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7:00am Saturday 4th August 2012 in NewsXtra
A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.
By Kate Whiting
Criminal by Karin Slaughter is published in hardback by Century, priced £18.99. Available now.
Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, finds himself at the heart of a murder mystery alongside his supervisor Amanda Wagner.
Buried in the Deep South, the story starts in the 1970s when prejudice is rife - man versus woman, black versus white, cop versus criminal.
Out of the hate-filled housing projects comes a murderer so vile that his imprisonment causes all those touched by him to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
That is until Trent finds himself tangled up in the case, as the crimes of the past are revisited in the present.
Trent must unravel the tale behind the murders and also come to terms with his own part in the whole unsavoury business.
Karin Slaughter has carved a career out of thriller writing and her prolific sales have seen her a consistent performer on the best-seller lists for more than a decade.
With Criminal, she has brought to life a murderer whose depravities will test even the hardest of hearts.
(Review by Roddy Brooks)
All Woman And Springtime by B W Jones is published in paperback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £12.99. Available now.
Recommended by Oprah Winfrey, Brandon W Jones brings us a haunting debut that follows two teenage girls as they become innocent victims of the international sex trafficking trade.
Gyong-Ho (Gi) and Park Il-Sun become friends in an orphanage in North Korea. But their sheltered life is thrown into turmoil when Il-sun begins a relationship with a local man nicknamed Gianni.
Naivety and teenage lust lead her and Gi over the border to South Korea, where they are sold into the sex trade.
Escaping the brutal regime of North Korea may seem exhilarating for some, but for Gi and Il-sun the sex trade is an even more horrifying experience.
After a botched escape attempt, they are shipped to a brothel in Seattle, where they live out a meaningless existence as prostitutes. But, is there light at the end of the tunnel?
If you enjoyed Memoirs Of A Geisha, this is for you. It's a beautifully written novel with some very dark moments.
At times you feel emotionally stripped down as these girls are treated like animals, but it's such a perfectly crafted book, that it's hard to put down.
(Review by Emma Everingham)
Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth is published in paperback by Serpent's Tail, priced £11.99. Available now.
Crime writer Cathi Unsworth's fourth novel leaps back and forth between 1983 and 2003.
From injured ex-police officer-turned-private detective Sean Ward, in the next chapter we meet 15-year-old schoolgirl Corinne Woodward.
In the present day, Sean visits a seaside resort, Erneworth, with new forensic evidence that suggests Corinne, now institutionalised, was not the only person present - and so not necessarily guilty - at a fellow classmate's murder 20 years ago.
Back in 1983, we follow Corinne in the lead-up to the murder as she meets a girl who's not all she seems.
Weirdo is a compelling read, as characters and details are gradually revealed, sometimes leading the reader to know more than the detective does.
Incredibly well written, readers will feel like they're at the centre of the action, desperate for the truth to be revealed in the future.
It's an enjoyable read and an approachable introduction to crime fiction.
(Review by Victoria Burt)
Warrior Of Rome: The Wolves Of The North by Harry Sidebottom is published in hardback by Michael Joseph, priced £14.99. Available now.
Oxford don Harry Sidebottom is an accomplished author whose knowledge and passion for ancient history intertwines to pen the fictional epic adventure series Warrior Of Rome.
The Wolves Of The North is the fifth novel in his best-selling series surrounding hero Ballista.
A mission across the Black Sea sees the mighty leader clash with savage barbarian tribes, whose brutality has formed the stuff of legend.
Yet it is a threat much closer to home, a murderous stalker following Ballista and his familia, that causes the gravest concern.
In the strange, barren lands of the North, no one is safe and everyone falls under suspicion...
Sidebottom is a talented storyteller whose academia meets wild imagination to bring detailed, bloodthirsty scenes to life.
Each novel tells a standalone story but there's clearly a weighty back story to Ballista that will leave readers hungry for more.
(Review by Angela Johnson)
The House Of Rumour by Jake Arnott is published in hardback by Sceptre, priced £17.99. Available now.
Set during the height of the Second World War, several independent yet seemingly entangled stories of propaganda and precognition are told in a way that leaves everyone questioning what is real in The House Of Rumour.
Mixing historical figures with fictional characters throughout the multiple tangential stories, Jake Arnott creates a history that straddles the border between factual and imaginary, allowing conspiracy to fester around military secrets and popular science fiction.
The ambitious concept is spread between a host of individuals, who all question the nature of the universe and adopt different understandings of its workings, whether through scientific or supernatural means.
The narrative style leaves much to be desired as you flit uncomfortably between wholly different accounts, told through often different mediums.
Although the execution is strong, the story seems too patchwork. There'll be parts you like and love, but the rest can be arduous.
(Review by Wayne Walls)
The Red Chamber by Pauline Chen is published in paperback by Virago, priced £12.99. Available now.
The Red Chamber is a retelling of one of China's most famous works of literature, the 2,500-page epic Dreams Of The Red Chamber.
It follows an 18th century orphan, Daiyu, sent to the capital Beijing to stay with her aristocratic cousins, the Jia family.
Once there, the passionate Daiyu is drawn into a love triangle; her cousin, Baoyu, falls in love with her, but it has been arranged for him to marry the kind-hearted, dutiful Baochai, daughter of the Xue family.
