Bril­liant reads for the week

Four new books not to be missed

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - COMPILED BY JANE VORSTER

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

THE WIFE

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

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