“At night, here in the library, the ghosts have voices”: New SF and fantasy


At night, here in the library, the ghosts have voices.

Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

Welcome to another of our monthly round ups of our recently acquired science fiction and fantasy titles. It’s another month of rich variety, well demonstrated by the most recent title that caught our particular attention — a new horror anthology called Ghosts from the library : lost tales of terror and the supernatural.

Haunted libraries are a bit of thing, so we have taken this golden opportunity to look at some supposedly real-life haunted libraries!

First up is St. John’s College Library in Cambridge in the UK — this ancient library dates back to 1624. St John’s is said to be haunted by the headless ghost of Archbishop William Laud who supposedly terrifies readers by kicking his ghostly head along the floor — he was beheaded in 1645. It has been a very long time since anyone has reported seeing him doing this, though the sounds of unaccompanied footsteps have been reported in more recent times.  As the Deputy Librarian said of the hauntings  “we do know that Laud cared passionately about his library, and we like to think he has a friendly presence here.”

Felbrigg Hall library in Norfolk is haunted by its former owner who is said to return periodically to finish off reading books he didn’t have a chance to read when he was alive (we know that feeling well!). People report seeing his ghost seated at a library table or in a reading chair, and there is even one report that he can be summoned when a certain selection of his favourite books are put out.

One of the most haunted libraries in the world  is Senate House Library in London, which holds The famous Harry Price Collection of Magical Literature. This huge collection was amassed by paranormalist Harry Price 1881-1948 and focusses on work about witchcraft, occult, magic and the paranormal, as well as prophecies and spiritual phenomena. Many of the books in the collection are ultra-rare. Reported ghostly activity includes whispering when no one is around, floating books, loud laughter and even a mysterious spectral ‘Blue Lady.’

The State Library of Victoria in Melbourne dates back to 1854 and is said to be haunted by numerous ghosts, including a former librarian called Grace — said to be a benevolent elderly spirit. The library’s music room is also supposedly haunted by a snazzily dressed moustachioed ghost. In fact, there have been so many reports of hauntings in The State Library that several clairvoyants have been brought in to investigate.

Here in New Zealand, we can also lay claim to a library ghost — The Parliament Library built in 1883 and continued in 1899 is rumoured to be haunted, amongst others, by the ghost of former Dunedin MP William Larnach. William Larnach tried his hand at gold-digging, farming and then  worked as a banker before  eventually entering  Parliament as an MP in 1875. Records of the time report that he was known in parliament for his practical jokes as well as his ‘robustious egotism’ and ‘rough and blundering modes of speech’. Sadly he took his own life after financial and relationship troubles, however his ghost is alleged to cause disturbances in the library to this day.

Ghosts from the library : lost tales of terror and the supernatural
“It is said that books are written to bring sunshine into our dull, grey lives – to show us places we want to escape to, lives we want to live, people we want to love. But there are also stories that can only be found in the deepest, darkest corners of the library. Stories about the unexplained, of lost souls, of things that go bump before the silence. Before the screaming. And some stories just disappear. Stories printed in old newspapers, broadcast live on the wireless, sometimes not even published at all – these are the stories you cannot find on even the dustiest of library shelves. Ghosts from the Library resurrects forgotten tales of the supernatural by some of the most acclaimed mystery authors of all time.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The curator : a novel / King, Owen
“Dora, a former domestic servant at the university has a secret desire — to find where her brother went after he died, believing that the answer lies within The Museum of Psykical Research, where he worked when Dora was a child. With the city amidst a revolutionary upheaval, where citizens like Robert Barnes, her lover and a student radical, are now in positions of authority, Dora contrives to gain the curatorship of the half-forgotten museum only to find it all but burnt to the ground, with the neighboring museums oddly untouched. Robert offers her one of these, The National Museum of the Worker. However, neither this museum, nor the street it is hidden away on, nor Dora herself, are what they at first appear to be.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The fairy bargains of Prospect Hill / Miller, Rowenna
“On Prospect Hill, you can get nearly anything you want from the Fae — if you know how to ask and if you can pay the price. Generations ago, the first farmers on Prospect Hill learned to bargain small trades to make their lives a little easier — Alaine Fairborn’s family, however, was always superstitious, and she still hums the rhymes to find her lost shoe and ensure dry weather on her sister Delphine’s wedding day. But when Delphine confides her new husband is not the man she thought he was, Alaine will stop at nothing to help her sister escape his abuse… ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The lies of the Ajungo / Utomi, Moses Ose
“The Lies of the Ajungo, follows one boy’s epic quest to bring water back to his city and save his mother’s life. They say there is no water in the City of Lies. They say there are no heroes in the City of Lies. They say there are no friends beyond the City of Lies. But would you believe what they say in the City of Lies? In the City of Lies, they cut out your tongue when you turn thirteen, to appease the terrifying Ajungo Empire and make sure it continues sending water. Tutu will be thirteen in three days, but his parched mother won’t last that long. So Tutu goes to his oba and makes a deal: she provides water for his mother, and in exchange he will travel out into the desert and bring back water for the city…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Flux : a novel / Chong, Jinwoo
“A blazingly original and stylish debut novel about a young man whose reality unravels when he suspects his mysterious new employers have inadvertently discovered time travel — and are using it to cover up a string of violent crimes…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available, Flux eBook

