must reads from this month’s fiction selections

The following titles have been chosen from our monthly new fiction selections. They are all highly recommended for great reading.

Syndetics book coverClockwork lives / Kevin J. Anderson and Neil Peart ; illustrations by Nick Robles.
Another exhilarating steampunk novel that returns to the world the authors introduced in Clockwork Angels. Included are great illustrations by Nick Robles.

Syndetics book coverLegends of the tour / Jan Cleijne.
One of this year’s best graphic novels, not only for the art work, but also the fascinating story line, a history of the Tour de France, with all its corruption, agony and glory. A must read.

Syndetics book coverLast bus to wisdom / Ivan Doig. Last Bus to Wisdom
This novel was such a pleasure to read, wise and funny, but sadly it is the author’s final work.

Syndetics book coverThe evening chorus : a novel / Helen Humphreys.
A truly delightful novel, brilliantly constructed, fabulous writing, definitely leaving the reader wanting more.

Syndetics book coverDark corners / Ruth Rendell.
Psychological suspense at its best, that never disappoints when written by one of the best authors in this genre that sadly may be irreplaceable.

New ‘Other Genres’ fiction for November, this month featuring Historic Novels

This month’s selection for the ‘Other Genres’ category features Historical novels. From Ancient Rome to New York in the 1970’s, 18th century France to 1950’s rural America, and many eras in-between. All the new fiction in this selection offers fascinating reading of times past.

Syndetics book coverEarly one morning : a novel / Virginia Baily.
“Chiara Ravello is about to flee occupied Rome when she locks eyes with a woman being herded on to a truck with her family. Claiming the woman’s son, Daniele, as her own nephew, Chiara demands his return; only as the trucks depart does she realize what she has done. She is twenty-seven, with a sister who needs her constant care, a hazardous journey ahead, and now a child in her charge. Several decades later, Chiara lives alone in Rome, a self-contained woman working as a translator. Always in the background is the shadow of Daniele, whose absence and the havoc he wrought on Chiara’s world haunt her. Then she receives a phone call from a teenager claiming to be his daughter, and Chiara knows it is time to face up to the past.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNoonday / Pat Barker.
“Paul Tarrant, Elinor Brooke and Kit Neville first met in 1914 at the Slade School of Art, before their generation lost hope, faith and much else besides on the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme. Now it is 1940, they are middle-aged, and another war has begun. London is a haunted city. Some have even turned to séances in an attempt to contact lost loved ones. As the bombs fall and Elinor and the others struggle to survive, old temptations and obsessions return, and all of them are forced to make choices about what they really want.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLast bus to wisdom / Ivan Doig.
“Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch in Montana Rockies, When Gram has to have surgery for “female trouble” in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Kate-bossy, opinionated, argumentative, and tyrannical, is nothing like her sister. She henpecks her good-natured husband, Herman the German, and Donal can’t seem to get on her good side either. After one contretemps too many, Kate packs him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound. But as it turns out, Donal isn’t traveling solo: Herman the German has decided to fly the coop with him.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe last midwife / Sandra Dallas.
“It is 1880 and Gracy Brookens is the only midwife in a small Colorado mining town where she has delivered hundreds, maybe thousands, of babies in her lifetime. The women of Swandyke trust and depend on Gracy, and most couldn’t imagine getting through pregnancy and labor without her by their sides. But everything changes when a baby is found dead and the evidence points to Gracy as the murderer. She didn’t commit the crime, but clearing her name isn’t so easy when her innocence is not quite as simple, either. She knows things, and that’s dangerous.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNumero zero / Umberto Eco ; translated from the Italian by Richard Dixon.
“1945, Lake Como. Mussolini and his mistress are captured by local partisans and shot in a summary execution. The precise circumstances of Il Duce’s death remain shrouded in confusion and controversy. 1992, Milan, Colonna, a depressed writer picking up hack work, is offered a fee he can’t refuse to ghost-write a memoir. As Colonna gets to know the team of journalists, he learns the paranoid theories of Braggadocio who is convinced that Mussolini’s corpse was a body-double and part of a wider Fascist plot. It’s the scoop he desperately needs. Without substantial evidence, Colonna is skeptical. But when a body is found, stabbed to death in a back alley and the paper is shut down, even he is jolted out of his complacency.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverCity on fire / Garth Risk Hallberg.
“New York City, 1976. Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, are estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, are the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown’s punk scene, an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year’s Eve. The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDictator / Robert Harris.
“There was a time when Cicero held Caesar’s life in the palm of his hand. But now Caesar is the dominant figure and Cicero’s life is in ruins. Exiled, separated from his wife and children, his possessions confiscated, his life constantly in danger, Cicero is tormented by the knowledge that he has sacrificed power for the sake of his principles. His comeback requires wit, skill and courage. For a brief and glorious period, the legendary orator is once more the supreme senator in Rome. But politics is never static and no statesman, however cunning, can safeguard against the ambition and corruption of others.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGolden age : a novel / Jane Smiley.
“1987. A visit from a long-lost relative brings the Langdons together again on the family farm; a place almost unrecognizable from the remote Iowan farmland Walter and Rosanna once owned. The family has spread across the US, and whilst some have stayed reliably unchanged, others have evolved with the times. The eldest Langdon, Frank, always cold and distant, finally starts to break down the wall he built between himself and his wife, but can a loving relationship be grasped in their twilight years? Their son, Richie, finally out from under his brother Michael’s shadow, finds himself running for congress almost unintentionally, and completely underprepared. And Michael, on the brink of self-destruction, seems to make the biggest change of all, but could it be too good to be true?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe double life of Liliane : a novel / Lily Tuck.
“As the child of a German movie producer father who lives in Italy and a beautiful, artistically talented mother who resides in New York, Liliane’s life is divided between those two very different worlds. A shy and observant only child with a vivid imagination, Liliane uncovers the stories of family members as diverse as Moses Mendelssohn, Mary Queen of Scots and an early Mexican adventurer, and pieces together their vivid histories, through both World Wars and across continents.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLandfalls / Naomi J. Williams.
“The gripping story of a dramatic eighteenth-century voyage of discovery. The historical Lapérouse expedition, a voyage of exploration that left Brest in 1785 with two frigates, more than two hundred men, and overblown Enlightenment ideals and expectations, in a brave attempt to circumnavigate the globe for science and the glory of France.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Fiction newsletter for December

