First thoughts

A Question Of Identity

Susan Hill

Chatto & Windus, €18.95;

Kindle, £8.54

Review: Nilima Marshall

Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Serrailler is back on the bookshelves in Susan Hill’s seventh instalment of the Serrailler crime series. The small cathedral town of Lafferton is once again rocked by a spate of murders.

The targets of these horrific crimes are old women, which takes us back to Alan Keys — a suspect who 10 years ago was charged and tried for several murders in Yorkshire but acquitted on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Enquiries suggest that this person has simply vanished.

We also get an insight into Serrailler’s family, with his father’s behaviour taking a turn for the worse, and his sister, Cat Deerbon, fighting to stop the closure of the local hospice. Rachel, the love of his life, is showing pangs of guilt about their relationship.

A lot of pages are dedicated to the personal lives of Cat and Simon which leaves little room for what would have been an intriguing murder mystery.

The Bone Bed

Patricia Cornwell

Little, Brown, €11.99;

Kindle, £8.99

Review: Shereen Low 

With more than 30 books to her name, Patricia Cornwell has no need to prove that she’s one of the top crime thriller writers around, yet she continues to keep up her game with her 20th Kay Scarpetta novel, The Bone Bed.

Chief medical examiner Scarpetta finds herself torn between a court case, for which she has been called as a defence witness, and the urgent analysis of a woman’s body found tangled underwater with a leatherback turtle.

These become the least of Scarpetta’s worries after she receives an email featuring horrific video footage, which somehow is connected to the case of a missing palaeontologist in Canada.

Scarpetta has a race against time to discover the cunning and cruel killer. But how long before they strike again?

Readers familiar with Cornwell will realise that her modus operandi is to build up the story over the chapters, leaving readers on tenterhooks, before its climactic crescendo.

Waging Heavy Peace

Neil Young

Viking, €16.99

Review: Natalie Bowen

Canadian rock star Neil Young is frank about his motivation for this memoir — he has renounced drink and drugs for the first time in decades and needs a creative outlet during a break from songwriting.

The 66-year-old’s style is rambling, rousing, nostalgic and very readable, even if the exclamation marks scattered liberally around the pages can be distracting. It is part reminiscence of his long career and part diary of the past year, with many digressions into his obsessions such as classic cars, model trains, music quality and the environment.

Beyond the name-dropping and self-congratulation, Young’s intimacy conveys his fear that he has lost the songwriting spark, that he cannot be clean and creative simultaneously, that he is running out of time to make a difference against the spectres of age and dementia. Excellent.

Slap And Tickle:The Unusual History Of Sex And People Who Have It

Tom Cutler Constable, £12.99

Review: Natalie Bowen

As the son of a sex therapist, Tom Cutler’s upbringing appears to have instilled a frank and unabashed attitude to human intimacy, or so it would seem from this sly, humorous look at the history of sexual relations.

His third book follows on nicely from his earlier tongue-in-cheek publications, such as A Gentleman’s Bedside Book, and the text is peppered with sarcasm and dry wit — very much the nudge-nudge, wink-wink style of stereotypical British humour.

It is a gloriously funny read, taking nothing seriously and inserting ribald insinuations about everything from Baden Powell’s enthusiasm for scouts and rumours of how Victorian doctors calmed down women to Roman orgies and the science of sexual attraction.

There are also quirky tit-bits, such as the fact the first couple to be shown in bed together on US primetime TV was Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Guaranteed to make you titter.

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