Assassin of reality : a novel / Di︠a︡chenko, Marina
“In Vita Nostra, Sasha Samokhina, a third-year student at the Institute of Special Technologies, was in the middle of taking the final exam that would transform her into a part of the Great Speech. After defying her teachers’ expectations, Sasha emerges from the exam as Password, a unique and powerful part of speech. Accomplished and ready to embrace her new role, she soon learns her powers threaten the old world, and despite her hard work, Sasha is set to fail. However,  dark mentor, finds a way to bring her out of the oblivion and back to the Institute for his own selfish purposes…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The ten percent thief / Lakshminarayan, Lavanya
“A bold, bitingly satirical near-future mosaic novel about a city run along ‘meritocratic’ lines, the injustice it creates, and the revolution that will destroy it” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Feed them silence / Mandelo, Lee
“What does it mean to “be-in-kind” with a nonhuman animal? Or in Dr. Sean Kell-Luddon’s case, to be in-kind with one of the last remaining wild wolves? Using a neurological interface to translate her animal subject’s perception through her own mind, Sean intends to chase both her scientific curiosity and her secret, lifelong desire to experience the intimacy and freedom of wolfishness. To see the world through animal eyes; smell the forest, thick with olfactory messages; even taste the blood and viscera of a fresh kill. And, above all, to feel the belonging of the pack.  Her research methods threaten her mind and body. And the attention of her VC funders could destroy her subject, the beautiful wild wolf whose mental world she’s invading.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available, Feed them Silence eBook

If we were all as wise as we should be: New crime and mystery

If we were all as wise as we should be, we would have no stories to tell. ― Freeman Wills Croft

In this month’s newly acquired crime and mysteries titles we have the very welcome reissue of The Fatal venture by Freeman Wills Crofts, featuring Inspector French, which was originally published in 1939.

The Fatal venture is a book that dates from the golden age of detective fiction; crime books written mainly in the 1920s and 1930s (though books in the Golden age style are still written to this very day). The Inspector Joseph French mysteries largely employed the classic puzzle mystery template. Inspector French was unusual for a detective of the golden age, or sleuths in general, in that he has no major personal problems. He is happily married and is generally a very pleasant character. The novels were hugely popular in their time, and Inspector French featured in numerous short stories and twenty-nine novels.

One of the interesting things about golden age crime novels, including the Inspector Joseph French mysteries, was that they were written using the Ten crime Commandments. Below are those rules:

“The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know.

All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.

Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.

No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.

No Chinaman must figure in the story. (This rule is a very sad indictment of the racism present in mainstream Western culture at this time.)

No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.

The detective himself must not commit the crime.

The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover.

The “sidekick” of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.

Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.”

Below are our other selected crime and mystery titles from this months newly acquired titles.

Fatal venture / Crofts, Freeman Wills
“A classic crime novel by Freeman Wills Crofts, ‘The King of Detective Story Writers’, featuring Inspector French, coming soon to television.” (Adapted from Catalogue)



Green for danger / Brand, Christianna
“It is 1942, and at the new Kent military hospital Heron’s Park, postman Joseph Higgins delivers seven letters of acceptance for infirmary roles. He has no idea that one of the recipients will later cause his demise. When Higgins returns to Heron’s Park with injuries from a bombing raid in 1943, his inexplicable death in the operating theatre casts four nurses and three doctors under suspicion, and a second, sudden death brings Inspector Cockrill to the hospital. As an air raid detains the inspector for the night, the stage is set for a tense and claustrophobic investigation with a close-knit cast of suspects in this golden age masterclass of red herrings and tricky twists.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The golden spoon : a novel / Maxwell, Jessa
“When production for the tenth season of the hit cooking competition Bake Week begins at the gothic estate of the show’s host and founder, celebrity chef Betsy Martin, everything seems normal. The six contestants are eager to prove their culinary talents over the course of five days, while Betsy struggles for control of the show with her new co-host, the brash and unpredictable Archie Morris. But as the baking competition gets under way, things begin to go awry. At first it’s merely sabotage–sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high–but then someone shows up dead and suddenly everyone’s a suspect.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

