Big sum­mer read guide

From thrillers, to hu­mour, es­capism and bi­og­ra­phy, here are Su­san Swar­brick’s sum­mer picks

The Herald - The Herald Magazine - - Contents - Find­ers, Keep­ers by Sabine Dur­rant (Hod­der & Stoughton, £14.99)


A Knock At The Door by T W El­lis (Sphere, £18.99)

This su­perb thriller hooks you in from its open­ing gam­bit. A frag­ile woman is alone in an iso­lated house while her hus­band works away. There’s a knock at the door, the two FBI agents who stand out­side im­part a bone-chill­ing mes­sage: “Your hus­band isn’t who he claims to be.” Mo­ments later the house tele­phone be­gins to ring. A voice re­lays an­other mes­sage: “Don’t trust them. They’re ly­ing. Run.” Strap in for a mes­meris­ing game of cat and mouse packed with twists.

The Wait­ing Rooms by Eve Smith (Orenda, £8.99)

A timely read set in a world where decades of mush­room­ing drug re­sis­tance has led to a global an­tibi­otic cri­sis. Once treat­able in­fec­tions now run ram­pant and a sim­ple scratch from a pet can kill. A sac­ri­fice has been made for the greater good: over-70s won’t be al­lowed new an­tibi­otics. The el­derly are sent to fa­cil­i­ties dubbed “The Wait­ing Rooms” to see out their days. Amid the tur­moil, a woman is seek­ing her birth mother and it soon be­comes clear she’s not alone in her quest.

Fi­nal Cut by S J Wat­son (Dou­ble­day, £12.99, pub­lished Au­gust 6)

His de­but psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller, Be­fore I Go To Sleep, was a global best­seller shift­ing more than six mil­lion copies and adapted into a film star­ring Ni­cole Kidman and Mark Strong. Fi­nal Cut is about an am­bi­tious doc­u­men­tary film­maker who, strug­gling to re­peat the suc­cess of an ac­claimed ear­lier project, de­cides to cap­ture life in a for­merly thriv­ing sea­side re­sort. She dis­cov­ers a ghost town, shrouded in mys­tery, filled with hid­den whis­pers and that bris­tles with dan­ger.


The New Girl by Har­riet Walker (Hod­der & Stoughton, £12.99)

When glam­orous fash­ion editor Mar­got Jones be­comes preg­nant, she needs ma­ter­nity cover to step into her shoes at glossy mag­a­zine Haute. It can’t just be any­one – the per­son has to want to vacate the job af­ter­wards. Her hand­picked can­di­date Mag­gie Beecher seems per­fect. Un­til, that is, Mag­gie’s mo­tives be­come shady. Mean­while, Mar­got finds her­self ghosted by a friend with whom she shares a murky past. As sus­pi­cion and para­noia spi­ral, the lines blur be­tween real and imag­ined.

The Other Pas­sen­ger by Louise Can­dlish (Si­mon & Schus­ter, £14.99)

This grip­ping com­muter thriller oozes sus­pense from its open­ing pages. Jamie is a water rat, part of a group of Lon­don­ers who travel to work along the Thames by river­boat. Then one morn­ing ev­ery­thing changes. Jamie has kept a seat for his friend Kit, but he doesn’t show up. He pre­sumes that Kit must be sleep­ing off a hang­over, but the police are wait­ing at the other end. Kit’s wife Melia has re­ported her hus­band miss­ing and all fingers are point­ing to­wards Jamie’s in­volve­ment.

Ailsa Til­son is seek­ing a fresh start with her fam­ily: a new house, new peo­ple, new friends. Life in Trin­ity Fields is a chance to ban­ish the past.

Ver­ity Bax­ter has lived in Trin­ity Fields all her life. She dis­likes change, keeps to her­self and rarely ven­tures be­yond her patch. When the Til­sons move in next door, Ver­ity’s interest is piqued. Fas­ci­na­tion breeds ob­ses­sion as their lives be­come in­ter­twined. The ad­join­ing walls are thin and as Ver­ity lis­tens, guilty se­crets be­gin to un­ravel.


