“Mirror of the King”: New fiction on our shelves

Cover for The Vanishing Point, spotlighted against a backdrop of a museum gallery

Book cover: The vanishing point by Andrea Hotere

“Mirror of the King.”

Our recently acquired general fiction titles feature a number of wonderful and diverse New Zealand / Aotearoa titles which you can view below. One which caught our particular attention was The vanishing point by Andrea Hotere.

The vanishing point revolves around just a few of the mysteries surrounding one of the world’s most famous paintings — Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, or ‘The Ladies-in-Waiting’, sometimes referred to as ‘Mirror of the King’.

The painting itself hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, and is one of the most enigmatic, mysterious and most talked about works of art of all time. It is superbly painted with almost photographic detail, featuring numerous objects and a large cast of figures in its composition — a true masterpiece. Many of these elements and details raise questions in themselves, however it is the questions it raises about reality and illusion and the relationship between the figures in the composition and outside viewers that has fascinated admirers and writers on art for centuries. As if that weren’t enough, there is also fierce speculation that the mathematics used in its composition are in fact actually a secret code by the artist.

In The Vanishing Point, Andrea Hotere takes some of the fascinating factual mysteries surrounding the painting and runs with them, creating a brilliant literary puzzle in a similar vein to Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The vanishing point / Hotere, Andrea
“Set against the backdrop of London in 1991 and Madrid in 1656 the novel follows the lives of two women, Alex Johns and the Infanta Margarita, who are connected by a quest to unravel the enigmatic secrets within an iconic painting.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook – The Vanishing Point

What you are looking for is in the library : a novel / Aoyama, Michiko
“What are you looking for? So asks Tokyo’s most enigmatic librarian. For Sayuri Komachi is able to sense exactly what each visitor to her library is searching for and provide just the book recommendation to help them find it. A restless retail assistant looks to gain new skills, a mother tries to overcome demotion at work after maternity leave, a conscientious accountant yearns to open an antique store, a recently retired salaryman searches for newfound purpose. In Komachi’s unique book recommendations they will find just what they need to achieve their dreams. What You Are Looking For Is in the Library is about the magic of libraries and the discovery of connection. This inspirational tale shows how, by listening to our hearts, seizing opportunity and reaching out, we too can fulfill our lifelong dreams. Which book will you recommend?” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook – What you are looking for is in the library

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“Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master!” – new science fiction & fantasy

Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again!

― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

The science fiction and fantasy title that immediately leapt to our attention this month is A stroke of the pen: the lost stories by Terry Pratchett. This newly rediscovered collection of stories by one of the most popular fantasy writers of all time has caused great excitement amongst his legions of fans. The late great Terry Pratchett has to date sold over 100 million books and been translated into over forty languages, his most famous creation being the wonderful Discworld series (though his many other works are just as entertaining).

All of the stories in A stroke of the pen have been published before in the Western Daily Press regional newspaper in the 1970’s and 80’s under the pen name Patrick Kearns. However, these stories have been out of print since their initial publication and were, until recently, largely unknown. The reissue of these long-forgotten works will delight fans, as the chances of any posthumous publications by the author is zero. Although Terry Pratchett left a lot of unfinished writing at the time of his death, he left instructions that his computer’s hard drive, which contained these works, be destroyed by crushing under a steam roller to avoid any future publication of any works he regarded as unfinished.

This last wish was fulfilled in 2017, when Lord Jericho “a six-and-a-half tonne steamroller” destroyed the drive at the Great Dorset Steam Fair. It took several attempts, and a concrete crusher was used to finish off the job.

A stroke of the pen : the lost stories / Pratchett, Terry
“A truly unmissable collection of twenty rediscovered stories, written under a pseudonym in the 1970s and 80s by the award-winning and bestselling author of the phenomenal Discworld series. These early tales hint at the worlds Terry would go on to create, containing all his trademark wit, satirical wisdom and fantastic imagination. Meet Og the inventor, the first caveman to cultivate fire, as he discovers the highs and lows of progress; haunt the Ministry of Nuisances with the defiant evicted ghosts of Pilgarlic Towers; visit Blackbury, a small market town with weird weather and an otherworldly visitor; and go on a dangerous quest through time and space with hero Kron, which begins in the ancient city of Morpork…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mammoths at the gates / Vo, Nghi
“The wandering Cleric Chih returns home to the Singing Hills Abbey for the first time in almost three years, to be met with both joy and sorrow. Their mentor, Cleric Thien, has died, and rests among the archivists and storytellers of the storied abbey. But not everyone is prepared to leave them to their rest. Because Cleric Thien was once the patriarch of Coh clan of Northern Bell Pass–and now their granddaughters have arrived on the backs of royal mammoths, demanding their grandfather’s body for burial. Chih must somehow balance honoring their mentor’s chosen life while keeping the sisters from the north from storming the gates and destroying the history the clerics have worked so hard to preserve. . .” (Adapted from Catalogue) Als.o available as an eBook

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“I am probably the greatest detective in the world” – new mystery titles

moustache belgian GIF

“My name is Hercule Poirot, and I am probably the greatest detective in the world”.

