Sandlands

Rosy Thornton

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Thornton’s canvas here may be a small one (the environs of one small parish, in the main), but the inner worlds she reveals are various and surprising. In ‘High House’, a charlady speaks kindly of her employer, Mr Napish, who is exercised about flood precautions: he understands the land, which outsiders (‘seedypuffs’, just blowing through) always think is flat [Read more...] in Reviews

Caught in the Revolution

Helen Rappaport

Reviewed by Jessica Mann

It was on February 23rd, 1917 – International Women’s Day – that the working women of Petrograd, about 90,000 of them by the afternoon, downed tools and joined together to march in protest against bread shortages. The next day huge crowds gathered and marched, on the 25th a general strike was in operation, by 27th the army had begun to mutiny. Rappaport allows a chapter a day for this part of the story. It is exciting even though readers know the outcome, and sad, because they do [Read more...] in Reviews

Behold the Dreamers

Imbolo Mbue

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

As the shadow of the coming crisis intensifies, so other problems develop for Neni and Jende. The birth of their second child Timba compounds their financial difficulties while their individual and joint relationships with the Clarks become ever more tangled. Yet Mbue – a Cameroonian herself –notably inclines away from the predictable [Read more...] in Revews

A Quiet Life

Natasha Walter

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Inspired by the life of Melinda Marling, American wife of British diplomacy’s golden boy, the traitor Donald Maclean, A Quiet Life follows the career of Laura Leverett, who follows her heart into a life of secrecy. Travelling to London by sea in January 1939, to stay with cousins in England, self-contained young Laura experiences for the first time the heady freedom of new encounters. She comes from a closed-off family, where disappointment and hidden violence have stunted interest in the world of politics and ideas [Read more...] in Reviews

The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Grimmer and more graphic than 12 Years a Slave, the novel begins as a reflection not merely of the oppression of black slaves by white owners but of a larger world of spies and slave catchers, informers and turncoats, abolitionists and campaigners. But then, as the pages turn, so an additional dimension becomes apparent. While Whitehead’s larger context is ‘manifest destiny’, the self-serving white philosophy that lends supremacy and justification to the relentless business of stealing land, enslaving Africans and obliterating Native Americans, what begins traditionally turns stranger and more inventive [Read more...] in Reviews

July Crime Round-Up

N.J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

This month’s novels latch on to [this] widespread insecurity in three very different cases of individuals trying to find out the truth about people they love. Debbie Howells offers Noah Calaway, a failed lawyer and hard-working hack writer, summoned to the aid of the only woman he ever loved. He met April when they were at school, loved her, misunderstood her, and eventually lost her. Now their mutual friend, Will, phones to tell Noah that April was suspected of murder before trying to kill herself. She is in intensive care and needs his help [Read more...] in Reviews

RIP Leslie Forbes

N.J. Cooper

A tribute to an extraordinary crime writer from our own crime columnist.

Leslie Forbes, who has died far too young, was the author of three bravura literary thrillers: Bombay Ice; Fish, Blood and Bone; and Waking Raphael. She was also a talented artist, a broadcaster, a dazzling raconteur, courageous traveller, and author of four travel and cookery books, including A Table in Tuscany.
Among her best stories was an account of her journey to the North West Frontier in search of recipes. The last part of the journey was a flight in a small plane otherwise filled with tough-guy war correspondents dressed in camouflage. None of them would talk about their mission. On the return trip they all looked very dejected and admitted that they had failed to interview a particular warlord. It turned out that Leslie had sat beside him at his village’s feast and he had given her his cherished lamb recipe.
She was brave, generous, fiery, and passionate in her pursuit of injustice. Among her many other activities she taught creative writing at the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture.
There was no one like Leslie and no one who knew her will ever forget her.