1. Child Of The Ruins by Kate Furnivall is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton
Child Of The Ruins is set in Berlin after the end of World War II, where devastation and poverty is commonplace for those still surviving under Russian rule. Two women, Anna and Ingrid – who live in East and West Germany – are brought together in their search for a baby boy. This historical novel highlights the brutality of war, and draws you into the characters as they struggle to survive day-to-day. At times the hardship is unimaginable; yet what shines through is a love story, showing the strength and power of these strong, heroic characters. This is a beautiful and poignant novel that will leave you gripped to the very end.
2. Shot With Crimson by Nicola Upson is published in hardback by Faber & Faber
In this latest instalment of the Josephine Tey detective series, fans will see another beautifully crafted novel in the style of classic Golden Age crime novels. It can be read as a standalone, but will likely be more enriching if you’re familiar with the previous mystery novels. In it, Josephine heads to Hollywood – immersing herself into filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock’s glamorous world as he shoots the 1940 film Rebecca. History buffs will like the regular occurrences of real figures – like Laurence Olivier – and there’s an impressive eye to detail. However, it’s such a character-driven story that it ultimately feels a bit light on pacing and tension – the crime which is the centre of the novel takes a bit too long to happen. While the resolution might feel a little unsatisfying, it’s a well-written story that fans of the series – and the era – will enjoy.
3. The Exchange: After The Firm by John Grisham is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton
Fans of John Grisham will be keen to read The Exchange – a follow-up to The Firm, over 30 years later. While not quite up to the gritty standards of his earlier books, it still packs a fair punch. It follows lawyer Mitch McDeere, who has rebuilt himself after entanglements with the mafia, and now has a new case that takes him to Libya. The masterful writing immerses you in the Middle Eastern setting, where Mitch is involved with negotiations after hostages have been taken by a terrorist group. It gives an insight into the depths a lawyer like Mitch might have to sink to, to get the job done – and while the ending might feel like a bit of an anti-climax compared to Grisham’s other thrillers, it’s an enjoyable read you won’t be able to put down.
4. Normal Women by Philippa Gregory is published in hardback by William Collins
Researched and written over the course of 10 years, Normal Women is a vast and richly detailed tapestry reworking the conventional depiction of male-dominated hierarchies, and placing women in the foreground. It delves deep into records and archives, in search of the tales of those who history has forgotten or deliberately ignored. Opening at the time of the Norman Conquest, it examines contemporary evidence and unveils stories of normal women from every walk of life. With clarity and conviction, it demonstrates that over the course of 900 years, women have underpinned the functions of British society, holding the fort – often quite literally – to keep the wheels of social and economic existence turning. Gregory’s style is fluent and informal, purposefully choosing colourful examples that illuminate each era and bring individual characters to life, and the structure allows the reader to dip in at points of interest or to follow a chronological path. It’s engaging, insightful and vastly informative.
Children’s book of the week
5. The Great Storm Whale by Benji Davies is published in hardback by Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
This is the latest addition to Benji Davies’ Storm Whale picture book series. The original – The Storm Whale – first came out in 2014 (winning the inaugural Oscar’s First Book Prize), and this is a prequel of sorts. It opens with Noi and his father, who still live in a house by the sea – Noi is upset because his whale hasn’t come to visit in a while, and when a storm hits his grandmother tells him a story. It follows a similar storm from many years ago, where a young girl forged her own friendship with a whale. It’s a sweet, straightforward tale about friendship and resilience, paired with atmospheric illustrations.