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.