Welcome to the December Fiction newsletter with another selection of the best new fiction received this month. We are featuring historical fiction in our ‘Other Genre’ category. We hope you will discover some fabulous new writers, or new work from old favourites.

Library News

Contemporary fiction

This month’s best contemporary novels, from our monthly selection includes the highly recommended Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark.

Syndetics book cover Sweetness #9 : a novel / Stephan Eirik Clark.
“It’s 1973, and David Leveraux is a young and ambitious flavour chemist working at a world-renowned flavour-production house. While testing a new artificial sweetener, Sweetness #9, he notices some unsettling side effects in the laboratory rats and monkeys: anxiety, obesity, mutism, and a general dissatisfaction with life. Years later, Sweetness #9 is America’s most popular sweetener and David’s family is changing. His wife is gaining weight, his son has stopped using verbs, and his daughter is generally dissatisfied with her life. Is Sweetness #9 to blame, along with David’s failure to stop it? Or are these just symptoms of the human condition?” (Adapted from Book cover)
Syndetics book cover Us / David Nicholls.
“Douglas Petersen is a biochemist. His wife, Connie, an artist and arts administrator, in bed at 4 a.m., tells him that after 24 years of marriage she is thinking of leaving him. The often maddeningly practical, reliable, and methodical Douglas is, understandably, shaken, as his devotion to Connie is beyond question. The family was to embark on a Grand Tour of Europe this summer; their 17-year-old son, Albie, is starting college in the fall. Connie feels they should all go anyway. Douglas, ever the scientist, hopes that through careful preparation (and lots of Wikipedia) the trip will bring structure to his son and help remind his wife of the wonderful life they share. Yet an altercation with a guest in their Amsterdam hotel sends Albie off on his own, with Douglas in hot pursuit.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Leaving time : a novel / Jodi Picoult.
“On the night one of the caretakers at a New Hampshire elephant sanctuary was killed, Jenna’s mother, Alice, was found unconscious nearby. Hours later, Alice checked herself out of the hospital and disappeared, leaving her 3-year-old daughter behind. Now, 10 years later, the precocious 13-year-old wants answers to the mysteries of her mother’s whereabouts. Is she dead? Was she also the victim of an unknown assailant? Or was she an abused wife and heartless mother who did not care about her child’s welfare? Aided only by Virgil, the disgraced detective who bungled the initial investigation, and Serenity, a once-famous but now infamous TV psychic, Jenna seeks answers to the questions that have always plagued her.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Graphic novels

Our graphic novel selection for this newsletter includes some darker, dystopian stories for your reading enjoyment.

Syndetics book cover Retroworld / Patrick Galliano, writer ; Cedric Peyravernay, Bazal, artists ; adapted from the work of Julia Verlanger.
“Humans have scattered and occupied the known universe for so long that many worlds have forgotten their true, Earthly origins. The planets which retain the memory of the ‘Formers’ have allied together, creating a Galactic Federation, whereas the ‘Retros’ are worlds that have returned to a more archaic, primitive and isolationist way of life. The Federation entrusts its best agent, Marce, with a delicate, yet vital, mission to help a retroworld called Almagiel evolve. But political machinations, brutal living conditions and deadly creatures may prove to be the agent’s undoing.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Snowpiercer. Volume 1, The escape / written by Jacques Lob ; art by Jean-Marc Rochette ; translated by Virginie Selavy ; lettering by Gabriela Houston.
“In a harsh, uncompromisingly cold future where Earth has succumbed to treacherously low temperatures, the last remaining members of humanity travel on a train while the outside world remains encased in ice. The surviving community is not without a social hierarchy; those that travel at the front of the train live in relative luxury whilst those unfortunate enough to be at the rear remain clustered like cattle in claustrophobic darkness. Yet, things are about to change aboard the train as passengers become disgruntled.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The Bojeffries saga / words by Alan Moore ; pictures by Steve Parkhouse.
“Jobremus Bojeffries is like any other father, trying to keep the peace in a house stuffed with two kids (Ginda and Reth), uncles Raoul and Festus, a baby, and old Grandpa Podlasp. Never mind that one’s a werewolf, one’s a vampire, Grandpa is in the last stages of organic matter, and the baby puts off enough thermonuclear energy to power England and Wales, they’re no ordinary family. With stories spanning decades, Alan Moore shows an affectionate and penetrating grasp of human nature.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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The best mysteries from our monthly selection are highlighted in this newsletter. Highly recommended is The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier for nail biting, edge of seat reading.

