There’s nothing better than buying the latest releases at a bookshop.
This year we’ve read a mix of new releases and some older editions and it has been an excellent mix so far. So as 2019 is coming to a close, we’ve picked out seven books to squeeze into your to read list.
1. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Stuart Turton
Turton is a devoted Agatha Christie fan and credits this novel to reading her stories growing up. While Seven Deaths might draw on some Christie-like twists, the biggest twist in this novel is the time travel, and the inhabiting of host bodies to see the crime from different perspectives. The story centres around a group who has been invited to a weekend ball at a country estate and a murder is about to occur but it can be stopped and if it is, the guest that solves it will be free to leave. Difficult to put down, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an incredibly clever conceit and excellently written.
2. The Spy and the Traitor, Ben Macintyre
Based on a true story, Macintyre has the knack of a great storyteller and a formidable researcher, talking to all the officers involved in the case. Oleg Gordievsky is the spy at the centre of this book – a Russian double agent who has lost faith in the Soviet regime. He comes from a family of Soviet spies but from an early age is attracted to the ideologies of the West. Studying hard and being the best in his family, Gordievsky is sent to Scandinavia for his first post. It is here he is first approached to spy for the other side. It’s a dangerous game and the stakes rise but he continues. The traitor, who is a much smaller focus of the novel, is Aldrich Ames.
3. The Hopkins Manuscript, R.C. Sherriff
Published in 1939, The Hopkins Manuscript is sound in tone and subject matter, this is a dystopian novel which predicts the world will end as the moon starts to spin slightly off-kilter. The novel traces the experiences of Edwin Hopkins, a chicken farmer, and keen astronomer who has just discovered the world will soon end. He is at first burdened by the knowledge which only he and a small group of fellow astronomers are privy to, and then the behaviours of those around him. It was written as Britain teetered on the edge of WWII and is prescient in some of the novel’s predictions.
4. Forever and a Day, Anthony Horowitz
Ian Fleming’s estate has allowed quality authors to write a Bond novel, and for many writers, this is a tantalising prospect. Recently, Sebastian Faulks was the author of Bond novel, Devil May Care. This is Forever and a Day is Horowitz’s second Bond book – his first being Trigger Mortis. This novel has the Bond glamour of being set on the French Riviera and is a prequel to Casino Royale. It is clever, well paced, and starts with Bond taking on the 007 mantle after the death of his predecessor. If you’re a fan of Fleming or Horowitz, this fun romp of a novel is not to be passed up.
5. Daisy and the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid
Daisy and the Six is loosely based on Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. For us, the novel stood on its own merits without needing to be identifiable. The descriptions of ego, addiction, selfishness and the arty music scene are realistic and draw the reader in. It’s a reflection on a good writer that you can care about what will happen to the characters whether you like them or not.
As an honourable mention, Daisy and the Six led us to read Reid’s earlier book The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo which is loosely based on the life of Ava Gardner. Ageing actress Hugo is nearing the end of her life and decides she is ready to tell her life story to an unknown young journalist. She starts the story which follows her life and choices she has made to gain the level of success she does – and all the while we await the big secret. There are rumours that it will soon become a film which we see as a success as it’s perfectly written for screen adaptation.
6. The Infatuations, Javier Marias
Like a foreign film, a foreign novel even in translation has a completely different feel to the novels written in our own language. Spanish author Javier Marias has a beautiful style; his language and descriptions of passion and relationship are intense and the way he describes a beautiful couple who frequent the same cafe each morning on the way to their separate days before a horrific crime changes everything. The novel is different from Marias’ previous efforts and it’s a novel which transports readers to not only a foreign speaking land, but from a past era. A delight.
7. Out of Egypt, Andre Aciman
Best known for his novel Call Me By Your Name, which was adapted into a critically acclaimed film starring Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer, author Aciman focuses on his early life in Egypt and the experiences with his family, friends, and the city that was once his home. It’s a beautiful tribute to his homeland. Born in Alexandria as a Sephardi Jew, his family was well educated and although his mother was deaf, his life was privileged. When the family was spared the first purge of foreigners they knew their time was nearing an end in Egypt. Aciman remembers this time as a child, and this is a touching memoir.