Ash Moun­tain by Helen FitzGer­ald (Orenda, £8.99, pub­lished Au­gust 20, avail­able now in e-book)

From the au­thor of The Cry comes a haunt­ing por­trait of small-town life. Ash Moun­tain. Pop­u­la­tion: 867. A place that Fran swore blind she would es­cape for­ever, but when her father be­comes gravely ill, she leaves be­hind a dead-end job in the city to re­turn. Be­ing back in Ash Moun­tain sees old friend­ships, fes­ter­ing ri­val­ries and long-buried mis­de­meanours resur­face amid the un­re­lent­ing heat of the Aus­tralian sum­mer as the threat of life-chang­ing catas­tro­phe looms.

The Big Chill by Doug John­stone (Orenda, £8.99, pub­lished Au­gust 20, avail­able now in e-book)

The sec­ond in­stal­ment in Doug John­stone’s bril­liantly drawn and blackly comic se­ries comes hot on the heels of A Dark Mat­ter. The Skelfs are three gen­er­a­tions of Ed­in­burgh women who run a funeral di­rec­tor busi­ness with a sideline as pri­vate in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Death hangs in the air. The book opens with a high-speed police chase through a ceme­tery and a jaw-drop­ping car crash into an open grave. Mean­while, a mu­sic stu­dent has van­ished and the Skelfs are re­ceiv­ing trou­bling threats.

The End of Her by Shari Lapena (Ban­tam Press, £12.99, pub­lished July 23)

Stephanie Kil­gour has an idyl­lic life: a dot­ing hus­band, new-born twins and a house in a de­sir­able neigh­bour­hood. Yet, bliss­ful domestic set­tings from the hand of the inim­itable Shari Lapena don’t tend to stay that way for long. A stranger shows up and drops a bomb­shell: she al­leges that Stephanie’s hus­band Patrick mur­dered his first

wife a decade ear­lier. Patrick, in turn, protests his in­no­cence and claims it is a black­mail at­tempt. A gal­lop­ing and twist-laden read.


The Con­stant Rab­bit by Jasper Fforde (Hod­der & Stoughton, £20)

Set in an al­ter­nate present, there are 1.2 mil­lion hu­man-sized rab­bits liv­ing in the UK. They can walk, talk and drive cars, the re­sult of an “In­ex­pli­ca­ble An­thro­po­mor­phis­ing Event”. When the rab­bits ar­rive in a close-knit vil­lage, the lo­cals want to send them pack­ing. De­scribed by Jasper Fforde as “District 9 meets Water­ship Down”, it prof­fers weighty themes – racism and priv­i­lege – served up with bit­ing satire and eru­dite ob­ser­va­tion that ham­mer home a thought-pro­vok­ing mes­sage.

I’m Just A Teenage Punch­bag by Jackie Clune (Coronet, £14.99, pub­lished July 23)

What hap­pens when menopause and ado­les­cent hor­mones col­lide? As mother to four teenagers, the ac­tress, co­me­dian and au­thor Jackie Clune is a good per­son to ask. Her laugh-out-loud comic novel cen­tres on Ciara, whose world re­volves around three un­grate­ful teenagers and an in­sipid hus­band. Faced with domestic drudgery, the invisibili­ty of mid­dle age and griev­ing her mother, some­thing in­side Ciara snaps.

Cue a glo­ri­ous ad­ven­ture as she sets off to scat­ter her mum’s ashes.


Dark Wa­ters by G R Hal­l­i­day (Harvill Secker, £12.99, pub­lished Thurs­day)

A woman driv­ing along a re­mote High­land road swerves to avoid a young girl in her path. She crashes and re­gains con­scious­ness in a dark room to hear the blood-cur­dling words: “Think of this place as your new home.” A man camp­ing alone in wood­land is star­tled by a scream. He runs in fear and is never seen again. As the DI Mon­ica Kennedy de­tec­tive se­ries re­turns for a sec­ond out­ing, G R

Hal­l­i­day has penned an­other cracker. Buckle up for a nail-bit­ing read.

