Fans of the TV series and book Slow Horses will enjoy Mick Herron’s latest offering…


1. The Secret Hours by Mick Herron is published in hardback by Baskerville

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A break-in followed by an adrenaline-fuelled chase through Devon woods propels this tightly and satisfyingly plotted story into action. It then focuses on Monochrome – an inquiry into the secret service which is going nowhere. Suddenly, a file appears and a witness comes in to testify about the goings-on in Berlin just after the fall of the wall. Avoiding plot spoilers, things get even more intricate. Safe to say Herron’s trademark humour is woven in throughout, and it’s clear who some of the digs are aimed at. Big issues come under the spotlight: who owns your data, identity, loyalty, truth and realpolitik, but all the characters feel human and individual. Though it’s described as a standalone and can easily be read as such, lovers of the Slough House series will pick up on some familiar characters being illuminated in new ways.

2. The Wake-Up Call by Beth O’Leary is published in hardback by Quercus

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Beth O’Leary, the queen of complicated relationships, is back. The backdrop of this two-handed tale is a formerly popular hotel, failing in the wake of lockdown. Artistic Izzy, grasping at straws to save the hotel and her job, sets herself the mission to return a lost wedding ring and in the process receives a large reward. Stoic Lucas is more methodical, but finds himself in competition with Izzy to return the remaining rings in the lost property box, hoping that another monetary reward will save the hotel from closing. Izzy and Lucas are loyal to the hotel yet somehow rub each other the wrong way. O’Leary keeps the enemies-turned-lovers story fresh by exploring events from both sides, and the short chapters keep the story moving like a rom-com film.

3. Edge Of Here: Stories From Near To Now by Kelechi Okafor is published in hardback by Trapeze

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The clues are found in your imagination when it comes to Kelechi Okafor’s debut short story collection. Merging the worlds of Yoruba cosmology and science-fiction, Okafor poses a series of questions to readers about the way we choose to live our lives. Using eight stories – all with thoughtfully written non-prescriptive endings – the book flips contemporary black womanhood on its head through ancient and ultramodern tales that explore the themes of love, mental health, race, grief, and spirituality. Okafor has fun foreseeing the innovation of technology and allows herself to be surprised by the boldness of her imagination, and it shows. This is the perfect book for those who aren’t afraid to be challenged by fiction.


4. The Bone Chests by Cat Jarman is published in hardback by William Collins

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The Bone Chests provides an engaging, readable history of England’s pre-Conquest monarchs, from famous figures such as Alfred the Great and Aethelred the Unready, to long-forgotten kings Cynegils and Centwine, linked through the story of the chests reputed to contain some of their bones in Winchester Cathedral. It is a period that previous centuries have looked to for inspiration but has more recently fallen out of public consciousness, and for that alone, the book is worth reading. But unlike Cat Jarman’s previous outing – the excellent River Kings – it lacks a clear, overall argument, with the theme of how living rulers used the mortal remains of their predecessors for political purposes fading in and out of focus and leaving the book as, mainly, a straightforward account of ancient kings and queens.

Children’s book of the week

5. Beneath by Cori Doerrfeld is published in hardback by Scallywag Press

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Beneath is the sweet tale of young Finn, who’s in a grumpy mood. His grandfather wants to help him get out of his funk, so he takes him for a walk – encouraging him all the while to think about what’s beneath. This spans everything from the roots under their feet, to fish in the sea, and even what’s inside other people’s heads. The powerful lesson gets children outside of their own head and thinking about what’s around them, while teaching emotional intelligence. There’s a nice message behind it and children will no doubt enjoy the tale – but in the crowded world of picture books, the storyline and illustrations perhaps don’t allow it to stand out from the crowd.