Commuting can be tedious, but it can also be an opportunity to indulge in your hobbies – and for me, that means ploughing through as many books as I can whilst shuttling between Cambridge and London King’s Cross. I’ve been trying to read a wider variety of books this year – my usual thrillers and crime fiction, alongside biographies, chick lit, historical fiction, short stories, fantasy, classics and romance novels. I set out with the aim of reading fifty-odd books; I’ve read almost double that. (It’s a good job Cambridge Central Library is so well stocked.) If, like yours truly, you’re a huge fan of The Apprentice and are already mourning the end of another series, I urge you to grab a copy of Unscripted and a cuppa, ready to relive a decade’s worth of cock-ups, gaffes and blunders. Here are my top picks from this quarter, in no particular order . . .
Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult
Jodi Picoult is one of my all-time favourite authors, and my bookshelf (the literal, physical one) contains a dozen or so dog-eared copies of her books. Small Great Things is an absolute triumph; a book I would happily read again and again. African-American Ruth is a dedicated midwife, caught in a catch-22: disobey her supervisor or let an innocent baby die. Turk is a white supremacist, and when his baby dies there’s no question of who he’ll hold accountable for his tragedy. Kennedy is a public defender, and this case could be her big break. Picoult tackles the complex web of race, prejudice and privilege head-on, with a prickly moral dilemma that challenges readers’ own views and actions. She picks up on the minutest of details that separate the privileged from the disadvantaged; the things that unite and divide us. Small Great Things paints a picture that some will deny to be true, but the state of affairs across the pond these days says otherwise (I’m looking at you, Mr Tangerine).
Shadow of the Hangman – Edward Marston
Usually, I’m too preoccupied with crime fiction and thrillers to give historical fiction a second glance. I didn’t proofread any of Edward Marston’s books when I interned at Allison & Busby a couple of summers ago, so when I spotted a shelf bursting at the seams (the joints?) with his books, I figured I’d give one a whirl. Shadow of the Hangman, the first in the Bow Street Rivals series, is packed with mysteries, all seamlessly woven together by an author who is clearly a master of his craft. London, 1815. Viscount Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, is in a quandary: a massacre has taken place at Dartmoor, and two prisoners have escaped and are out for blood. If their demands aren’t met, Viscount Sidmouth will pay with his life. Tasked with flushing out the fugitives are Peter and Paul Skillen, identical twins who are well-versed in catching those who attempt to evade justice. Every step of the way, the Skillen brothers come up against Micah Yeomans and his troop of halfwits, the Bow Street Runners. Expect comedy, intrigue and trouble by the bucketful.
The Last Place You Look – Kristen Lepionka
I’m often sceptical of supermarket fiction, as a lot of it errs on the trashy side, but I couldn’t say no to this book’s meagre price tag. The Last Place You Look is a gritty, gripping thriller and one which kept me guessing until the closing pages. (I’m very critical of the books I read, so I don’t use such adjectives liberally.) Fifteen years ago, Sarah Cook vanished and her parents were brutally murdered in their home. Brad Stockton, her boyfriend, was tried and convicted for their murders. Case closed – or so everyone thought. Now, with his execution date set and the clock ticking, Brad’s sister employs PI Roxane Weary to take another look at his case. Suspecting a link between Sarah’s disappearance and one of her father’s unsolved cases, Roxane delves into the past – but the past doesn’t want to be found, and someone will go to any length to stop her from getting to the truth.
I Let You Go – Clare Mackintosh
I’ve had a bounty of cracking thrillers recently, but this one really has the edge. It’s one of those rare books that lives up to – scratch that, exceeds – the expectations set by the endorsements plastered across the cover. I Let You Go opens with a tragic hit-and-run accident in which a five-year-old boy is killed. Sensing that the only way to move on is to move away, Jenna Gray relocates to a tumbledown cottage on the Welsh coast and begins to rebuild her life. Meanwhile, in Bristol, DI Ray Stevens and DC Kate Evans attempt to track down the driver, but with no leads they are soon forced to shelve the case. When new information comes to light on the anniversary of the accident, Ray and Kate find themselves with more questions than answers. With more twists and turns than a Welsh country lane, this plot will linger with you long after you turn the final page.
Titles | October – December 2017
Blood Mist (Mark Roberts) / Head of State (Andrew Marr) / The Farm (Tom Rob Smith) / Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) / The Best of Me (Nicholas Sparks) / Rogue Lawyer (John Grisham) / Dead Silent (Mark Roberts) / Small Great Things (Jodi Picoult) / Death of a Liar (M.C. Beaton) / Blood on Snow (Jo Nesbo) / Shadow of the Hangman (Edward Marston) / Where There’s Smoke (Simon Beckett) / Saving Sophie (Sam Carrington) / The Last Place You Look (Kristen Lepionka) / Sunshine with a Chance of Snow (and other stories) (Carole Matthews) / Je Voudrais Que Quelqu’un M’Attend Quelque Part (Anna Gavalda) / The Senior Vice President (Jeffrey Archer) / Unscripted (Alan Sugar) / Falling (Emma Kavanagh) / Confessions of a Sociopath (M.E. Thomas) / I Let You Go (Clare Mackintosh) / Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver) / The Final Silence (Stuart Neville) / I Hear the Sirens in the Street (Adrian McKinty) / Too Much Happiness (Alice Munro) / Shine (Jodi Picoult) / The Bone Seeker (MJ McGrath) / A Year in Provence (Peter Mayle) / A Street Cat Named Bob (James Bowen) / When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)