Watch Him Die by Craig Robert­son (Si­mon & Schus­ter, £8.99)

If it is spine-tin­gling ten­sion you’re crav­ing, Watch Him Die has it in spades with a high-oc­tane crime thriller span­ning Los Angeles, pic­tured left, and Glas­gow. A loner dies of a sus­pected heart at­tack, yet LA de­tec­tives un­cover a macabre col­lec­tion of true crime mem­o­ra­bilia in his base­ment. In Glas­gow, a search is un­der­way for a miss­ing woman. When an on­line feed broad­casts the slow, painful death of an un­known vic­tim, the cases be­come bound by a chill­ing com­mon thread.


The Sight of You by Holly Miller (Hod­der & Stoughton, £12.99)

If you knew how love would end, would you let it be­gin? That is the poignant ques­tion which un­der­pins this bit­ter­sweet novel about a star­crossed ro­mance. Since child­hood, Joel has had prophetic dreams about those he loves. He has vowed never to get close to any­one again. Cal­lie, mean­while, has been adrift since her best friend died. Joel and Car­rie have an un­de­ni­able spark. As Joel glimpses their fu­ture, he reaches a heartwrenc­h­ing cross­roads.

My Wife Said You May Want To Marry Me by Ja­son Rosen­thal (Harper, £20)

The late au­thor Amy Krouse Rosen­thal wrote a pow­er­ful es­say, You May Want To Marry My Hus­band, for the New York Times. Pub­lished only 10 days af­ter her death from ovar­ian can­cer in 2017, it en­cour­aged her hus­band Ja­son to find hap­pi­ness and move on. In this beau­ti­ful mem­oir, Ja­son de­scribes his strug­gle to keep that prom­ise as he ru­mi­nates on love, the pain of los­ing a soul­mate and lessons learned from grief.

All the Lonely Peo­ple by Mike Gayle (Hod­der & Stoughton, £14.99, pub­lished July 23)

Each week when his daugh­ter calls from Aus­tralia, wi­d­ower Hu­bert Bird re­gales her with sto­ries of his pic­tureper­fect re­tire­ment. The re­al­ity couldn’t be more starkly dif­fer­ent. Hu­bert can go days with­out see­ing an­other liv­ing soul. When his daugh­ter an­nounces she is re­turn­ing home for a visit, the jig is up. Hu­bert has four months to carve the life he al­ways talked about, pro­pel­ling him­self back into the world in search of love and friend­ship in this warm, up­lift­ing novel.


Rodham by Cur­tis Sit­ten­feld (Dou­ble­day, £16.99)

Imag­ine a world in which Hil­lary Clin­ton be­came pres­i­dent. One where she never mar­ried Bill Clin­ton. And her own am­bi­tions for a high-fly­ing po­lit­i­cal ca­reer took her all the way to the White House and the top job in Amer­ica. That’s premise of Cur­tis Sit­ten­feld’s Rodham which is a wild ride of a read ex­plor­ing the lone­li­ness, de­ter­mi­na­tion and com­pro­mise de­manded of a woman try­ing to make her mark on a stage long ruled by men.

A wild ride of a read ex­plor­ing the lone­li­ness, de­ter­mi­na­tion and com­pro­mise de­manded of a woman try­ing to make her mark on a stage long ruled by men

Oh, and don’t for­get the steamy sex scenes.

Sum­mer by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamil­ton, £16.99, pub­lished Au­gust 6)

The fi­nale to Ali Smith’s sea­sonal quar­tet about love, art, pol­i­tics and mod­ern Bri­tain con­cludes with Sum­mer. It charts life for a fam­ily on the brink of change. The world around them is in meltdown yet they find them­selves liv­ing like strangers. If you haven’t al­ready read the other three nov­els in this much lauded se­ries, there’s no time like the present. The po­tent sub­ject mat­ter they shine a light on in­cludes Brexit, the mi­grant cri­sis and the rise of na­tion­al­ism.