Syndetics book cover The burning room : a novel / Michael Connelly.
“In the LAPD’s Open-Unsolved Unit, not many murder victims die a decade after the crime. So when a man succumbs to complications from being shot by a stray bullet ten years earlier, Bosch catches a case in which the body is still fresh, but any other clues are virtually nonexistent. Even a veteran cop would find this one tough going, but Bosch’s new partner, Detective Lucia Soto, has no homicide experience. A young star in the department, Soto has been assigned to Bosch so that he can pass on to her his hard-won expertise. Bosch and Soto are tasked with solving a murder that turns out to be highly charged and politically sensitive.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The butcher / Jennifer Hillier.
“A rash of grisly serial murders plagued Seattle until the infamous “Beacon Hill Butcher” was finally hunted down and killed by police chief Edward Shank in 1985. Now, some thirty years later, Shank, retired and widowed, is giving up his large rambling Victorian house to his grandson Matt, whom he helped raise. Settling back into his childhood home, Matt, a young up-and-coming chef and restaurateur, stumbles upon a locked crate he’s never seen before. Curious, he picks the padlock and makes a discovery so gruesome it will forever haunt him. Faced with this deep dark family secret, Matt must decide whether to keep what he knows buried in the past, go to the police, or take matters into his own hands.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover Last kiss / Louise Phillips.
“A dark tale of deception and desire. In a quiet suburb, a woman desperately clings to her sanity as a shadowy presence moves objects around her home. In a hotel room across the city, an art dealer with a dubious sexual past is found butchered, his body arranged to mimic the Hangman card from the Tarot deck. But what connects them? When criminal psychologist Dr. Kate Pearson is brought in to help investigate the murder, she finds herself plunged into a web of sexual power and evil which spreads from Dublin to Paris, and then to Rome.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Science fiction/fantasy

The best new Science Fiction and Fantasy novels from our monthly selection are presented here to tempt readers of this very popular genre.

Syndetics book cover Resistance / Samit Basu.
“The sequel to the novel Turbulence. In 2020, eleven years after the passengers of flight BA142 from London to Delhi developed extraordinary abilities corresponding to their innermost desires, the world is overrun with supers. Some use their powers for good, others for evil, and some just want to pulverize iconic monuments and star in their own reality show. But now, from New York to Tokyo, someone is hunting down supers, killing heroes and villains both, and it’s up to the Unit to stop them.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover The abyss beyond dreams : Chronicle of the fallers / Peter F. Hamilton.
“The first book in the two book series titled, The Chronicle of the Fallers. When images of a lost civilization are ‘dreamed’ by a self-proclaimed prophet of the age, Nigel Sheldon, inventor of wormhole technology and creator of the Commonwealth society, is asked to investigate. Especially as the dreams seem to be coming from the Void, a mysterious area of living space monitored and controlled because of its hugely destructive capabilities.” (Adapted from book cover)
Syndetics book cover Bête / Adam Roberts.
“A man is about to kill a cow. He discusses life and death and his right to kill with the compliant animal. He begins to suspect he may be about to commit murder, but kills anyway. It began when the animal rights movement injected domestic animals with artificial intelligences in bid to have the status of animals realigned by the international court of human rights. But what is an animal that can talk? Where does its intelligence end at its machine intelligence begin? And where might its soul reside? This is a world where nature can talk back, and can question humans and their beliefs.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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Other genres

Historical Fiction is featured this month in our ‘Other Genre’ category, with novels set in Medieval England to Jamaica in the 70’s, providing new and exciting reading experiences.

Syndetics book cover Winter siege / Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman.
“1141. A mercenary watches from the icy reeds as a little girl with red hair is attacked by his own men. He is powerless to stop them. But a strange twist of fate brings them together again. Sheltering in a church, he finds the girl freezing cold, close to death, clutching a sliver of parchment and now he is certain of what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight and he will protect her from the man who calls himself a monk, who lost a piece of parchment he will do anything to get back.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Syndetics book cover A brief history of seven killings / Marlon James.
“On 3 December 1976, just weeks before the general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions, seven gunmen from West Kingston stormed his house with machine guns blazing. Marley survived and went on to perform at the free concert, but the next day he left the country, and didn’t return for two years. Not a lot was recorded about the fate of the seven gunmen, but much has been said, only to sink into rumour and misinformation. Inspired by this near-mythic event, this novel takes the form of an imagined oral biography, told by ghosts, witnesses, killers, members of parliament, drug dealers, conmen, beauty queens, FBI and CIA agents, reporters, journalists, and even Keith Richards’ drug dealer.” (Adapted from
Syndetics book cover The sacred river : a novel / Wendy Wallace.
“A young Victorian woman who is ailing, a proper but worried mother, and a spinster aunt sent to chaperone all leave London in 1882 aboard the Star of the East, in the hopes that the dry Egyptian air will help 23-year-old Harriet survive her worsening asthma. Harriet has spent her youth as an invalid, her only joy the study of Egyptian hieroglyphics, and, she is determined to see Egypt before she dies. Her mother prefers to stay in the comfort and safety of London but is desperate to keep Harriet alive. Her worries are compounded when the ship turns up a figure from her past, a man who threatens to expose long-buried secrets and bends his malevolent attention toward Harriet.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

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New Other Genre fiction for November/December featuring historical fiction

This month we feature historical fiction in our ‘Other Genre’ selection of new novels. From Medieval England to Cyprus in the 70’s, from the convicts in the Penal colonies of Australia to Bob Marley’s Jamaica, there is bound to be something to stimulate the imagination, and provide a great reading experience.