How to kill men and get away with it / Brent, Katy
“A deliciously dark, hilariously twisted story about friendship, love, and murder. Meet Kitty Collins. Friend. Lover. Killer. When a guy from a nightclub follows her home, and won’t leave her alone– she kills him. Not intentionally, of course. But she isn’t sorry, and she appears to have got away with murder. That’s where here addiction started. She’s developed a taste for revenge.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Also available as an eBook.

Vera Wong’s unsolicited advice for murderers / Sutanto, Jesse Q
“Vera Wong is a lonely little old lady–ah, lady of a certain age–who lives above her forgotten tea shop in the middle of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite living alone, Vera is not needy, oh no. She likes nothing more than sipping on a good cup of Wulong and doing some healthy detective work on the Internet about what her college-aged son is up to. Then one morning, Vera trudges downstairs to find a curious thing–a dead man in the middle of her tea shop. In his outstretched hand, a flash drive. Vera knows the killer will be back for the flash drive; all she has to do is watch the increasing number of customers at her shop and figure out which one among them is the killer…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.
The girl by the bridge / Arnaldur Indriðason
“An elderly couple are worried about their granddaughter. They know she’s been smuggling drugs, and now she’s gone missing. Looking for help, they turn to Konrad, a former policeman whose reputation precedes him. Always absent-minded, he constantly ruminates on the fate of his father, who was stabbed to death decades ago. But digging into the past reveals much more than anyone set out to discover, and a little girl who drowned in the Reykjavik city pond unexpectedly captures everyone’s attention.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Portrait of a murder / Jecks, Michael
“Nick Morris is your classic struggling artist. He paints pet portraits to pay the bills but is always just one big commission away from a more comfortable life. Which is why he agrees to paint the reluctant, hot-tempered hotelier, Jason Robart. But Nick gets more than he bargained for when he finds Jason dead from a shotgun blast to the head in an apparent suicide. It turns out Jason owed money to everyone — including some unsavoury Russians. When his girlfriend Elizabeth goes missing, Nick is concerned, but so is Jason’s unpleasant business partner. Nick is knee deep in trouble and to escape he must find Elizabeth, uncover the truth of Jason’s death, and stay alive! If only he had stuck to painting cats…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A death in Denmark / Malladi, Amulya
“Everyone in Denmark knew that Yousef Ahmed, a refugee from Iraq, brutally murdered the right-wing politician Sanne Melgaard. So, when part-time blues musician, frustrated home renovator, and full-time private detective Gabriel Præst agrees to investigate the matter because his ex–the one who got away–asked him to, he knew it was a no-win case. But as Gabriel starts to ask questions, his face meets with the fists of Russian gangsters; the Danish prime minister asks him for a favor; and he starts to realize that something may be rotten in the state of Denmark.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

This wallpaper is dreadful: New fiction

“This wallpaper is dreadful, one of us will have to go.”
― Oscar Wilde

One of the many books that caught our eye in this month’s recently acquired fiction titles was The Company by J. M. Varese, a book about the real-life arsenic wallpaper controversy of the late 19th century. The book is a wonderful serving of haunting and dark Victoriana gothic.

Wallpaper has been hanging around for a long time. The main historical techniques of producing it were stencilling, hand-painting, and woodblock printing and date back to well before 1700. The Renaissance period gentry took to wallpaper big time, especially as it was inexpensive compared to the alternative at the time which were tapestries. Sometimes the wallpapers of the time copied tapestry designs, and artists such as Albrecht Dürer created large wallpaper type prints for the market. It was during this time that France and England quickly emerged as the world’s leading wallpaper manufactures, though Oliver Cromwell, and his Puritan government temporarily halted wallpaper production in England viewing it as “ frivolous”.

In the 18th century there was a big trend for scenic wallpapers which were enormous panoramic scenes. One of the most famous designers of the 19th century was William Morris and his floral arts and crafts designs, some of which are still in production to this day. The 20th century saw wallpaper becoming one of the most popular household items, with designers such as Andy Warhol creating designs for the booming market. These days there are a huge selection of designs and production techniques including custom wallpaper production and even wallpaper that blocks Wi-fi and mobile phone use.

