LOST AND WANTED by Nell Freudenberger, Penguin, £14.99 (ebook £9.99) ★★★★★
THEORETICAL physicist Helen Clapp’s best friend Charlie has just died, and her grief is sharpened by guilt over their recent lack of contact.
When she receives calls and texts from Charlie’s phone number she assumes the device has been stolen. But when the messages get increasingly personal, Helen’s certainty that there is no afterlife begins to weaken. Nell Freudenberger’s fourth novel is no spooky ghost story: It’s an elegant study on the impact of loss and mourning, complex family relationships, prejudice and power. It’s fantastic: Freudenberger is at the top of her game.
THE BOOK OF SCIENCE AND ANTIQUITIES by Thomas Keneally, Sceptre, £20 (ebook £9.99) ★★★★ ★
THIS is a fascinating two-hander told from the perspectives of two ageing men separated by 40,000 years. Shelby Apple is a present-day filmmaker. He is fascinated by the discovery of the remains of a 40,000 year old human, dubbed Learned Man, on the now-dry bed of Lake Learned in New South Wales. But Learned Man isn’t just an artefact and so we enter also the consciousness of Shade, who lives by the bountiful lake.
SALT SLOW by Julia Armfield, Picador, £12.99 (ebook £7.99) ★★★ ★★
A SCHOOLGIRL literally bugging out at a teenage party, a Frankenstein mashup with the pizza delivery guy, and a lover returning from the dead to eat microwaved rice – Julia Armfield excels at combining the eerie with the everyday in her debut short story collection, Salt Slow. A standout is The Great Awake, which won The White Review Short Story Prize 2018, and describes an insomniac plague sweeping a city.