Syndetics book coverWinter siege / Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman.
“1141. A mercenary watches from the icy reeds as a little girl with red hair is attacked by his own men. He is powerless to stop them. But a strange twist of fate brings them together again. Sheltering in a church, he finds the girl freezing cold, close to death, clutching a sliver of parchment and now he is certain of what he must do. He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight and he will protect her from the man who calls himself a monk, who lost a piece of parchment he will do anything to get back.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe confabulist / Steven Galloway.
“If one repeats the lie often enough, does it then become truth? This story centers on narrator Martin Strauss, diagnosed with a degenerative disease that affects memory, as he struggles to recall, and atone for, the fateful night that he and the great magician first crossed paths. Martin and his lover Clara were attending Houdini’s performance in Montreal when a confluence of circumstances resulted in Martin’s delivering the sucker punch to Houdini’s gut that would lead to his death from a ruptured appendix. Confused and guilt ridden, Martin abandons Clara and becomes obsessed with meeting Houdini’s widow, Bess, to make amends.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGrand duchess of nowhere / Laurie Graham.
“For Ducky, Princess Victoria Melita, hers was a Romanov cousin, a member of the doomed Russian royal family. Her father is Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s second son. Her mother is Grand Duchess Marie, the daughter of Tsar Alexander III. Ducky seems doomed to be a pawn on her grandmother’s dynastic chessboard. But Ducky is not so easily controlled. In an era when death is considered preferable to divorce she fights for the freedom to be with the true love of her life. From disgraced exile in Paris to the glitter of St Petersburg and the mud and carnage of the Eastern Front, she forges her own path.” (Adapted from

Syndetics book coverMiss Carter’s war / Sheila Hancock.
“In 1948 post-war Britain, Marguerite Carter, half French, half English, is struggling to survive. She is one of the first women to receive a degree from the University of Cambridge, then takes up a post as a teacher of English in a girls’ grammar school. Her story continues through the fifties and sixties, into Thatcher’s time and beyond.” (Adapted from Book cover)

Syndetics book coverThe sunrise / Victoria Hislop.
“In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple are about to open the island’s most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighboring families, the Georgious and the Ozkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city’s facade of glamour and success, tension is building. When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe surfacing / Cormac James.
“Set largely on board a ship in the 1850s, searching for Franklin’s lost expedition. It’s a challenging and dangerous endeavour in a very male world – that is until Morgan, the second-in-command of the Impetus, realises there is a pregnant stowaway on board and that he is the father. It is too late to turn back, the ice is closing in, and the child will have to be born into the vast and icy wilderness of the Arctic. The men, especially the ship’s doctor, DeHaven, and the second in command, Lieutenant Morgan, have doubts about the judgement of their captain, and soon their own vessel becomes trapped in the remote Arctic.” (Adapted from

Syndetics book coverA brief history of seven killings / Marlon James.
“On 3 December 1976, just weeks before the general election and two days before Bob Marley was to play the Smile Jamaica Concert to ease political tensions, seven gunmen from West Kingston stormed his house with machine guns blazing. Marley survived and went on to perform at the free concert, but the next day he left the country, and didn’t return for two years. Not a lot was recorded about the fate of the seven gunmen, but much has been said, only to sink into rumour and misinformation. Inspired by this near-mythic event, this novel takes the form of an imagined oral biography, told by ghosts, witnesses, killers, members of parliament, drug dealers, conmen, beauty queens, FBI and CIA agents, reporters, journalists, and even Keith Richards’ drug dealer.” (Adapted from

Syndetics book coverMathew’s Tale.
“In 1818 Mathew Fleming returns home to Scotland following heroic service at the Battle of Waterloo. After seven years away, he is a ghostly presence to those he left behind. But Mathew is ambitious and soon becomes a man of influence in his county and beyond. Yet through all his success, he still hides the loss of his one true love. When a terrible act of murder occurs, Mathew must choose between the rule of blood and the rule of law. As a man of honour with a warrior’s instincts, he embarks on a journey of vengeance that will test every sinew of his faith in mankind.’ (Adapted from

Syndetics book coverSouth of darkness / John Marsden.
“Thirteen-year-old Barnaby Fletch is a bag-and-bones orphan in London in the late 1700s. Barnaby lives on his wits and ill-gotten gains, on streets seething with the press of the throng and shadowed by sinister figures. Life is a precarious business. When he hears of a paradise on the other side of the world, a place called Botany Bay, he decides to commit a crime and get himself transported to a new life, a better life. To succeed, he must survive the trials of Newgate Prison, the stinking hull of a prison ship and the unknown terrors of a journey across the world. And Botany Bay is far from the paradise Barnaby has imagined. When his past and present suddenly collide, he is soon fleeing for his life once again.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe sacred river : a novel / Wendy Wallace.
“A young Victorian woman who is ailing, a proper but worried mother, and a spinster aunt sent to chaperone all leave London in 1882 aboard the Star of the East, in the hopes that the dry Egyptian air will help 23-year-old Harriet survive her worsening asthma. Harriet has spent her youth as an invalid, her only joy the study of Egyptian hieroglyphics, and, she is determined to see Egypt before she dies. Her mother prefers to stay in the comfort and safety of London but is desperate to keep Harriet alive. Her worries are compounded when the ship turns up a figure from her past, a man who threatens to expose long-buried secrets and bends his malevolent attention toward Harriet.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New ‘Other Genre’ fiction for March, this month Historical Novels.