Other books that caught our eye were David Keenan’s sprawling, daring, ambitious and experimental  Monument maker, Emma Hislop’s Ruin : and other stories and Her lost words : a novel of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Stephanie Thornton.

The company / Varese, J. M.
“Lucy Braithwhite lives a privileged existence as heir to the fortune of Braithwhite & Company — the most successful purveyor of English luxury wallpapers the world over. The company’s formulas have been respected for nearly a century, but have always remained cloaked in mystery. No one has been able to explain the originality of design, or the brilliance of their colours, leaving many to wonder if the mysterious spell-like effect of their wallpapers is due simply to artistry, or something more sinister…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Monument maker / Keenan, David
“An epic romance set in an eternal summer, and a descent into history and the errors of the past; a novel with a sweep and range that runs from the siege of Khartoum and the conquest of Africa in the 19th century through the Second World War and up to the present day, where the memories of one summer and an unforgettable love affair unravel.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Ruin : and other stories / Hislop, Emma
“Women and girls walk a perilously thin line between ruin and redemption in these stories as they try-with varying degrees of success-to outmanouver the violence that threatens to define their lives. There’s the physical violence of men against their bodies-and sometimes the violence they exact in revenge. While doubts about a romantic partner, an abandonment by a sister, the fallout of a parent’s porgnography addiction, the betrayal of a friend, even the desire to touch a stranger’s fur-like body are subtler aggressions that pack their own kinds of punches…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Her lost words : a novel of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley / Thornton, Stephanie
“As a child, Mary Wollstonecraft longed to disappear during her father’s violent rages. Instead, she transforms herself into the radical author of the landmark volume A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she dares to propose that women are equal to men. From conservative England to the blood-drenched streets of revolutionary France, Mary refuses to bow to society’s conventions and instead supports herself with her pen until an illicit love affair challenges her every belief about romance and marriage…” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Strangers in the night : a novel of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner / Webb, Heather
“She was the small-town southern beauty transformed into a Hollywood love goddess. He was the legendary crooner whose voice transfixed the world. They were Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. Separately they were irresistible; together they were an explosive combination. Ava’s star is rising just as Frank’s career–and public image as a family man–is taking a hit. Gone are the days of the screaming bobbysoxers and chart-topping hits. Ava, however, finds herself gracing the front page of every tabloid in America. Jealousy and cheating abound, and when the two succumb to their temperaments and their vices, their happiness is threatened at every turn…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fire rush / Crooks, Jacqueline
“Yamaye lives for the weekend, when she goes raving with her friends, the “Tombstone Estate gyals,” at The Crypt, an underground dub reggae club in their industrial town on the outskirts of London. Raised by her distant father after her mother’s disappearance when she was a girl, Yamaye craves the oblivion of sound – a chance to escape into the rhythms of those smoke-filled nights, to discover who she really is in the dance-hall darkness. When Yamaye meets Moose, a soulful carpenter who shares her Jamaican heritage, a path toward a different kind of future seems to open…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The bookbinder of Jericho / Williams, Pip
“It is 1914, and as the war draws the young men of Britain away to fight, women must keep the nation running. Two of those women are Peggy and Maude, twin sisters who live on a narrowboat in Oxford and work in the bindery at the university press. Ambitious, intelligent Peggy has been told for most of her life that her job is to bind the books, not read them-but as she folds and gathers pages, her mind wanders to the opposite side of Walton Street, where the female students of Oxford’s Somerville College have a whole library at their fingertips.  But as war and illness reshape her world, her love for a Belgian soldier-and the responsibility that comes with it-threaten to hold her back.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook

The best Japanese short stories : works by 14 modern masters : Kawabata, Akutagawa and more
“An anthology of the greatest stories by modern Japanese masters (including previously overlooked women writers). Fourteen distinct voices are assembled in this one-of-a-kind anthology tracing a nation’s changing social landscapes. Internationally renowned writers like Yasunari Kawabata, Ryunosuke Akutagawa and Junichi Watanabe are joined by three notable women writers whose works have not yet received sufficient attention–Kanoko Okamoto, Fumiko Hayashi and Yumiko Kurahashi.  The Best Japanese Short Stories offers fascinating glimpses of a society embracing change while holding tenaciously onto the past…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Many faces of Robin Hood. Recent science fiction and fantasy

Olivia De Havilland GIF by Turner Classic Movies
Image via Giphy

Lady Marian Fitzswalter: Why, you speak treason!   Robin Hood : Fluently. – The Adventures of Robin Hood 1938

We recently had the great pleasure of doing a launch event with the fabulous H.G. Parry for her new book The Magician’s Daughter. You can view a recording of that event at the end of this piece.

