Welcome to this month’s Fiction Newsletter where we have chosen the best of the best, to tempt your reading habit. We hope you will find much to enjoy while the winter weather takes hold.
Plague and cholera / Patrick Deville ; translated from French by J.A. Underwood.
“Paris, May 1940. As Nazi troops storm the city, at Le Bourget airport, on the last flight out, sits Dr Alexandre Yersin, his gaze politely turned away from his fellow passengers with their jewels sewn into their luggage. He is too old for the combat ahead, and besides he has already saved millions of lives. Swiss by birth and trained in Germany and France, he had a romantic hunger for adventure, fuelled by tales of Livingstone and Conrad, he sailed to Asia. A true traveler of the century, he wanted to comprehend the universe, ceaselessly curious and courageous, Yersin stands, a genius, against a backdrop of world wars, pandemics, colonialism, progress and decadence.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Irène / Pierre Lemaitre ; translated from the French by Frank Wynne.
“For Commandant Verhoeven life is beautiful: he is happily married, expecting his first child with the lovely Irène. But his blissful existence is punctured by a murder of unprecedented savagery. Worse still, the press seem to have it in for him, his every move is headline news. When he discovers that the killer has killed before, that each murder is homage to a classic crime novel, the fourth estate is quick to coin a nickname, The Novelist. With both men in the public eye, the case develops into a personal duel, each hell-bent on outsmarting the other. There can only be one winner, whoever has the least to lose.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
All that is solid melts into air / Darragh McKeon.
“Russia, 1986. In a run-down apartment block in Moscow, a nine-year-old piano prodigy practices silently for fear of disturbing the neighbours. In a factory on the outskirts of the city, his aunt makes car parts, trying to hide her dissident past. In the hospital, a surgeon immerses himself in his work to avoid facing his failed marriage. And in a rural village in Belarus, a teenage boy wakes up to a sky of the deepest crimson. Outside, the ears of his neighbour’s cattle are dripping blood. Ten miles away, at the Chernobyl Power Plant, something unimaginable has happened. Now their lives will change forever.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
Hyperbole and a half : unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened / Allie Brosh.
“Autobiographical cartoonist Allie Brosh impresses with this confessional collection of essays, adapted in part from her popular blog of the same name. Most pieces deal with Brosh’s struggle with depression, an experience rarely expressed so clearly and specifically in other media as it is here. Even those unfamiliar with trials of such a condition will find this humorous depiction enlightening. The writer frequently details her relationship with two dogs, each as dysfunctional as herself, whom she must take care of while tending to her own serious mental issues. “(Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The encyclopedia of Early Earth : a graphic novel / by Isabel Greenberg.
“This is an epic work of fiction, detailing the many tales and adventures of one lonely storyteller, on a quest for Enlightenment and True Love. The many stories, big and small, cover themes such as Gods, monsters, mad kings, wise old crones, shamans, medicine men, brothers and sisters, strife, mystery, bad science, worse geography, and of course true love.” (Adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
Science fiction / Joe Ollmann.
“High-school science teacher Mark is practical, sensible, and grounded, sharing a happy if routine life with his girlfriend, Sue. That is, until a throwaway science fiction B movie changes his life completely. As the movie unfolds, Mark has a panic-fueled meltdown. He claims that the film triggered previously repressed memories of an alien abduction, and they lead to his descent into isolation and paranoia. The real story, though, is the disintegration of Mark and Sue’s relationship.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)
The black-eyed blonde : a Philip Marlowe novel / Benjamin Black.
“Despite Robert B. Parker’s lengthy experience in the PI genre, his sequel to The Big Sleep, Perchance to Dream, pales in comparison with Black’s pitch-perfect recreation of the character and his time and place. As for the language, Black nails Chandler’s creative and memorable similes and metaphors. When Marlowe shakes hands with someone, “It was like being given a sleek, cool-skinned animal to hold for a moment or two.” The title character, Clare Cavendish, wanders into Marlowe’s office to ask him to trace her lover, Nico Peterson, who disappeared two months earlier. The case appears to wrap up quickly after Marlowe learns that Peterson was the victim of a hit-and-run, but Cavendish has some major revelations in store. While the mystery is well plotted, Black elevates it beyond mere thoughtful homage with a plausible injection of emotion in his wounded lead.” (Abridged from Publisher Weekly)
Chilled to the bone / Quentin Bates.
“In her third outing, Iceland police sergeant Gunnhildur (Gunna) Gisladottir investigates the murder of a businessman found tied to a bed in an upscale Reykjavik hotel. He’s not the first man to be similarly abandoned midway through a paid-for tryst. To make matters worse, a laptop containing sensitive government data was stolen from one of the rooms. All this would be pressure enough for Gunna, but there’s someone else looking for the disappearing dominatrix Baddo, a thug just returned to Iceland after an eight-year prison stint in Lithuania… A solid police procedural with some genuinely rewarding surprises at the end. When it comes to frosty crime novels, Iceland may just be the new Sweden.” (Abridged from Booklist)
The killing. III / David Hewson.