These selections of new Historical Novels are the feature of this month’s ‘Other Genre’ fiction. All give a well researched glimpse into the past from Ancient Rome to post World War II Canada. Highly recommended is Susanna Moore’s, The Life of Objects, set in Berlin on the eve of the Second World War

Syndetics book coverBetrayals / Ian Callinan.
“Betrayals plots the destinies of three people of very different background and personalities as they live their lives in Ipswich, Brisbane, Canberra, Vietnam, Oxford, Moscow and , ultimately, Bucharest. Each is profoundly affected by, and has an important role in the machinations of the great powers in the Cold War. It is a novel of an epoch, a story of high hope, despair, and happiness. With roles written by others but inevitably linking the protagonists Cecily Towne, Tim Fallon, and the Romanian, Rulokov, into a net of intrigue from which they cannot extricate themselves.” (adapted from Book cover)

Syndetics book coverShadows on the Nile / Kate Furnivall.
“1932, London. 27-year-old Jessica Kenton’s stable life is torn apart when her younger brother, Timothy, vanishes. Vowing to find him, she follows Timothy’s trail to the lush and exotic lands of Egypt but she doesn’t expect the danger she is confronted with. There are powerful people who do not want her brother found and not everything is as it seems.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHard twisted : a novel / C. Joseph Greaves.
“Lucile Garrett is just thirteen when she meets Clint Palmer, a charismatic stranger who will forever change her life. The year is 1934, and as the windblown dust of the Great Depression rakes the Oklahoma plains, Palmer offers Lucile and her father, homeless and hungry, the irresistible promise of a better future. But when they follow Palmer to Texas, Lucile’s father mysteriously disappears, launching man and girl on an epic journey through the American Southwest: a spree of violence and murder that culminates in one of the most celebrated criminal trials of the era.” (adapted from

Syndetics book coverHannibal : enemy of Rome / Ben Kane.
“In the First Punic War, the Roman legions defeated and humiliated Carthage, their only serious rival for power in the Mediterranean. Now a brilliant young Carthaginian general, called Hannibal, is out for revenge. Caught up in the maelstrom are two young boys, Hanno, the son of a distinguished soldier and confidant of Hannibal, and Quintus, son of a Roman equestrian and landowner. A disastrous adventure will see Hanno sold into slavery and bought by Quintus’ father. Although an unexpected friendship springs up between the two boys, and with Quintus’ sister, Aurelia, the fortunes of the two warring empires once again separates them. They find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict and an alliance forged through slavery will be played out to its stunning conclusion in battle.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHostile shores : an Alan Lewrie naval adventure / Dewey Lambdin.
“Participating in the 1805 Battle of Cape Town after the death of Admiral Nelson, Captain Lewrie voyages to South America to assist Britain’s campaigns on the Spanish colonies only to confront a formidable adversary.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe life of objects / Susanna Moore.
“Beatrice “Maeve” Palmer thinks she is escaping a dull life in rural Ireland when she accepts an invitation from the mysterious Countess Hartenfels to travel with her to Germany. Beatrice is to become the exclusive lace maker for the Metzenburgs, a Berlin couple known for their art collections and exquisite taste. But it is 1938, Germany is under Nazi leadership and is preparing for war, and the Metzenburgs are preparing to flee to their country estate. Beatrice spends her days packing treasures belonging not only to the family but to their friends, who are leaving the country or fear their possessions will be confiscated. Beatrice understands little about the political situation in Europe, yet it will have a profound effect on her life.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe accursed / Joyce Carol Oates.
“New Jersey, 1905: soon-to-be commander-in-chief Woodrow Wilson is president of Princeton University. On a nearby farm, Socialist author Upton Sinclair, enjoying the success of his novel ‘The Jungle’, has taken up residence with his family. This is a quiet, bookish community, elite, intellectual and indisputably privileged. But when a savage lynching in a nearby town is hushed up, a horrifying chain of events is initiated, until it becomes apparent that the families of Princeton have been beset by a powerful curse. The Devil has come to this little town and not a soul will be spared. This is an eerie tale of psychological horror that sees the real inhabitants of turn-of-the-century Princeton fall under the influence of a supernatural power.” (adapted from

Syndetics book coverThe Imposter Bride
“In post-WWII Montreal, Canada, Lily Kramer, a young refugee, marries Nathan, the brother of the man with whom she had corresponded and who, after catching his first glimpse of his bride-to-be, refused to marry her. But Lily is no saint herself, and not who she portrays herself to be. Told in alternating chapters, Lily’s life after marrying Nathan is juxtaposed with the life of her daughter, Ruth, abandoned soon after she was born. Two notebooks and a mysterious diamond are all that remain for Ruth of her mother, along with a need to know the truth.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBetrayal : a Kydd Sea adventure / Julian Stockwin.
“It is 1806 and Kydd is the captain of the frigate HMS L’Aurore. When Commodore Popham decides to sail his small British squadron to South America to foment revolt against the Spanish, Kydd agrees to support the wild scheme without knowing that Popham plans to start a deadly war without the proper authority; the plan is ill-conceived, poorly supported, and doomed by treachery. Though the British capture Buenos Aires, the locals don’t rise against the Spanish, as had been expected, and while Popham achieves his objective, Kydd and the crew are beset by massive enemy forces and surprising betrayals. Based on a factual debacle easily overlooked by history, this novel presents a masterly Napoleonic-era atmosphere, with rich descriptions of the military, politics, and society of the time.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverValentine Grey / Sandi Toksvig.
“London 1897 and a young girl, Valentine Grey, arrives in England. She’s been brought up in the remote and sunny climes of India and finds being forced into corsets and skirts in damp and cold country insufferable. The only bright spot: her exciting cousin, Reggie. Reggie, and his lover Frank seek out the adventure the clandestine bars and streets of London offer and are happy to include Valentine in their secret, showing her theatre, gardens – even teaching her how to ride a bicycle. And then comes the Boer War and Reggie’s father volunteers him; the empire must be defended. But it won’t be Reggie who dons the Volunteer Regiment’s garb. Valentine takes her chance, puts on her cousin’s uniform, leaving Reggie behind and heads off to war. And for a long while it’s glorious and liberating for both of the cousins, but war is not glorious and in Victorian London homosexuality is not liberating.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Conquests to Watergate – New historical fiction