During that conversation, the subject of the Robin Hood legend came up as a continuing inspiration for writers, especially film and television directors. So, we thought what better excuse do we need to look at some of the versions, some of which are available to borrow.

Since the birth of film each age has created its own celluloid version of the Robin Hood myth. The idea of robbing from the rich to give to the poor has had universal appeal for a very long time. The first version we are going to look at is the The Adventures of Robin Hood  from 1938. This swaggering swashbuckling version which some people regard as the best Robin Hood movie of them all starred Errol Flynn as Robin Hood in his most acclaimed role. The supporting cast is pretty stellar too, featuring superstars of the era like Olivia De Havilland, Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains.

The 1973 Animated Walt Disney version featured characters recycled from The Jungle Book, the songs are fabulous and the whole venture is great family fun.

The definitive 1980’s version of the myth was the British television series called Robin of Sherwood, starring Michael Praed and later Jason Connery as Robin. Robin Hood was obviously a family affair in the Connery household, as Jason’s  father Sean played several different roles in several adaptations of the myth. The series looks fabulous despite being filmed on a shoestring budget, allegedly the Sherriff of Nottingham’s gold regalia was made from spray painted biscuits! The series was hugely popular at the time and became the template for many of the later adaptations.

In the 90’s, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner and another stellar cast of the time: including Alan Rickman, Mike McShane and Sean Connery. The single from the soundtrack, (Everything I Do) I Do It for You by Bryan Adams, hit the number one slot globally, was the best-selling single of that year, and one of the best-selling singles of all time.

The 2010 Ridley Scott directed Robin Hood, film starring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, is a much grittier and more visceral affair.

Other recently acquired Fantasy and Science fiction titles that caught our attention are listed below.
The magician’s daughter / Parry, H. G.
“It is 1912, and for the last seventy years magic has all but disappeared from the world. Yet magic is all Biddy has ever known. Orphaned as a baby, Biddy grew up on Hy-Brasil, a legendary island off the coast of Ireland hidden by magic and glimpsed by rare travelers who return with stories of wild black rabbits and a lone magician in a castle. To Biddy, the island is her home, a place of ancient trees and sea-salt air and mysteries, and the magician, Rowan, is her guardian. She loves both, but as her seventeenth birthday approaches, she is stifled by her solitude and frustrated by Rowan’s refusal to let her leave…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The crane husband / Barnhill, Kelly Regan
” A fifteen-year-old teenager is the backbone of her small Midwestern family, budgeting the household finances and raising her younger brother while her mother, a talented artist, weaves beautiful tapestries. For six years, it’s been just the three of them–her mother has brought home guests at times, but none have ever stayed. Yet when her mother brings home a six-foot tall crane with a menacing air, the girl is powerless to prevent her mom letting the intruder into her heart, and her children’s lives. Utterly enchanted and numb to his sharp edges, her mother abandons the world around her to weave the masterpiece the crane demands…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi : a novel / Chakraborty, S. A.
“Amina al-Sirafi should be content. After a storied and scandalous career as one of the Indian Ocean’s most notorious pirates, she’s survived backstabbing rogues, vengeful merchant princes, several husbands, and one actual demon to retire peacefully with her family to a life of piety, motherhood, and absolutely nothing that hints of the supernatural. But when she’s tracked down by the obscenely wealthy mother of a former crewman, she’s offered a job no bandit could refuse: retrieve her comrade’s kidnapped daughter for a kingly sum. The chance to have one last adventure with her crew, do right by an old friend, and win a fortune that will secure her family’s future forever? It seems like such an obvious choice that it must be God’s will. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Our share of night : a novel / Enriquez, Mariana
“In 1981, a young father and son set out on a road trip across Argentina, devastated by the mysterious death of the wife and mother they both loved. United in grief, the pair travels to her family home near Iguazú Falls, where they must confront the horrific legacy she has bequeathed. For the woman they are grieving came from a family like no other–a centuries-old secret society called the Order that pursues eternal life through ghastly rituals. For Gaspar, the son, this cult is his destiny. As Gaspar grows up he must learn to harness his developing supernatural powers, while struggling to understand what kind of man his mother wanted him to be…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The foxglove king / Whitten, Hannah
“When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city. Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The scarlet circus / Yolen, Jane
“A rakish fairy meets the real Juliet behind Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. A jewelry artist travels to the past to meet a successful silver-smith. The addled crew of a ship at sea discovers a mysterious merman. More than one ignored princess finds her match in the most unlikely men. From ecstasy to tragedy, with love blossoming shyly, love at first sight, and even love borne of practical necessity–beloved fantasist Jane Yolen’s newest collection celebrates romance in all its glory.”–Publisher marketing” (Catalogue)

