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Sunday Herald Life - - Books Interview - By Alas­tair Mab­bott

STICK TO­GETHER

So­phie Hé­naff (Ma­cle­hose Press, £14.99)

Be­hind a fetch­ing graphic novel-style cover lurks the se­quel to this French au­thor’s Awk­ward Squad, in which Com­mis­saire Anne Capes­tan’s team of mis­fits solved three cold cases and ex­posed cor­rup­tion in the Paris police force. As Stick To­gether opens, they’re de­spised by their police col­leagues and feel­ing anx­ious and un­ap­pre­ci­ated. Out of the blue, how­ever, Capes­tan is given another case: the mur­der of her ex-hus­band’s fa­ther, also a Com­mis­saire. She wants to solve it, of course, and the dis­cov­ery of an iden­ti­cal mur­der in Provence could be the lead she needs, but with­out an­tag­o­nis­ing other teams who work­ing on the case. Her per­sis­tent feel­ings for her ex-hus­band, who broke up with her in the last book, also muddy the waters. The idea of a team of out­siders re­jected by other police de­part­ments isn’t ex­actly orig­i­nal, but their ec­cen­tric­i­ties and un­con­ven­tional meth­ods give this novel a unique, play­ful edge.

THE SE­CRET LIFE

An­drew O’Ha­gan (Faber & Faber, £9.99)

Au­thor and jour­nal­ist O’Ha­gan ex­plores the strange hin­ter­land where cy­berspace meets the real world in “three sto­ries of the dig­i­tal age”. Hav­ing agreed to ghost-write Ju­lian As­sange’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, he is frus­trated by the dis­par­ity be­tween the Wik­ileaks founder’s ethic of free in­for­ma­tion and his con­trol­ling ten­den­cies when it comes to in­for­ma­tion about him­self. In Aus­tralia, he is ap­proached to write a book about Craig Wright, the web de­vel­oper who claims to have in­vented bitcoin, but finds him­self in­stead in a metaphor­i­cal hall of mir­rors. It’s in­ter­est­ing enough, but a bit thin, un­til O’Ha­gan the nov­el­ist comes to the res­cue of O’Ha­gan the jour­nal­ist in a piece which tells of how he used a dead man’s iden­tity to cre­ate a false per­sona which took on a mo­men­tum of its own. It’s a dis­con­cert­ing and melan­choly tale that this some­what un­der­cooked book needed.

TO THE BACK OF BE­YOND

Peter Stamm (Granta, £8.99) Swiss hus­band and fa­ther Thomas walks out on his fam­ily the night they re­turn from hol­i­day, gripped by a com­pul­sion to dis­ap­pear into the moun­tains. While he hikes across the coun­try­side, stay­ing away from roads and sleep­ing un­der the stars, his wife Astrid is left be­wil­dered. There have been no ar­gu­ments, no in­di­ca­tion that he was about to aban­don them. But Astrid re­mem­bers times when she too felt like walk­ing away from her re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and feels an un­break­able bond with Thomas, de­spite his ab­sence. Stamm’s prose (ex­pertly trans­lated from the Ger­man by Michael Hoff­man) is sim­ple, un­adorned and eerily calm, cre­at­ing an al­most dream­like mood which con­veys the sense of un­re­al­ity sur­round­ing sud­den events like this, while en­cour­ag­ing us to lok past im­me­di­ate cri­sis and con­sider what’s go­ing on un­der the sur­face. An unexpected turn of events gives this haunt­ing novel a sec­ond wind in its clos­ing stages.

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