An exciting selection of new Historical Fiction received this month. From the time of Alexander the Great in 359 BC, to 15th century Belgium, from post war France to the early 1970’s and the Watergate scandal, some truly exciting reads. If historical fiction is a favourite genre, more great reading can be found from the short list for the 2012 Walter Scott Historical Fiction prize on our Fiction website page.

Syndetics book coverWide awake : a novel / Robert Bober ; translated from the French by Carol Volk.
” Bernard Appelbaum, 21 years old and newly entranced by his native Paris seen through the lens of filmmaker Francois Truffaut, lands a role as an extra in Truffaut’s latest, Jules et Jim (a story of simple coincidences shaping one’s life). Upon seeing the film, Bernard’s mother, Hannah, opens up about her own life’s coincidences, especially how her marriage to Bernard’s father, Yankel, resulted from their mutual friend Liezer’s absence one evening, giving Yankel the chance to confess his love. After Yankel died in the camps when Bernard was only two, Hannah reconnected with Liezer, whom she married and with whom she had Bernard’s half-brother, Alex. When Liezer dies in a plane crash, both boys are left fatherless and brimming with questions about their shared heritage.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWaiting for sunrise / William Boyd.
“Vienna, 1913. As Lysander Rief, a young English actor, is waiting for his first appointment with the eminent psychiatrist Dr Bensimon, a young woman enters the waiting room. She is clearly in distress, but Lysander is immediately drawn to her strange, hazel eyes and her unusual, intense beauty. They begin a passionate love affair and life in Vienna becomes tinged with a powerful frisson of excitement for Lysander. Back in London, 1914. War is imminent, and events in Vienna have caught up with Lysander in the most damaging way. Unable to live an ordinary life, he is plunged into the dangerous theatre of wartime intelligence, a world of sex, scandal and spies, where lines of truth and deception blur with every waking day. Lysander must now discover the key to a secret code which is threatening Britain’s safety, and use all his skills to keep the murky world of suspicion and betrayal from invading every corner of his life.” – (adapted from summary)

Syndetics book coverGod of war / Christian Cameron.
“The story of how Alexander the Great conquered the world,- first crushing Greek resistance to Macedonian rule, then destroying the Persian Empire in three monumental battles, before marching into the unknown and final victory in India. Narrated by his boyhood friend Ptolemy, this is the story of Alexander as you have never heard it before: raw, intimate, brutal, full of the terror and exhilaration of battle, the heroism and the horror of conquest, and, ultimately, the tragedy of a man who aimed to be more than human.” (adapted from summary)

Syndetics book coverSpartacus : the gladiator / Ben Kane.
“This book begins in the Thracian village to which Spartacus has returned after escaping from life as an auxiliary in the Roman army. Jealous of his attachment to Ariadne, a Dionysian priestess, the Thracian king betrays Spartacus to the Romans who take him, along with Ariadne, into captivity and to the school of gladiators at Capua. Against the background of the unbelievable brutality of gladiatorial life, Spartacus and Crixus the Gaul plan the audacious overthrow of their Roman masters. They escape and flee to Vesuvius, where they recruit and train an army of escaped slaves that will have to face the conquerors of the known world, the most successful deadly army in all of history in a battle that will set in motion the legend that is Spartacus.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWatergate a novel / Thomas Mallon.
“Thomas Mallon conveys the drama and high comedy of the Nixon presidency through the urgent perspectives of seven characters we only thought we knew before now, moving readers from the private cabins of Camp David to the klieg lights of the Senate Caucus Room, from the District of Columbia jail to the Dupont Circle mansion of Theodore Roosevelt’s sharp-tongued ninety-year-old daughter, and into the hive of the Watergate complex itself, home not only to the Democratic National Committee but also to the president’s attorney general, his recklessly loyal secretary, and the shadowy man from Mississippi who pays out hush money to the burglars.” (adapted from summary)

Syndetics book coverThe shadow prince / Terence Morgan.
“Perkin Warbeck is an ordinary young man in fifteenth-century Tournai. The son of a port official, he loves nothing more than swimming, singing and fishing with his father. But Perkin has a secret. His real name is Richard, and he is the rightful Prince of England. Thought to have been murdered with his brother, Edward, in the Tower of London, he was covertly taken to the continent and placed with an adoptive family under an assumed identity. But when his enemies seek him out he must flee, and embarks on a new life sailing the high seas with the era’s greatest adventurers. But Richard cannot avoid his fate forever. He knows he must return to England, to assume the throne that is his birthright. But what for Richard is a homecoming, for the new king, Henry Tudor, is nothing less than an invasion, and ‘Perkin’ slowly comes to learn that the price of his goal is the blood of innocent men.” – (adapted from summary)