Godkiller / Kaner, Hannah
“You are not welcome here, godkiller. Kissen’s family were killed by zealots of a fire god. Now, she makes a living killing gods, and enjoys it. That is until she finds a god she cannot kill: Skedi, a god of white lies, has somehow bound himself to a young noble, and they are both on the run from unknown assassins. Joined by a disillusioned knight on a secret quest, they must travel to the ruined city of Blenraden, where the last of the wild gods reside, to each beg a favour. Pursued by demons, and in the midst of burgeoning civil war, they will all face a reckoning — something is rotting at the heart of the kingdom, and only they can be the ones to stop it.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The destroyer of worlds : a return to Lovecraft country / Ruff, Matt
“Summer, 1957. Atticus Turner and his father, Montrose, travel to North Carolina, where they plan to mark the centennial of their ancestor’s escape from slavery by retracing the route he took into the Great Dismal Swamp. But an encounter with an old nemesis turns their historical reenactment into a real life-and-death pursuit.  Yet these troubles are soon eclipsed by the return of Caleb Braithwhite. Stripped of his magic and banished from Chicago at the end of Lovecraft Country, he’s found a way back into power and is ready to pick up where he left off. But first he has a score to settle…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

“Dead men are heavier than broken hearts”: new crime & thriller titles

Humphrey Bogart Book GIF by Warner Archive

“Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.”

Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

Philip Marlowe is one of the most iconic characters of the hard-boiled fiction genre, created by crime writing maestro Raymond Chandler. In this month’s selection of recently acquired crime and thriller titles, Philip Marlowe makes a return thanks to the ever versatile and fabulously gifted writer John Banville.

Philip Marlowe first hit print in 1939 in The Big Sleep. The eponymous detective came to encapsulate all of the hard-boiled crime genres major tropes. A hard-drinking, wise-cracking private eye who frequently drank unfiltered coffee and, in his quieter moments, enjoyed poetry and chess. There have been numerous film adaptations featuring the Philip Marlowe character, including the 1946 film noir classic The Big Sleep by Howard Hawks, in which Humphrey DeForest Bogart plays Marlowe; a film that is now regarded as one of the Golden Age’s film noir classics (click here to borrow that film). Raymond Chandler said his creation was born from the crime pulp  magazines he so often featured in.

Marlowe : a novel / Banville, John
“‘It was one of those Tuesday afternoons in summer when you wonder if the earth has stopped revolving.’ So begins a new novel featuring Philip Marlowe–yes, that Philip Marlowe. Channeling Raymond Chandler, John Banville has brought Marlowe back to life for a new adventure on the mean streets of Bay City, California. It is the early 1950s, Marlowe is as restless and lonely as ever, and business is a little slow. Then a new client is shown in: blond, beautiful, and expensively dressed, she wants Marlowe to find her former lover. Almost immediately, Marlowe discovers that the man’s disappearance is merely the first in a series of bewildering events, and soon he is tangling with one of Bay City’s richest–and most ruthless–families.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The motion picture teller / Cotterill, Colin
“Thailand, 1996: Supot, a postman with the Royal Thai Postal Service, hates his job. The only bright light in his life is watching classic movies with his best friend, Ali, the owner of a video store. These cinephiles adore the charisma of the old Western stars, particularly the actresses, and bemoan the state of modern Thai cinema-until a mysterious cassette, entitled Bangkok 2010, arrives at Ali’s store. Bangkok 2010 is a dystopian film set in a Thailand run by chauvinistic Security Council officers-and Supot and Ali, immediately obsessed, agree it’s the most brilliant Thai movie they’ve ever seen… ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The burning pages : a Scottish bookshop mystery / Shelton, Paige
“One winter’s night, bookseller Delaney Nichols and her coworker Hamlet are invited to a Burns Night dinner. She’s perplexed by the invitation, but intrigued. The dinner takes place at Burns House itself, a tiny cottage not far from the Cracked Spine bookshop but well hidden. There, it becomes clear that Delaney and Hamlet were summoned in an attempt to make amends between Edwin, Delaney’s boss, and one of the other invitees, who suspected Edwin for burning down his own bookshop twenty years ago after a professional disagreement. But after the dinner, there’s another fire.  When Hamlet is accused of the crime, Delaney rushes to prove his innocence, only to discover that he might actually have a plausible motive.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an Audiobook.