Played out against a backdrop of intrigue running all the way from the highest levels of court to the scheming of the servants, this tale of star-crossed lovers will seem familiar from any number of stories, including Gone With The Wind and Romeo And Juliet.
But in its depiction of the lavish lifestyle of the aristocracy of 1720s China - and its degradation once hard times appear - The Red Chamber has a texture all of its own.
(Review by Paul McGurk)
A Lady Cyclist's Guide To Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £12.99. Available now.
A Lady Cyclist's Guide To Kashgar weaves two narratives together - diary entries by Evangeline English, an adventurous spinster who followed her missionary sister Elizabeth to Turkestan in 1923, and the modern-day life of Frieda, a researcher in Islamic society.
Eva hopes to publish the eponymous guide but is placed under house arrest after the mission leader, Millicent, is accused of murder by both locals and the occupying Chinese forces.
Frieda, caught in a lengthy affair with a married man, struggles with commitment issues stemming from her unconventional childhood. When she finds a homeless, illegal immigrant called Tayeb outside her flat, an unlikely friendship is forged.
British council worker Suzanne Joinson's debut delicately explains the links between the women, their contrasting personalities and approaches to literal and metaphorical foreign lands, keeping momentum in both stories until the relationship between the two is revealed.
It's a touching, fascinating and perfectly pitched story.
(Review by Natalie Bowen)
Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell is published in paperback by Century, priced £9.99. Available now.
Moving to Guernsey as a child to live with her stepfather's formidable mother Arlette, Elizabeth Dean is promptly renamed Betty and the pair forge a unique bond.
When Arlette, having been cared for by Betty, passes away some years later that link is put to the test. Betty must find the woman named in her will, with only an old address in Soho to go on - and must also find her own way towards adulthood.
The story unfolds alternatively through Arlette's eyes as she explores glamorous Jazz Age London and the infatuation of a first romance, and Betty's as she negotiates love in the 1990s, both through a liaison with a famous neighbour and a slow-burning friendship.
Both women suffer heartache and experience joy, their lives running parallel to each other as we turn the pages, getting gradually closer to solving the mystery of Arlette's will.
Lisa Jewell seems to have taken a more mature turn with her new book, creating a subtle, heart-warming tale of two young women separated by decades - with the only frustration being that it lacks a little spark.
(Review by Lauren Turner)
When Ziggy Played Guitar: David Bowie And Four Minutes That Shook The World by Dylan Jones is published in hardback by Preface Publishing, priced £20. Available now.
Dylan Jones has been such a big David Bowie fan since he was a boy that he has written a book about his hero, based around one appearance of the singer on Top Of The Pops.
Jones was so taken with Bowie's first TOTP rendition of Starman on July 6, 1972 that he has seen fit to write something that comes across as a 200-page forum post with pictures.
His book, subtitled David Bowie And Four Minutes That Shook The World, has nuggets which obsessives (admittedly such as me, sometimes) will appreciate - like who else was on the show, what other programmes were on that week, and news events of the time.
All these build up a sense of nostalgia which is basically the attraction of the book.
As with some posts or blog entries, the writing flows well and you won't mind all the wallowing in Jones's past as long as your tastes are similar to his.
(Review by Chris Gibbings)
Mr Churchill's Profession: Statesman, Orator, Writer by Peter Clarke is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £20. Available now.
Winston Churchill, Britain's legendary wartime prime minister, was an MP for most of his life but writing was always his principal source of income.
This well-researched and interesting book by former history professor Peter Clarke explores Churchill's finances and comes up with some surprising facts.
Churchill's parents had lived beyond their means and he inherited this characteristic. Fortunately he was enormously gifted in the use of words, and was blessed with phenomenal energy and enthusiasm. His literary output was prodigious.
For decades, he earned huge sums of money from the histories, biographies and newspaper articles that he penned.
Although he reached millionaire status at times, he had a large family to support. They all lived extremely well, and in true celebrity fashion, he spent his money as fast as he earned it. Often, and at great speed, he had to write himself out of financial trouble.
One is left with a picture of a brilliant maverick who would not have been out of place at the court of the first Queen Elizabeth.
(Review by Anthony Looch)
Meander: East To West Along A Turkish River by Jeremy Seal is published in hardback by Chatto & Windus, priced £16.99. Available now.
Established travel writer Jeremy Seal has a well-documented love affair with Turkey, so for his fifth book he chose to explore the great Turkish river Meander. By collapsible canoe.
The verb meander came from the river, which takes a leisurely route from the mountainous town of Dinar to the Aegean Sea, and it has a rich history, referenced by Ancient Greek and Roman writers.
Urged on by romanticism - and little else, as the region is poorly mapped - Seal aims to paddle the length of the waterway, but soon finds modern development has diverted and dammed the mighty river to serve mankind's purposes.
Nevertheless, he pushes on and the resulting book sweeps between travelogue, societal investigation, historical interpretation and modern analysis.
Sometimes the history gets a bit heavy against the vivid modern adventure, but Turkey is a land of conflicts and Seal's humorous style ties it together with aplomb.
(Review by Natalie Bowen)
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