Syndetics book coverThe house I loved / Tatiana de Rosnay.
“Parisian Rose Bazelet is a woman in mourning, for her husband and son, both long dead; for her distant daughter; and because of Napoleon III’s ambitious urban planning agenda in the mid-19th century, an enormous project that could destroy her beloved family estate. With the planners already leveling nearby houses, Rose hides in her cellar and writes letters to her deceased husband about her struggle to save their home. As the letters continue, and destruction grows near, Rose remembers her married life. With the planners “rattling about at the entrance” and taking her friend Alexandrine, who has come to rescue her, by surprise, Rose reveals to her late husband the dark secret she could never bring herself to tell him when he was alive.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Winter Palace / Eva Stachniak.
“The epic, sensuous story of Catherine the Great’s ruthless rise to power, through the eyes of a young girl groomed as the Empress’s spy in 18th Century Russia. Vavara, a young orphaned Polish girl, is brought to serve at Empress Elizabeth’s glittering, dangerous court in St Petersburg, she is schooled by the Chancellor himself in skills from lock-picking to love-making, learning above all else to stay silent, and listen. Soon, she is Elizabeth’s ‘tongue’ – her secret eyes and ears.Then Sophie, a vulnerable young princess, arrives from Prussia as a prospective bride for Elizabeth’s heir. Set to spy on her by the Empress, Vavara soon becomes her friend and confidante, and helps her navigate the illicit seductions and the treacherous shifting allegiances of the court. ut Sophie’s destiny is to become the notorious Catherine the Great. Are her ambitions more lofty and far-reaching than anyone suspected, and will she stop at nothing to achieve absolute power?” – (adapted from summary)

Syndetics book coverQueen of America / Luis Alberto Urrea.
“After the bloody Tomochic rebellion, Teresita Urrea, beloved healer and “Saint of Cabora,” flees with her father to Arizona. But their plans are derailed when she once again is claimed as the spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution. Besieged by pilgrims and pursued by assassins, Teresita embarks on a journey through turn-of-the-century industrial America-New York, San Francisco, St. Louis. She meets immigrants and tycoons, European royalty and Cuban poets, all waking to the new American century. And as she decides what her own role in this modern future will be, she must ask herself: can a saint fall in love?” – (adapted from summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret history of Costaguana / Juan Gabriel Vásquez ; translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean.
“This novel covers about 100 years of Colombian history, from the birth of the revolutionary Miguel Altamirano in 1820 to Conrad’s death in 1924. Miguel’s illegitimate son Jose, the narrator of this story, reunites with his father in Panama, marries and has a daughter named Eloisa, and travels to London, where he meets Conrad and tells him the story of his life and of Colombia. When Conrad’s novel Nostromo is published, Altamirano recognizes what he had related to Conrad, but his physical presence is missing. When Conrad dies, Altamirano, with delightful literary irony, decides to set the record straight, addressing Eloisa and an unknown jury and interrupting himself frequently to clarify points.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Shortlist for the Walter Scott prize for Historical Fiction announced

The Walter Scott prize for historical fiction was founded in 2010 by distant relatives of Sir Walter Scott, the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. The prize of £25, 000 is awarded each year to a historical novel, “that has the ability to shed light on the present as well as the past.” This year’s panel of judges in chaired by historian and writer Alistair Moffat and the winner selected from the six shortlisted novels will be announced mid June. Previous winners have been Hilary Mantel in 2010 for Wolf Hall and Andrea Levy in 2011 for The Long Song.

The shortlisted novels for this year’s award are:

For more information on Sir Walter Scott, his life and his impact, try this:

Syndetics book coverScott-land : the man who invented a nation / Stuart Kelly.
“His name and image are everywhere – from Bank of Scotland fivers to the bizarre monument in Edinburgh’s city centre. Scott-land presumes that the reader will have only a hazy awareness of Sir Walter Scott, and, although Stuart Kelly will offer insights into Scott’s works and biography, this is emphatically not a conventional literary biography, nor is it a critical study. Partly a surreptitious autobiography – Stuart Kelly was born near Abbotsford – his examination of Scott’s legacy and character come to change his own thoughts on writing, reviewing, being Scottish, and being human.” – (adapted from description)

The Borgias, the French Revolution, and the Crusades : new historical fiction

A glimpse into the past with this selection of new Historical novels. From the Roman seige of Masada in the year 73 C.E. to 1940 Guernsey, the Vikings in Britain to the Borgia’s in Italy, war, suspense, mystery and intrigue, all entertaining reads.