A death in Tokyo : a mystery / Higashino, Keigo
” In the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo an unusual statue of a Japanese mythic beast – a kirin – stands guard over the district from the classic Nihonbashi bridge. In the evening, a man who appears to be very drunk staggers onto the bridge and collapses right under the statue of the winged beast. The patrolman who sees this scene unfold, goes to rouse the man, only to discover that the man was not passed out, he was dead; that he was not drunk, he was stabbed in the chest. However, where he died was not where the crime was committed – the key to solving the crime is to find out where he was attacked and why he made such a super human effort to carry himself to the Nihonbashi Bridge….” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Pudding Lane plot / Gregory, Susanna
“As the people and businesses of London are quickly recovering from the ravages of the plague, in Westminster, plans are afoot for a grandiose ball in honour of a long-dead but English-born Pope. Meanwhile, the markets and coffee houses in the city are awash with rumours of war and portents of a coming disaster. Mysterious killings at both ends of the capital have been caused by an unusually long, slender blade, and Thomas Chaloner is ordered to investigate. This leads him into a tapestry of conspiracy, outlandish claims of the Second Coming, the reappearance of a number of regicides and ever more brazen killings. As the date of the great ball looms closer, Chaloner fears that there is a dangerously credible conspiracy against the throne, and he has very little time to prevent history from repeating itself.”(Adapted from Catalogue)

The mysterious case of the Alperton Angels / Hallett, Janice
“Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police? Everyone knows the story of the Alperton Angels: the cult-like group who were convinced one of their member’s babies was the anti-Christ, and they had a divine mission to kill it – until the baby’s mother, Holly, came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than go to prison, and Holly – and the baby – disappeared into the care system. Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels.  This story is far from over – and it won’t have a happy ending.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The white lady : a novel / Winspear, Jacqueline
” Elinor White–veteran of two wars, trained killer, protective of her anonymity–is drawn back into the world of menace she has been desperate to leave behind. A reluctant ex-spy with demons of her own, Elinor finds herself facing down one of the most dangerous organized crime gangs in London, ultimately exposing corruption from Scotland Yard to the highest levels of government.Yet in her quest to uncover the truth behind the family’s pursuit of Jim, Elinor unwittingly sets out on a treacherous path–yet it is one that leads to her freedom.” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an eBook.

The London Séance Society / Penner, Sarah
“1873. At an abandoned château on the outskirts of Paris, a dark séance is about to take place, led by acclaimed spiritualist Vaudeline D’Allaire. Known worldwide for her talent in conjuring the spirits of murder victims to ascertain the identities of the people who killed them, she is highly sought after by widows and investigators alike. Lenna Wickes has come to Paris to find answers about her sister’s death, but to do so, she must embrace the unknown and overcome her own logic-driven bias against the occult. When Vaudeline is beckoned to England to solve a high-profile murder, Lenna accompanies her as an understudy. But as the women team up with the powerful men of London’s exclusive Séance Society to solve the mystery…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

K-pop, prize winners, and someone else’s shoes: New fiction picks


The only time you should ever look back, is to see how far you’ve come.

Bangtan Boys, Butterfly

Y/N, a novel by Esther Yi, on our catalogueWelcome to another of our monthly selections of the recently acquired fiction. Regular readers will know that each month we like to have special look at one of the inspirations behind one of the new titles, and this month, one novel that drew our particular attention was Y/N by  Esther Yi in which the main protagonist obsesses over Moon, a major K-pop star.

In recent years the popularity of  K-pop has exploded — it is now number six in the top ten music markets worldwide, and experienced a massive 44.8% growth in sales in 2020 alone. K-pop has of course been around a lot longer. Whilst the term K-pop (short for Korean popular music) became popular in an international sense in the 2000s, it has been around in its modern incarnation since the 1990s, when it was described as “rap dance”. One of the first K-pop acts to really hit public attention in a big way was the hip hop boy band Seo Taiji and Boys. The scene  quickly grew into a major youth subculture in South Korea — a subculture that eventually broke into the  neighbouring Japanese market and from there, out across the globe. These days it embraces a huge range of genres and styles into its musical arms, such as hip hop, R&B, jazz, gospel, electronic music, reggae, pop, folk, disco, classical and also traditional Korean music often mashed up into one eutrophic mix.

Other titles in our picks this month include Margaret Atwood’s new collection of stories called Old babes in the woods, and Jojo Moyes’ Someone else’s shoes. Have a browse!