Agatha Christie, The Mystery of the Blue Train. 

One of our newly acquired detective and thriller titles this month is Sophie Hannah’s latest novel, which features one of the most beloved detectives of all time, Hercule Poirot. Hercule Poirot’s Silent night is set during the Christmas season and is a fabulous addition to the Hercule Poirot body of work.

The Belgian detective was of course created by Agatha Christie and features in thirty-three of the queen of crime’s novels, not to mention two plays and fifty-one short stories. He first saw the light of day in Agatha’s first published novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles, published in 1920 and written during World War One. Agatha Christie served as a nurse in WW1 and was witness to a large number of well-educated Belgian refugees sheltering in Britain at the time, one of the key incidents that helped create the master detective.

Agatha Christie also acknowledged the influence of Arthur Conan Doyle’s works on Poirot’s creation and development, especially in his early years. Poirot’s name was derived from two other fictional detectives, Marie Belloc Lowndes’ Hercule Popeau and Frank Howel Evans’ Monsieur Poiret.

The detective has proved a firm favourite with many film directors and television producers for many generations. He has also proved a very popular role to play with some of the most famous actors of their times, such as Charles Laughton, Orson Welles, Peter Ustinov, Ian Holm, David Suchet and Kenneth Branagh, to name but a few.

Interestingly, Agatha Christie quickly found Poirot to be an “insufferable” character and is on record as saying she felt that he was a “detestable, bombastic, tiresome, ego-centric little creep”. However due to his great popularity with her writing public she refused to kill him off.

The library holds copies of all the Hercule Poirot books written by Agatha Christie, as well as many of the works by other writers that feature the famous detective. You can find more information on these titles here.

Hercule Poirot’s Silent night / Hannah, Sophie
“It’s 19 December 1931. Hercule Poirot and Inspector Edward Catchpool are called to investigate the murder of a man in the apparent safe haven of a Norfolk hospital ward. Catchpool’s mother, the irrepressible Cynthia, insists that Poirot stays in a crumbling mansion by the coast, so that they can all be together for the festive period while Poirot solves the case. Cynthia’s friend Arnold is soon to be admitted to that same hospital and his wife is convinced he will be the killer’s next victim, though she refuses to explain why. Poirot has less than a week to solve the crime and prevent more murders, if he is to escape from this nightmare scenario and get home in time for Christmas.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The Golden Gate / Chua, Amy
“In Berkeley, California, in 1944, Homicide Detective Al Sullivan has just left the swanky Claremont Hotel after a drink in the bar when a presidential candidate is assassinated in one of the rooms upstairs. A rich industrialist with enemies among the anarchist factions on the far left, Walter Wilkinson could have been targeted by any number of groups. But strangely, Sullivan’s investigation brings up the specter of another tragedy at the Claremont, ten years earlier: the death of seven-year-old Iris Stafford, a member of the Bainbridge family, one of the wealthiest in all of San Francisco. Some say she haunts the Claremont still. The many threads of the case keep leading Sullivan back to the three remaining Bainbridge heiresses, now adults…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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Halloween – The Night of the Witch

Halloween is coming up next week and that means it’s time to get witchy! If you love a good witch story, you’re in luck because they’re a hot subject matter in fiction at the moment.  Here’s a mixed selection that can satisfy every witchy need, from romantic to spooky to downright terrifying.

The witching tide / Meyer, Margaret
“East Anglia, 1645. Martha Hallybread, a midwife, healer, and servant, has lived peacefully for more than four decades in her beloved coastal village of Cleftwater. Rendered voiceless as a child, Martha has not spoken a word in years. One autumn morning, a sinister newcomer appears. The witchfinder, Silas Makepeace, has been blazing a trail of destruction along the coast, and now has Cleftwater in his sights. Set over the course of just a few weeks that forever change the people of this village, The Witching Tide offers powerful and psychologically astute insights about the exigencies of friendship and the nature of loyalty, and heralds the arrival of a striking new voice in fiction.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The book of witches
“With a breathtaking array of original stories from around the world, P. Djèlí Clark, Amal El Mohtar, Garth Nix, Darcie Little Badger, Sheree Renée Thomas, and two dozen other fantasy and science fiction geniuses bring a new and exciting twist to one of the most beloved figures in fiction, witches, in never-before-seen works written exclusively for The Book of Witches, compiled by award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan and illustrated by award-nominated artist Alyssa Winans.” (Catalogue)