The Van­ish­ing Half by Brit Ben­nett (Di­a­logue, £16.99)

The Vignes sis­ters are iden­ti­cal twins who, at 16, run away from Mal­lard, a small, black com­mu­nity in Louisiana, for the bright lights of New Orleans. Years later, they are es­tranged and liv­ing very dif­fer­ent lives. One sis­ter has re­turned to their for­mer child­hood home with her daugh­ter, the other se­cretly passes for white and has a hus­band who knows noth­ing of her past. Set be­tween the 1950s and 1990s, it is an ab­sorb­ing read that stays with you long af­ter you’ve closed its pages.


Ten­nis Lessons by Su­san­nah Dickey (Dou­ble­day, £14.99, pub­lished Thurs­day)

Told through short vi­gnettes, Ten­nis Lessons is a funny, sear­ingly hon­est and some­times gut-wrench­ingly bru­tal take on the clas­sic com­ing-of-age tale. It fol­lows an un­named woman – a mis­fit hero­ine for our times – from the age of three to 28 as she at­tempts to wade through the flot­sam and jet­sam of life: fam­ily trau­mas, dead pets, blos­som­ing sex­u­al­ity, un­der­age drink­ing, in­grown toe­nails and dis­as­trous li­aisons. A strong first novel from Derry-Lon­don­derry poet Su­san­nah Dickey.

The Mar­got Af­fair by Sanae Le­moine (Scep­tre, £16.99)

An­other com­ing-of-age tale, this one told through the eyes of French teenager Mar­got Louve, the il­le­git­i­mate daugh­ter of a well-known stage ac­tress and a politi­cian. Mar­got’s fam­ily life in a small Parisian apart­ment is shrouded in se­crecy and shame. One sum­mer, she de­cides it is time to step out from the shad­ows and share her story with the world. As Mar­got cat­a­pults her­self to­wards adult­hood, she still has much to learn about the last­ing ef­fects of de­ceit and be­trayal.

The Num­ber Bias by Sanne Blauw (Scep­tre, £16.99)

If you don’t con­sider your­self a num­bers per­son, then this is the book for you. It is an in­trigu­ing and ac­ces­si­ble ex­plo­ration of how dig­its can shape our lives, be it mea­sur­ing aca­demic progress, elec­tion re­sults or eco­nomic growth. Sanne Blauw, the nu­mer­acy correspond­ent for Dutch news out­let De Correspond­ent, pro­vides star­tling in­sight about how ma­nip­u­lated fig­ures can lead us astray, lay­ing bare the per­ils of blindly buy­ing into the hy­per­bole of ped­dled statis­tics.


Five Hun­dred Miles From You by Jenny Col­gan (Sphere, £12.99)

Work­ing as a nurse in a tough South Lon­don com­mu­nity takes its toll on Lissa, not least when she is eye­wit­ness to a hit-and-run. En­cour­aged to take time away as part of a pilot ex­change scheme, she agrees to a job swap with a fel­low nurse in a quiet

Scot­tish vil­lage. Her op­po­site num­ber, Cor­mac, rest­less since leav­ing the army, reck­ons that a stint in Lon­don might be what he needs. As the pair email back and forth to share ad­vice, an un­ex­pected con­nec­tion is forged.

Sunny Days and Sea Breezes by Ca­role Matthews (Sphere, £12.99)

Jodie Jack­son ar­rives on the Isle of Wight for some much-needed alone time aboard Sunny Days, her brother’s lov­ingly re­stored house­boat. How­ever, soli­tude is dif­fi­cult to come by, be it the well-in­ten­tioned in­ter­fer­ing of cleaner Mar­i­lyn or the non-stop wood carv­ing by Ned, a sculp­tor who lives in the float­ing home next door. As the trio be­come firm friends, along­side other eclec­tic is­land char­ac­ters, Jodie finds her­self slowly heal­ing. Then, all too soon, her old life comes knock­ing.


Miss Ben­son’s Bee­tle by Rachel Joyce (Dou­ble­day, £16.99, pub­lished July 23)

Margery Ben­son has long dreamed of ad­ven­ture, ever since she saw a draw­ing of a myth­i­cal golden bee­tle in a book be­long­ing to her late father. In­stead of be­com­ing a fa­mous en­to­mol­o­gist, Margery is lan­guish­ing as a domestic science teacher.

