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by Su­san Fletcher, Vi­rago, hard­back £16.99, ebook £8.99 HHHHH IT IS sum­mer 1914, and life is chang­ing for Clara Water­field and Eng­land. Hope­lessly naive, and mourn­ing her mother, our shel­tered nar­ra­tor is sum­moned to Glouces­ter­shire to cre­ate a green­house the coun­try will envy. But at Shad­ow­brook, mys­te­ri­ous foot­steps sound at night, flow­ers shed their pe­tals within hours, and the mas­ter of the house never wan­ders the sprawl­ing gar­dens he sup­pos­edly loves.

Deter­minedly athe­ist, Clara is keen to ex­plain these un­nerv­ing go­ings on, and clear up the ru­mours swirling around the prior oc­cu­pants. Who was Veronique, whose malev­o­lent pres­ence is said to haunt the creak­ing house, and why was her fam­ily so hated? These ques­tions un­wit­tingly lead Clara to un­earth per­sonal truths she had not ex­pected to con­front.

Fletcher skill­fully con­structs a world where war looms with a heavy in­evitabil­ity, where ru­mours twist and stran­gle like vines, and the most straight­for­ward of sce­nar­ios are rid­dled with de­ceit.


by Rob­bie Arnott, At­lantic Books, hard­back £12.99, ebook £6.02 HHHHH FLAMES is a bold piece of writ­ing that will leave any reader yearn­ing to visit the wild Aus­tralian land­scape of Tas­ma­nia. Loosely speak­ing, it tells the story of the McAl­lis­ter fam­ily.

Af­ter Char­lotte and Levi’s mother dies, she is briefly rein­car­nated only to burst into flames on their fa­ther’s lawn. As Levi be­gins to worry that the same thing will hap­pen to his sis­ter, he be­comes ob­sessed with build­ing her a cof­fin. Char­lotte mean­while hits the road, dis­ap­pear­ing into the most re­mote parts of the is­land.

Each chap­ter is writ­ten in the voice of a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter, some only tan­gen­tially con­nected to the main thread, giv­ing it some of the breadth of a short story col­lec­tion.

It is glo­ri­ous, messy, and a bit weird. But it works.

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