After the forest / Woods, Kell
“Ginger. Honey. Cinnamon. Flour. Twenty years after the witch in the gingerbread house, Greta and Hans are struggling to get by. Greta has a secret, though: the witch’s grimoire, secreted away and whispering in Greta’s ear for the past two decades, and the recipe inside that makes the best gingerbread you’ve ever tasted.  But in a village full of superstition, Greta and her mysteriously addictive gingerbread, not to mention the rumors about her childhood misadventures, is a source of gossip and suspicion. And now, dark magic is returning to the woods and Greta’s magic-magic she is still trying to understand-may be the only thing that can save her. If it doesn’t kill her first..” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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In Venice the whole world meets: New mystery titles

In Venice the whole world meets,

― Daphne du Maurier, Don’t Look Now and Other Stories

In this week’s newly acquired detective and mystery titles we have not one, but two books which feature the world-famous Italian city of Venice.

The first comes in the form of the queen of crime Agatha Christie’s A Haunting in Venice, a film tie-in to celebrate the release of the new movie. Interestingly, A Haunting in Venice the novel was originally published as Hallowe’en Party and the book’s plot actually takes place in a small English town, not Italy. It is only the film, which heavily relies on the plot of the original novel, that moves the action to the more dramatic and striking location of a villa by a canal in Venice. The other Venice mystery novel is more directly location driven. The Borgia Portrait by David Hewson is a gripping crime thriller about the theft of a painting that quickly turns into a murder investigation.

The atmospheric and beautiful, slowly decaying, canals and buildings of Venice have long proved irresistible to crime and thriller writers. Just a few novels that have used the spectacular city of Venice as the backdrop for dastardly deeds include Donna Leon’s Death at La Fenice, first in the hugely popular series which revolves around the death of a conductor at the world famous La Fenice opera house; Georges Simenon’s The Venice Train, a classic crime novel featuring a train journey; and Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier, a superb gothic and spine-chilling thriller horror short story that perfectly  describes the eerier side of the city. The Nicolas Roeg film adaptation of Don’t Look Now is highly recommended too.  Other highly recommended mystery and thriller novels that use Venice as a backdrop include Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin and Alibi by Joseph Kanon.

Below are our other selected titles from this month’s newly acquired detective and mystery titles.

A haunting in Venice / Christie, Agatha
“The inspiration for A Haunting in Venice – now a major motion picture. When a Hallowe’en party turns deadly, it falls to Hercule Poirot to unmask a murderer…” (Adapted from Catalogue)



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Horrors to help us cope: New fiction Halloween special

Cartoon gif. Four skeletons hold hands and excitedly dance in a circle in a desolate cemetery with barren trees and gravestones.

We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.

-Stephen King.

Halloween is just round the corner, the boundaries between the realms are at their thinnest, and we are at that time of year when ghosts and ghouls,’ witches and troubled spirits are said to wander the earth. The library has a fabulous selection of spooky books for all ages and tastes. For this blog, we have decided to select some fresh blood in the form of  some newly acquired fiction titles that have a darker side. Blow you’ll find frightening tales from this very year!

A title that caught our particular eye for this All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, feast of reading is the new work from the modern maestro of horror Stephen King, called Holly. There is also a chilling debut novel from our own shores called Bunny by S. E.  Tolsen.  To round the chills off, there is a terrifying new anthology called A darker shade of noir : new stories of body horror by women writers .

All our selected works are sure to chill the blood, so perhaps they might be best read with the lights on full.

Holly : a novel / King, Stephen
” When Penny Dahl calls the Finders Keepers detective agency hoping for help locating her missing daughter, Holly is reluctant to accept the case. Her own mother has just died, and Holly is supposed to be taking time off. But something in Penny Dahl’s desperate voice makes it impossible for Holly to turn her down. Mere blocks from where Bonnie Dahl disappeared live Professors Rodney and Emily Harris. They are the picture of bourgeois respectability: married octogenarians, devoted to each other, semi-retired lifelong academics. But they are harbouring an unholy secret in their well-kept, book-lined home, one that may be related to Bonnie’s disappearance…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Bunny / Tolsen, S. E.
“Silas didn’t have a happy childhood. Aunt Bunny made sure of that. But out of money and almost out of time, Silas and his girlfriend Rose are forced to return to his childhood home. Back to the darkness, back to the woods, where addiction and hedonism are disguising something much more sinister … Plagued by strange, unnerving events, Silas is drawn back into the family by an ancient presence deep in the woods. It will not let him go, and neither will Bunny…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

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