In a pique of mad­ness, she ad­ver­tises for an ex­pe­di­tion as­sis­tant. Enid Pretty isn’t the com­pan­ion Margery had in mind as the duo em­bark on an odyssey across the world in search of the elu­sive in­sect. An en­chant­ing story of friend­ship and self-dis­cov­ery.

For­got­ten Coun­try by Cather­ine Chung (Abacus, £8.99)

Pub­lished in the UK for the first time, this de­but novel by Cather­ine Chung, au­thor of The Tenth Muse, weaves to­gether folk­lore and fam­ily ties.

When Janie is a child, her grand­mother tells her a story: since the Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion of Korea, their fam­ily has lost a daugh­ter ev­ery gen­er­a­tion. Years later, her sis­ter Hannah dis­ap­pears. Janie is left to un­pick the truth about the brood­ing re­sent­ment and un­spo­ken sac­ri­fices that have led to his­tory re­peat­ing it­self.

Lido by Christo­pher Bean­land (Bats­ford, £20, pub­lished Au­gust 6)

Come on in, the water’s lovely. Ar­chi­tec­ture and travel writer Christo­pher Bean­land prof­fers a much-needed tonic for the soul with this sub­lime col­lec­tion of out­door swim­ming pools from around the world. He takes the reader on a tour: the postapoc­a­lyp­tic-es­que Zol­lverein pool at a dis­used coal mine in Ger­many, the turquoise wa­ters of Ice­land’s Blue Lagoon and the frothy surf crash­ing over the walls at Bondi Ice­bergs in Syd­ney. The his­toric open-air lido at Stone­haven gets a nod too.


The Art of Her Deal: The Un­told Story of Me­la­nia Trump by Mary Jor­dan (Si­mon & Schus­ter, £20)

What kind of woman mar­ries Donald Trump? It is a ques­tion that Mary Jor­dan takes a stab at in this unau­tho­rised bi­og­ra­phy of Me­la­nia Trump. Among the tan­ta­lis­ing rev­e­la­tions lev­elled are that the First Lady is far from a tro­phy wife and her hus­band was “fright­ened” to face her af­ter his ab­hor­rent “grab ‘em by the p***y” line was made pub­lic. Jor­dan traces Me­la­nia Trump’s jour­ney from her child­hood in Slove­nia, through mod­el­ling, mar­riage and moth­er­hood, to life in the White House.

Born Fighter by Ruqsana Begum (Si­mon

& Schus­ter, £12.99) Ruqsana Begum is the first Bri­tish Mus­lim woman to be­come a kick­box­ing world cham­pion. The Lon­doner fell in love with Muay Thai at col­lege and for four years, as she climbed the ranks, hid her tro­phies (and bruises) from her par­ents. An ar­ranged mar­riage saw Begum un­able to train, lead­ing to a break­down and de­pres­sion. Af­ter her di­vorce, she re­turned to Muay Thai, fi­nally re­veal­ing all to her fam­ily. A mas­ter­class in fear­less­ness and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Lady Romeo by Tana Wo­jczuk (Si­mon & Schus­ter, £20, pub­lished July 23)

The story of Char­lotte Cush­man de­serves to be shared far and wide with this en­thralling bi­og­ra­phy of the 19th-cen­tury ac­tor a great place to start. “Be­fore Char­lotte, Amer­ica had no celebri­ties; now they man­u­fac­ture them like blue jeans,” writes Tana Wo­jczuk. Over her 30-year ca­reer, Cush­man played male and fe­male char­ac­ters with aplomb, not least star­ring as Romeo along­side her sis­ter Su­san as Juliet. Lady Romeo chron­i­cles the tenac­ity of a woman who re­fused to be pi­geon­holed.

An ar­ranged mar­riage saw Begum un­able to train, lead­ing to a break­down and de­pres­sion

Au­thor Helen FitzGer­ald

Clock­wise from left: au­thor Jenny Col­gan; Pres­i­dent Donald Trump, with first lady Me­la­nia Trump; Char­lotte Cush­man, who was dubbed Amer­ica’s first celebrity; and kick­box­ing cham­pion Ruqsana Begum

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