“Detective Inspector for homicide, Sarah Lund, is contacted by old flame Mathias Borch from National Intelligence. Borch fears that what first appeared to be a random killing at the docks is the beginning of an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Troels Hartmann. The murder draws attention towards the shipping and oil giant, Zeeland, run by billionaire Robert Zeuthen. When Zeuthen’s 9-year-old daughter, Emilie, is kidnapped the investigation takes on a different dimension as it soon becomes clear that her disappearance is linked to the murder of a young girl in Jutland some years earlier. Hartmann is in the middle of an election campaign, made all the more turbulent because of the mounting financial crisis. He needs Zeeland’s backing. Lund needs to make sense of the clues left by Emilie’s perpetrator before it’s too late. And can she finally face the demons that have long haunted her?” (Publishers description from Amazon.co.uk)
Augmented reality, gravitational waves, imaginary wars and alien encounters, just some of the themes in this month’s selection of new Science Fiction and Fantasy novels.
Wolves / Simon Ings.
“Augmented Reality uses computing power to overlay a digital imagined reality over the real world. Whether it be adverts or imagined buildings and imagined people with Augmented Reality the world is no longer as it appears to you, it is as it is imagined by someone else. Two friends are working at the cutting edge of this technology and when they are offered backing to take the idea and make it into the next global entertainment they realise that wolves hunt in this imagined world. And the wolves might be them. A story about technology becomes a personal quest into a changed world and the pursuit of a secret from the past, a secret about a missing mother, a secret that could hide a murder.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Twenty trillion leagues under the sea / Adam Roberts ; illustrated by Mahendra Singh.
“It is 1958 and France’s first nuclear submarine, Plongeur, leaves port for the first of its sea trials. On board, gathered together for the first time, one of the navy’s most experienced captains and a tiny skeleton crew of sailors, engineers and scientists. The Plongeur makes her first dive and goes down, and down and down. Out of control, the submarine plummets to a depth where the pressure will crush her hull, killing everyone on board, and beyond. The pressure builds the hull protests; the crew prepare for death as the boat reaches the bottom of the sea and finds nothing. Her final dive continues, the pressure begins to relent, but the depth gauge is useless. They have gone miles down, hundreds of miles, thousands, and so it goes on. On board the crew succumb to madness, betrayal, religious mania and murder. Has the Plongeur left the limits of our world and gone elsewhere?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Influx / Daniel Suarez.
“A tale set in a world in which technological advances have been suppressed finds particle physicist Jon Grady helping to innovate a device capable of reflecting gravity only to be targeted by a shadowy organization from the future.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Debut novels are the feature in this month’s ‘Other Genre’ Fiction selection, some fabulous writing from new exciting authors.
Viper wine : a novel / Hermione Eyre.
“At Whitehall Palace in 1632, the ladies at the court of Charles I are beginning to look suspiciously alike. Plump cheeks, dilated pupils, and a heightened sense of pleasure are the first signs that they have been drinking a potent new beauty tonic, Viper Wine, distilled and discreetly dispensed by the physician Lancelot Choice. Famed beauty Venetia Stanley is so extravagantly dazzling she has inspired Ben Jonson to poetry and Van Dyck to painting, provoking adoration and emulation from the masses. But now she is married and her “mid-climacteric” approaches, all that adoration has curdled to scrutiny, and she fears her powers are waning.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Courting Greta / Ramsey Hootman.
“Samuel Cooke, a 34-year-old crippled computer geek joins a Northern California high school’s faculty to teach programming classes after taking a 10% stake in the successful software firm that formerly employed him. Despite being warned against gym teacher Greta Cassamajor, a 46-year-old who towers over and outweighs him, he feels strangely attracted to her. Recognizing Greta’s prickly nature and uncompromising attitude, Samuel nonetheless sets out to navigate a relationship with her. He has the outward social graces she lacks, but hidden underneath is fear, anger, and self-pity, particularly over the congenital birth defect that forces him to use elbow crutches and ankle braces. While Samuel faces the school’s unprincipled principal, outdated computers, and difficult students, Greta proves remarkably perceptive and caring.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The undertaking / Audrey Magee.
“Peter Faber, a German soldier on the Russian front, is pledging his life to a stranger thousands of miles away in Berlin. Having never met, Peter and Katharina are getting married, a contract of business rather than of love, he earns ten days respite from the war for his ‘honeymoon’ while she is promised a widow’s pension if he dies. In only ten days the two strangers fall in love and commit themselves to a future together living under the bright promises of Nazism. However, when Peter rejoins his unit in Russia, the bitter winter rapidly chills the heat of his politics. As his comrades begin to die, he loses sight of why Berlin has sent so many young men to their deaths in the snow drifts outside Stalingrad. Meanwhile, goaded on by her desperate and self-delusional parents, Katherina is ruthlessly working her way up the Nazi Party hierarchy, wedding herself and her young husband to a regime that will bury them if it ever falls.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)