First Thoughts

Gold

Chris Cleave

Sceptre, €22.45;

Kindle, €8.49

Review: Hannah Stephenson

There couldn’t be a more timely backdrop to Chris Cleave’s third novel than the London Olympics and the story of two British female cyclists as they battle it out for a place in the world’s most prestigious sporting event.

The unlikely friends and rivals, Zoe and Kate, both have complex issues and different motives. Zoe is the ruthless, cunning competitor whose raison d’etre is to win, while Kate just wants to do her best for everyone else and has other issues, most significantly a nine-year-old daughter suffering from leukaemia, and a husband who once had a thing for Zoe.

As one who is not a fan of the Olympics, I was not expecting too much from this novel, but it’s a completely riveting read because at the heart of it is the unseen, private world of our greatest athletes, their darkest hours, their hopes, doubts, ambitions and sacrifices, played out long before the world’s cameras focus on them. I couldn’t put it down.

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn

Weidenfeld & Nicolson, €18.60;

ebook, €8.49

Review: Kate Whiting

Gillian Flynn has already impressed Stephen King with her first two thrillers, and he’s bound to rave about her third, as chilling as it is clever.

The premise is simple enough — beautiful bubbly blonde Amy Dunne goes missing on the morning of her and husband Nick’s fifth anniversary.

For the first half of the novel, the narrative is split between Nick, voicing his reactions and the unfolding crime investigation from the day of Amy’s disappearance, and Amy’s diary entries about their relationship, leading up to her disappearance.

So far, so predictable, until the police discover the crime scene has been staged and question Nick, who’s also having an affair with one of his students, over the murder of his wife.

But then everything flips and what the reader believed was true is replaced with a much darker scenario. Flynn is a master of character creation — and reader manipulation — and this book will have you gripped throughout.

Strindberg’s Star

Jan Wallentin

Corvus; €17.15

Review: James Fry

The blockbuster debut of Swedish journalist Jan Wallentin, Strindberg’s Star is a sensational globe-spanning thrill ride of a novel.

From turn-of-the-century China to Germany’s Second World War concentration camps to present day Sweden, the mystery of two strange artefacts propels protagonist Don Titelman into a breathtaking race against time.

After he is accused of a murder he didn’t commit, religious iconography expert Don is forced to flee from the clutches of a shadowy organisation which will stop at nothing to obtain the relics in his possession. With elements of Jules Verne-style adventure and Stieg Larsson edginess, the book gathers pace rapidly and racks up the tension.

An international best-seller, the combination of intrigue, action and accurate detail forms an engrossing first novel.

The Stone Roses: War And Peace

Simon SpenceViking, £20;

Kindle, €11.99

Review: Julie Cheng

During the 1980s and 1990s, Manchester band The Stone Roses, featuring frontman Ian Brown, guitarist John Squire, bassist Mani and drummer Reni, gained a massive following with ‘Fools Gold’, ‘She Bangs The Drums’ and ‘I Am the Resurrection’.

Based on hours of interviews, Simon Spence puts the story of the band into neat chapters focusing on specific people, times or events. Insights include the infamous gig on Spike Island, the recording contract with Jive/Zomba and the creation of ’Madchester’.

As the terms of the Jive/Zomba contract were questioned, the relationship between Brown and Squire broke down. In 1996, after only two albums, the guitarist quit.

Fifteen years on, and to the ecstasy of the fans, Brown and Squire are speaking. What the world is waiting for is their reunion tour this summer.

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