Gripping thrillers, parenting methods around the world, lots of jazz and much more in our top book picks this April—happy reading! 

A Traitor in the Family

by Nicholas Searle

It’s clear from his closing acknowledgements that Nicholas Searle once worked for British intelligence. But even it wasn’t, I think we might have guessed—because this is one of those thrillers whose thrills come not just from a tense, fast-paced plot, but also from the fact that we’re being given privileged access to a usually hidden world.

The setting is Northern Ireland in the 1990s, when the IRA’s leaders are still sending out men to commit atrocities, while secretly having talks with the UK government. They know, too, that their organisation is riddled with British spies…

Featuring a range of characters from both sides, the book thoughtfully explores the many complexities involved, as well as providing plenty of fascinating information about how the IRA operated. Yet Searle does this without ever abandoning his commitment to an exciting story or the atmosphere of brooding paranoia. He also reminds us that all this violence and horror took place amid normal domestic life—as, for example, in the novel’s startling first sentence: “While her husband prepared to murder a young man he had never met, Bridget O’Neill completed her packing for Christmas with her in-laws.”

Published by Viking 

 

Domina

by L S Hilton 

Rembrandt, silk Chloe blouses and murder galore in trailblazer L S Hilton’s latest follow-up to the bestseller Maestra. Domina finds our heroine Judith Rashleigh in the splendour of Venice: she owns a luxurious flat, a small art gallery and a new identity—it seems she’s finally enjoying the life she always wanted. But then her past catches up with her. Someone knows what she’s done.

Domina is even more dangerous, shocking and provocative than its predecessor: it luxuriates audaciously in all the things we loved so much about Maestra: the sophistication of the art world, the lush designer garments, the wickedness and raw sexual energy of the main heroine are pushed here even further. A book that begs to be devoured in one sitting!

Published by Zaffre   

 

Do Parents Matter? 

by Robert A. Levine and Sarah Levine

This incisive study of different parenting methods across the world, based on almost 50 years of research, will come as a relief to those of us who ever grappled with the struggles of parenting or are planning to in the future. The two Harvard professors behind this study, Robert and Sarah Levine (grandparents themselves), have an assuring message: there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting and we should all just relax! 

Though densely written and packed with information, the book is a fascinating read observing the vastly different parenting techniques, what impact they have on children as they grow up and why they’ll all turn out to be well-adjusted adults in the end, no matter what. In the process, you’ll learn many fascinating little nuggets of information, such as why Mexican siblings don’t fight, Japanese babies sleep soundly and kissing your baby was frowned upon in 1914.  

Published by Souvenir Press Ltd

 

Wonderful Feels Like This 

by Sara Lövestam

If you ever wondered what jazz would look like written down as prose, this might be the closest you’ll ever get. In Sara Lövestam’s new novel it fizzes, bubbles and comes to life while rhythmically punctuating the story of Steffi—a young girl who doesn’t fit in at school and gets viciously teased by her classmates.

Yet with her bass guitar in hand, and Povel Ramel in her headphones, she fearlessly navigates through life and makes an unlikely friend along the way.

Wonderful Feels Like This is a charming, sweet tale, brimming with innocence and positive energy—a perfect read for any jazz fan, that’ll make you want to dust off an old record or two.

Published by Allen & Unwin

 

A New Map of Love

by Abi Oliver

On the face of it, George Baxter is not an obvious choice of fictional hero. A 56-year-old antique dealer living in Oxfordshire in 1964, George has just been widowed when the novel begins. His wife was apparently “the least intimidating woman he’d been able to find”, and their marriage seems to have been one of low-level, even cheerfully resigned dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, when she dies, George is surprised to feel a guilty sense of excitement. Could now be the time to give rein to his long-buried romantic impulses? And if so, how—given that, on the whole, he finds women rather baffling?

In fact, though, George is a delight to be with: his essential decency and frustrated longings both funny and poignant. There’s a strong supporting cast too—mainly, but by no means exclusively, in the shape of those baffling women. And without making much fuss about it, the book is also extremely good on how rural Oxfordshire adapts to the social changes of the 1960s. (Basically, quite slowly.) Add to that a series of neat plotlines, all satisfyingly resolved, and the result is a big, warm-hearted and hugely enjoyable read.      

Published by Macmillan

 

The Crime Book

by Shanna Hogan, Michael Kerrigan, Lee Mellor, Rebecca Morris, Cathy Scott

Everything you ever wanted to know about some of the most audacious, hideous, hilarious and mysterious acts of crime in one explosive book, filled with graphs, illustrations, quotes and timelines! This highly addictive encyclopedia of crime, with a foreword from one of UK’s most treasured crime novelists Peter James, is a trivia goldmine and a helpful guide allowing you to put events into context.

It’s a beautifully presented tome, categorising the history of crime and criminology into detailed groups: organised crime, con artists, serial killers, arsonists and many, many more. It’s an enthralling read, written in an authoritative but entertaining tone, guiding you through each case from start to finish. 

Published by DK

 

Jane Austen: Teenage Writings

Edited by Kathryn Sutherland and Freya Johnston

If all you associate Jane Austen with are docile love affairs and familial devotion, this might be the perfect book for you! Professor Kathryn Sutherland and University Lecturer Freya Johnston skilfully edit this fascinating collection of Austen’s early teenage writings.

Witty, clever and often raunchy, these works date back as far as 1786 or 1787, when Jane was 11 or 12, and exhibit an already-established precociousness. These stories appear to have little in common with the restrained and realistic society of Austen’s adult novels. More often than not, they are stories of girls behaving badly: drinking, stealing and even getting into fist-fights.

This new edition provides fresh readings of individual texts, and the explanatory notes accompanying them offer to expand our sense of what the young Austen might have been reading and responding to at the time.

Published by Oxford University Press

Read more: The naughty teenage writings of Jane Austen 

 

The Shadow Land 

by Elizabeth Kostova

The aftermath of loss, the haunting beauty of Bulgaria and an unsettling mystery surrounding an urn of human ashes all come together in Elizabeth Kostova’s elegantly written novel.

Alexandra Boyd travels to Bulgaria after the death of her beloved brother, hoping to leave the pain behind in America. After a luggage mix-up at a hotel, she discovers she’d accidentally claimed someone’s bag as her own. In it, she finds an ornate wooden box with human ashes inside. Determined to return it to its rightful owners, she begins to uncover a dangerous story.

Written with great zest and beautifully descriptive detail, making the soul of this novel, The Shadow Land is a fascinating, moreish read, demonstrating the power of a great story. 

Published by Text Publishing

 

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