Syndetics book coverThe autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb : a novel / Melanie Benjamin.
“Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Warren Bump, the diminutive wife of Gen. Tom Thumb, narrates her life story in this vivacious fictionalized autobiography that takes her from a small New England town to a seedy Mississippi showboat and eventually into the entourage of the impresario P.T. Barnum. Born with proportionate dwarfism, Vinnie, a “perfect woman in miniature,” rejects a career as a schoolteacher in favor of show business, eventually finding an intellectual soul mate in Barnum and international fame that leads her into the opulence of New York society and meetings with heads of state from the White House to Europe and India.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeath of kings / Bernard Cornwell.
“As the ninth century wanes, England appears about to be plunged into chaos once more. For the Viking-raised but Saxon-born warrior, Uhtred, whose life seems to shadow the making of England, this presents him with difficult choices. King Alfred is dying and his passing threatens the island of Britain to renewed warfare. Alfred wants his son, Edward, to succeed him but there are other Saxon claimants to the throne as well as ambitious pagan Vikings to the north. Uhtred‘s loyalty, and his vows, were to Alfred, not to his son, and despite his long years of service to Alfred, he is still not committed to the Saxon cause. His own desire is to reclaim his long lost lands and castle to the north. But the challenge to him, as the king’s warrior, is that he knows that he will either be the means of making Alfred’s dream of a united and Christian England come to pass or be responsible for condemning it to oblivion.” – (adapted from

Syndetics book coverThe brink of fame / Irene Fleming.
“In the spring of 1914, Emily Daggett Weiss, the co-owner of Melpomene Moving Picture Studios, leaves Fort Lee, New Jersey, to join her husband and business partner, Adam Weiss, on location in Flagstaff, Arizona. On arrival, Emily finds Adam has run off with vapid actress Agnes Gelert and managed to lose their film company to his odious longtime adversary, Howie Kazanow. Fortunately, Emily encounters Holbert Bruns, an obliging private detective, who helps her land a job with movie mogul Carl Laemmle in Hollywood. Laemmle promises her a chance to direct a film if she can locate missing star Ross McHenry.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe dovekeepers : a novel / Alice Hoffman.
“Only two women and five children of more than 900 people survived the Roman siege of Masada in the year 73 C.E. after the suicide pact of the Jewish rebels there, according to the historian Josephus. In this well-researched novel, Alice Hoffman vividly brings this tragedy to life, as four women who take care of the dovecote at the fortress tell their stories.“ – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNanjing requiem / Ha Jin.
“In 1937, with the Japanese poised to invade Nanjing, Minnie Vautrin, an American missionary and the dean of Jinling Women’s College, decides to remain at the school, convinced that her American citizenship will help her safeguard the welfare of the Chinese men and women who work there. She is painfully mistaken. In the aftermath of the invasion, the school becomes a refugee camp for more than ten thousand homeless women and children, and Vautrin must struggle, day after day, to intercede on behalf of the hapless victims. Even when order and civility are eventually restored, Vautrin remains deeply embattled, and she is haunted by the lives she could not save.” – (adapted from

Syndetics book coverThe collaborator / Margaret Leroy.
“1940, Guernsey. Vivienne de la Mare waits nervously for the bombs to drop. Instead there comes quiet surrender and insidious occupation. Nothing is safe anymore. Her husband is fighting on the frontline and the facade of being the perfect wife is cracking. Her new life is one where the enemy lives next door and small acts of kindness from one Nazi soldier feels like a betrayal. But how can you hate your enemy when you know his name, when he makes you feel alive when everything else is dying around you?” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHouse of the hanged / Mark Mills.
“France, 1935: At the poor man’s end of the Riviera sits Le Rayol, a haven for artists, expatriates and refugees. Here, a world away from the rumblings of a continent heading towards war, Tom Nash has rebuilt his life after a turbulent career in the Secret Intelligence Service. His past, though, is less willing to leave him behind. When a midnight intruder tries to kill him, Tom knows it is just a matter of time before another assassination attempt is made.” – (adapted from

Syndetics book coverMadame Tussaud : a novel of the French revolution / Michelle Moran.
“When Marie Tussaud learns the exciting news the royal family will be visiting her famed wax museum, the Salon de Cire, she never dreams that the king’s sister will request her presence at Versailles: as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. As Marie familiarizes herself with Princess Elisabeth and begins to know Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, she witnesses the glamorous life of court, a very different world from her home on the Boulevard du Temple of Paris where bread can only be had on the black market and men sell their teeth to put food on the their tables. The year is 1788 and men like Desmoulins, Marat, and Robespierre are meeting in the salons of Paris speaking against the monarchy; there’s whispered talk of revolution. Spanning five years from budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, Madame Tussaud brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax moulding saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom.” – (adapted from

Syndetics book coverThe lion of Cairo / Scott Oden.
“It is the middle of the 12th century Egypt. Caliph Rashid al-Hasan rules as a figurehead over a crumbling empire. In the shadow of the Grey Mosque, generals vie for power and influence under the scheming eyes of a venal grand vizier. Warring factions use murder and terror to silence their opponents. Egypt bleeds, and the scent draws her enemies in: the swaggering Shirkuh, who serves the Sultan of Damascus, and Amalric, king of Jerusalem, whose greed is insatiable and whose Crusader knights are blood thirsty. Yet all is not lost. In a distant land, there lives an old man who holds the power of life and death over the Moslem world. He has decided to help the Caliph and sends his greatest weapon, a single man, an Assassin. The one they call the Emir of the Knife.” – (adapted from

Syndetics book coverThe Borgia betrayal : a novel / Sara Poole.
“Francesca Giordano possesses a very special talent a lethal skill required and very much in demand by the venomous Borgia family. As the Borgia court poisoner, she was responsible for Rodrigo Borgia’s convoluted ascension to the papacy. Now, as Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo needs her to safeguard his life and dispose of his enemies. The trouble is, it is difficult to distinguish between enemies and friends amid the intrigue and deception of Renaissance-era Rome. Forever on guard, Francesca not only works for the pope but is also determined to avenge the brutal death of her father.” – (adapted from