Y/N : a novel / Yi, Esther
“The narrator, a Korean American woman living in Berlin, is obsessed with Moon: anything not-Moon in her life fell away when she beheld the K-pop idol in concert. Moon dances as if his movements are creating their own gravitational field. Seized by ineffable desire, she begins writing Y/N fanfic — in which you, the reader, insert [Your/Name] and play out an intimate relationship with the unattainable star. When Moon suddenly retires from the wildly popular K-pop group, the woman journeys to Korea in search of the object of her love. She locates the headquarters of the company that manages the boyband; at a secret location, together with Moon at last, art and real life approach their final convergence.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

River spirit : a novel / Aboulela, Leila
“This enchanting and eye-opening new novel from Caine Prize winner Leila Aboulela follows an embattled young woman coming of age during the Mahdist War in nineteenth-century Sudan, and illuminates the tensions that shape her course: between Britain and Sudan, Christianity and Islam, colonizer and colonized. In River Spirit, Aboulela gives us the unforgettable story of a people who — against the odds and for a brief time — gained independence from foreign rule through their willpower, subterfuge, and sacrifice.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Old babes in the woods : stories / Atwood, Margaret
“These stories explore the full warp and weft of experience, from two best friends disagreeing about their shared past, to the right way to stop someone from choking; from a daughter determining if her mother really is a witch, to what to do with inherited relics such as Second World War parade swords. They feature beloved cats, a confused snail, Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell, philosopher-astronomer-mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria, a cabal of elderly female academics and an alien tasked with retelling human fairy tales. At the heart of the collection is a stunning sequence that follows a married couple as they travel the road together, the moments big and small that make up a long life of love – and what comes after.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The unfortunates : a novel / Chukwu, J K.
“Sahara is Not Okay. Entering her sophomore year at Elite University, she feels like a failure: her body is too curvy, her love life is nonexistent, her family is disappointed in her, her grades are terrible, and, well, the few Black classmates she has just keep dying. Sahara is close to giving up, herself: her depression is, as she says, her only “Life Partner.” And this narrative–taking the form of an irreverent, piercing “thesis” to the university committee that will judge her–is meant to be a final unfurling of her singular, unforgettable voice before her own inevitable disappearance and death. But over the course of this wild sophomore year, and supported by her eccentric community of BIPOC women, Sahara will eventually find hope, answers, and an unexpected redemption.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The woman with the cure / Cullen, Lynn
“In 1940s and ’50s America, polio is as dreaded as the atomic bomb. No one’s life is untouched by this disease that kills or paralyzes its victims, particularly children. Outbreaks of the virus across the country regularly put American cities in lockdown. Some of the world’s best minds are engaged in the race to find a vaccine. The man who succeeds will be a god. But Dorothy Horstmann is not focused on beating her colleagues to the vaccine. She just wants the world to have a cure. Applying the same determination that lifted her from a humble background as the daughter of immigrants, to becoming a doctor — often the only woman in the room — she hunts down the monster where it lurks: in the blood… ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The great reclamation / Heng, Rachel
“Ah Boon is born into a fishing village amid the heat and beauty of twentieth-century coastal Singapore in the waning years of British rule. He is a gentle boy who is not much interested in fishing, preferring to spend his days playing with the neighbor girl, Siok Mei. But when he discovers he has the unique ability to locate bountiful, movable islands that no one else can find, he feels a new sense of obligation and possibility — something to offer the community and impress the spirited girl he has come to love. By the time they are teens, Ah Boon and Siok Mei are caught in the tragic sweep of history…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Someone else’s shoes / Moyes, Jojo
“A story of mix-ups, mess-ups and making the most of second chances. Who are you when you are forced to walk in someone else’s shoes? Nisha Cantor and Sam Kemp are two very different women. Nisha, 45, lives the globetrotting life of the seriously wealthy, until her husband inexplicably cuts her off entirely. She doesn’t even have the shoes she was, until a moment ago, standing in. That’s because Sam – 47, middle-aged, struggling to keep herself and her family afloat – has accidentally taken Nisha’s gym bag. Now Nisha’s got nothing. And Sam’s walking tall with shoes that catch eyes – and give her a career an unexpected boost…” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also available as an Audiobook

She and her cat / Shinkai, Makoto
“With clever narration alternating between the cats and their owners, She and Her Cat offers a unique and sly commentary on human foibles and our desire for connection. A whimsical short story anthology unlike any other, it effortlessly demonstrates that even in our darkest, most lonesome moments, we are still united to this wonderous world – -often in ways we could never have expected…” (Adapted from Catalogue)