First Thoughts

A look at the latest books to hit the shelves.

The Dogs Of Littlefield

Suzanne Berner

Fig Tree €14.99 eBook €£8.99

Review: Bridie Pritchard

The latest novel by Orange Prize award winner Suzanne Berne is set in Littlefield, Massachusetts, named one of the 10 best places to live in America.

It seems like the perfect town. But all is not as it seems — the use of the park has caused fractures between dog owners and the rest of the community. Things come to a head when a dog is found poisoned. Into this troubled community comes an anthropologist wanting to learn what makes Littlefield a place for a better quality of life.

Berne treats the story almost like a jewel, slowly turning and revealing different facets, focusing on different characters.

The novel has a dreamy quality. It raises many questions about how to live, both in a small domestic way but also how best to bear the burdens that life throws in your path.

It is contemplative and a sensitive portrayal of how fear shapes the way we live.

When It’s A Jar

Tom Holt

Orbit €£8.99 eBook € £3.59

Review: Natalie Bowen

Unlikely hero Maurice Katz is a serial underachiever who wakes up one morning to find a dragon in his bedroom. In a fit of outraged disbelief, he kills the beast with a bread knife — setting him off on a quest to rescue his (arguably) ‘One True Love’, best friend and army officer Stephanie.

Pulled along with destiny like a modern Arthur Dent, Katz’s future involves a scientist trapped in a different multiverse, a megalomaniac techno-tsar who dreams of being the richest man in any world and a most unusual new job as a junior admin assistant. Oh, and paying the rent.

Holt’s work, while favourably compared with Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, is firmly set in the present and blends the modern world with mythological and legendary narrative tropes — dusted liberally with dry humour and the ability to take a turn of phrase very literally.

It’s chortlingly good fun.

The Dark Angel

Dominique Sylvain

MacLehose Press € £18.99 eBook €£11.15

Review: Philip Robinson

Dominique Sylvain’s thriller has the usual twists and turns — and the obligatory dead body — expected of a crime novel. But what sets this typical piece apart from the others is the sleuths out to unmask the killer.

Set in Parisian backdrop, beautifully described with vivid realism, a beautiful girl is found murdered and the clues lead in many directions. Enter an unlikely detective partnership; Lola a bitter, wine loving, jigsaw-addicted retired police commissioner and Ingrid, an American masseuse/striptease artist.

When the finger points at a restaurateur with a dark past it seems to Lola and Ingrid that the law has the wrong man. The hunt for the real killer plays out alongside the story of the deceased’s lover, a thief with revenge on his mind. Both plots work well together and the writing is superb, however it does miss a little pace to keep me really turning the pages.

The Late Scholar

Jill Paton Walsh

Hodder & Stoughton, €19.99 eBook €7.47

Review: Emma Herdman

The unique characters of late crime author Dorothy L Sayers — Lord Peter Wimsey and his wife Harriet Vane — are resurrected for Walsh’s latest novel.

Having been made a Duke, Peter discovers he is also now Visitor of St Severin’s college, Oxford. When a vote can’t be decided on between fellows — in this instance, over the potential sale of a valuable manuscript — the Visitor is called upon to help settle the dispute.

With half of the fellows in favour of keeping the manuscript, and half wanting to sell it, they seem to have reached a deadlock. That is, until fellows start having mysterious accidents and even dying.

This is a charming romp through Oxford, featuring some unforgettable characters — a novel to get lost in on a winter’s evening.

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