Originally posted on writing.ie on 16/1/2018
Outstanding New Book Releases for 2018
One of the benefits of being a book reviewer is receiving advance copies of titles, often months before publication. Often, these books come with unadorned or unfinished covers and with scant details of the books premise. There is usually a tag line, designed to pique your interest and the style may be compared to other published texts: books, movies or TV shows. Reviewers can receive hundreds of titles per year and, while we are assigned some for review in print, the majority are chosen by the individual. Here are some of the ones that called out to me, published in the first part of 2018, some of which managed to skip to the top of the teetering piles of TBR (To-Be-Read) books that consume every available piece of space in the house:
The Confession – Jo Spain (Quercus – 11th January)
A home invasion; a vicious attack on a wealthy businessman in front of his wife; an immediate confession. But why did JP Carney enter the home of Harry and Julie McNamara? What did he whisper to Harry? Why was Julie unharmed and nothing removed from the house? When JP hands himself into the police, he claims he has no idea why he did it. A thriller that begins at the end and ends at the beginning. The layers of the story are peeled back, at a tantalising pace, which leaves the reader determined to get to the bottom of JP’s random attack. An addictive reading experience.
An Anatomy of a Scandal – Sarah Vaughan (Simon and Schuster – 11th January)
A high-profile rape trial is the catalyst for this dissection of truth and consent. James is a prominent member of Parliament and has the stereo-typical background to suit his position: Eton, Oxford and a circle of friends; including the Prime Minister. His wife, Sophie, has always been at his side and is devastated to hear that he had been having an affair with the alleged victim. Kate is the barrister who is prosecuting James’ case and she is determined to show that No Means No. Delving into the elitist world of Oxford and examining the traditions that are steeped in its history, Vaughan has created a fictional tale of class, gender and inequality which all clash superbly in this thrilling court-room drama.
Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon (Borough Press – 11th January)
From the author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, this book can be spotted from long distances. The cover is a giant Battenberg cake; depicting a tea-time treat enjoyed by its protagonist, Florence. Living in an assisted community, 84-year-old Flo has had a fall and lies waiting to be discovered. She reflects on the conversations she has with her best friend, Elsie, and fears that their snooping into the life of a new resident of Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly has gotten them into a spot of bother. Readers will identify with Flo, her attempts to grasp at memories and her feisty insistence of the ability to live independently. A genuinely warm and hunourous read, which also touches on the silenced voices of the elderly. Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
The Year that Changed Everything – Cathy Kelly (Orion, 22nd Feburary)
Cally is celebrating her fiftieth birthday when her life changes in an instant. Her family is never going to be the same. Sam’s waters break on her fortieth birthday and begins the journey from being just Cally, to being someone’s mother. What has she let herself in for? Ginger is now thirty and things are not what she expected. It is make or break time. Three women at various stages of their life. Bestselling author Cathy Kelly touches base with new readers, as well as with her loyal fans, in her new heart-warming novel. An ideal way to escape from the stroppy teenagers in your life, the subtle digs on your twitter feed or the gauzy façade of perfection on Instagram.
Pre-order your copy online here.
The Liar’s Girl – Catherine Ryan Howard (Corvus, 1stMarch)
The author of the cruise-line thriller, Distress Signals, is back with her latest novel and it starts with a bang. The body of nineteen-year-old Jen Madden is discovered in a Dublin canal and has all the hallmarks of the infamous Canal Killer. However, the serial-killer has been behind bars for over ten years, after confessing to his crimes. Is there a copy-cat on the streets of Dublin? From his high security unit, Will Hurley agrees to assist the police in their investigation, but only if he can give the information to his ex-girlfriend. Alison must return to the life she left and face the man she has struggled to forget and the painful memories of the past. Slipping in timelines, reeling in the reader – one chapter at a time, the story examines how one lie can lead to serious repercussions. Keeps you guessing until the very end.
Pre-order your copy online here.
Bring Me Back – BA Paris (HQ, 8th March)
Finn and Layla are on their way home from a trip to Paris and, while stopped at a roadside service station, Layla disappears. Twelve years later, Finn has finally moved on with his life and is engaged to married. When his fiancée finds a tiny Russian doll, Finn immediately knows that it was Layla’s; she had it with her, the night she disappeared. The events of the past come flooding back and Finn realises that he should have told the whole truth, not just his version of it. From the author of Behind Closed Doors, this is a read-in-one-sitting book. It jerks at extreme angles; throw shadows on assumptions and, like the Russian Doll, is part of a bigger story. A riveting experience.
From a Low and Quiet Sea – Donal Ryan (Doubleday Ireland, 22nd March)
This powerful tale is a symbol of our times. Three voices reach out and embrace the reader, each with their own version of guilt, grief and a feeling of undeserved existence. Farouk has escaped the terrors of Syria, to find himself in a different type of hell; Lampy is drained by small-town life in his rural village and regrets not fleeing when he had the chance; John is being dragged toward the past, rather than accepting the fate of his future. All three voices are redolent of contemporary life, but with individual beginnings. The prose is exquisite, with vivid narration and a haunting tone. Irish Literary Fiction does not get much better than this. Breath-taking and statuesque in its deliverance.
Skin Deep – Liz Nugent (Penguin, Ireland, 5th April)
From the same mind that brought us Unravelling Oliverand Lying in Wait, we are now treated to the complex and consuming character of Cordelia Russell. But who is Cordelia? This is a twisted tale of devotion, abandonment, determination and dishonesty. Cordelia has lived many lives but now needs to escape her current one. There is a corpse in her dismal, French apartment and it is beginning to smell. The saga of Cordelia is shocking and stimulating, in equal measures. Nugent treats us to a tale which is acidic in its telling but manages to encompass a nostalgic atmosphere at the same time. Readers are brought from the Cote D’Azur; to London; to Rural Ireland and beyond. As the protagonist re-invents herself, Skin Deep is almost like a hybrid of Sebastian Barry, Maeve Binchy and Alfred Hitchcock. It manages to break boundaries with its unique and unflinching look at what goes on behind the mask of femininity and expectation. Splendidly suspenseful.
© Margaret Bonass Madden.