Brilliant reads for the week
Four new books not to be missed
THE CHALK MAN
By CJ TUDOR Michael Joseph This is partly a coming-of-age story, partly a thriller and 100% creepy. Eddie and his friends are having what seems to be an idyllic summer holiday, hanging out, biking and playing in the woods near their home in the British town of Anderbury. They even have a secret way of communicating, using chalk men drawn on pavements outside their homes. But under the surface all isn’t what it seems as the kids deal with abuse, bullying and trauma.
A death fractures the easygoing friendship, then their chalk drawings are used sinisterly to lead them to the dismembered body of a local teen girl. The story alternates between 1986 told by 12-year-old Eddie and 2016 told by 42-year-old Eddie who’s still trying to make sense of what happened. Then he receives a drawing of a chalk man in the post . . . pulling the two timelines together.
Stephen King fans will love this novel. It’s a little outlandish but that’s okay as it’s a dark, compelling and very readable debut. – NATALIE CAVERNELIS
By ALAFAIR BURKE Harper There are quite a few new thrillers with the word “wife” in the title so it’s hard to keep track, but this one is definitely worth reading.
Angela Powell is a stay-at-home mom married to Jason, a respected economics professor and bestselling author. She has the perfect life in New York’s Greenwich Village but she’s hiding a horrific secret from everyone except her close family and friends.
Then Jason is accused of sexual harassment by an intern at his company. Angela believes his explanation but a second woman comes forward and this time he’s accused of rape.
Angela’s world starts unravelling and she wonders how well she knows her husband but also fears her secret becoming known as their lives are scrutinised.
The narration is shared between Angela and Corinne Duncan, a New York detective investigating Jason, who realises all isn’t what it seems with the Powells. It’s a solid domestic thriller that moves along at a brisk pace. – NATALIE CAVERNELIS
FORCE OF NATURE
By JANE HARPER Little, Brown It was with great anticipation that I started reading Force of Nature. Could it be as good as Harper’s debut novel, The Dry? The answer is an emphatic yes!
In this follow-up we see agent Aaron Falk trying to unravel what went wrong with a corporate team-building excursion in the Australian outback. Five women from the Melbourne accountancy firm that Falk and his partner, Carmen Cooper, are investigating for money laundering get lost in a remote mountain range. Four of them make it back, but Falk’s whistleblower, Alice Russell, doesn’t. Has she just got lost, or has she been murdered?
This isn’t a crime novel littered with bloody corpses. Rather, like The Dry, it paints a realistic and believable picture of long-held grudges among the five colleagues which intensify as they struggle for survival. At the same time the working relationship between Falk and Cooper undergoes a subtle change.
The characters are skilfully drawn, the novel is cleverly paced and the tension steadily mounts. I’m looking forward to meeting Aaron Falk again in the not too distant future. – ANDRÉ J BRINK
THE DREAMS OF BETHANY MELLMOTH
By WILLIAM BOYD Viking Boyd writes so well he could make a shopping list riveting and here he turns his sure hand to short stories. This glittering collection of tales ranges from whimsical love affairs and sly art dealers to poison plots and a menacing caper that ends up in the wilds of Scotland. Characters reappear unexpectedly here and there, most of them shady scoundrels and philanderers.
The title story is about a young woman struggling to find meaning in life. Bethany is a spoilt daughter of wealthy parents, a wannabe sushi chef, writer, actress and photographer flitting from job to job and man to man.
The Road Not Taken, based on Robert Frost’s poem, is the story of a failed love affair told in reverse. It starts with Meredith bumping into her ex Max in a shop, then tracks the relationship backwards through their breakup, happy years and first meeting.
The Vanishing Game: An Adventure is a nail-biter in which a man is sent on a mysterious mission to the Scottish highlands and finds himself in extreme peril.
This is brilliant writing you just don’t want to end. – SANDY COOK