THE LAST HOURS by Minette Walters, Allen & Unwin.
Minette Walters switches from crime writing to historic fiction, venturing into the time of the Black Death. It’s June 1348 and the dreadful illness shows no discrimination between landed gentry and serfs, as all fall prey to its hideous rampage. In Dorset County, Lady Anne, in the absence of her husband Sir Richard, takes charge and quarantines her people within the grounds of the manor house, separated from the contagious outside world by wall and moat. Even her husband won’t be permitted entry. Anne enlists the support of her serfs – in particular the bastard slave, Thaddeus Thurkell – to help the group survive. This enrages her teenage daughter, Eleanor, whose behaviour is the catalyst for a terrible event that forces a group to leave the safety of the manor. What will they find, and will they return? The answers leave things well set up for next year’s sequel.
A QUESTION OF TRUST by Penny Vincenzi, Hachette.
In 1936, postman’s son Tom Knelston and society beauty Diana Southcott are embarking on their adult lives. Tom has political aspirations, while Diana is set on securing a wealthy husband. Over 20 years, their disparate lives intersect through the changing landscape of mid-century society. While Diana finds an unexpected path to a rewarding career, Tom remains committed to his Labour Party values, but is at risk of losing everything when the pair become engulfed in an illicit passion. He is further challenged when a child’s life is in danger, and he must make a choice that will threaten the very core of his beliefs. A quintessentially British romp.
ORIGIN by Dan Brown, Penguin/ Random House.
The latest labyrinthine thriller from Dan Brown sees his hero Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, in Barcelona fighting for his own survival as he seeks to unravel another scientific mystery. One that relates to a discovery that will challenge the world’s beliefs about where humanity has come from and where it will go. Rich in architectural descriptions and deeply thought-provoking, with the thrill of the chase as Robert endeavours to out-run and out-smart his pursuers, this will provide new excitement for fans of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.
FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper, Macmillan.
If you’ve ever had to front up to a work-enforced team-building weekend, then you might identify with the five women who are randomly picked by their firm to hike the rugged Giralang Ranges in Australia. None of them seem overly happy to have been selected, particularly ambitious A-type personality Alice Russell. When the group returns from the orienteering exercise minus Alice, a massive search is mounted. This thrilling read brings back Jane Harper’s flawed Federal Police Agent Aaron Fall from her bestselling debut The Dry,a novel optioned for movie development by Reese Witherspoon, who recently won great acclaim for Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. Like the Moriarty crime-thriller, Force of Nature flits backwards and forth in time to give you different character perspectives of how events unfolded. In doing so, it will keep you wondering what really happened right up to the very end.
SWEET LITTLE LIES by Caz Frear, Allen & Unwin.
This thriller, set between Ireland and London, follows Detective Constable Cat Kinsella as she investigates a murder that has potential ties to a personal crime from her childhood, when a girl she idolised disappeared and her wee bit dodgy dad might have played a part in it. Cat’s a fantastic lead character – darkly, darkly funny and good at her job – and this is a serious ripper of a read, particularly for a debut novel.
BARRY CRUMP COLLECTED STORIES, Potton & Burton.
An important figure in New Zealand’s literary heritage, Barry Crump popularised the rugged Kiwi outdoor man in his comedic storytelling. Two decades after his death, many of his books are now out of print, so it’s something special to see five of his tales republished in one volume. The collection includes his first, A Good Keen Man, and Wild Pork and Watercress, which was the inspiration for the international movie success, Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
SEVEN DAYS OF US by Francesca Hornak, Hachette.
For the Birch family, Christmas means seven days of quarantine, due to daughter Olivia’s return from medical work in Africa. But being confined to their Norfolk home is not easy, especially when two uninvited guests arrive and devastating secrets are revealed. Witty, empathetic and ideal for this time of year.