House of Glass

Susan Fletcher

Reviewed by Rachel Hore

House of Glass occupies the historical gothic genre, which bestselling literary authors such as Sarah Perry and Natasha Pulley have brought back into vogue. Its protagonist is Clare Waterfield, a young Edwardian woman set apart from society by a debilitating brittle bone condition that has left her curiously shaped and with a bluish tinge to the whites of her eyes. She’s recently orphaned (in the best gothic tradition), and it’s to exorcise her grief that, after an unofficial apprenticeship with the curator of the Palm House at Kew Gardens in 1914, she accepts a commission at Shadowbrook, a rundown country house in Gloucestershire [Read more...] in Reviews

Evening in Paradise

Lucia Berlin

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Many of these stories are set in places far from Manhattan: Chile, New Mexico, Mexico City, or the Western mining towns of Berlin’s childhood. They chart the growth of Berlin’s sensibility. From the action-packed account of two seven-year-olds selling ‘chances’ in their neighbourhood (El Paso, 1943) to a Gothic tale of sexual assault in Chile, to story after story of husbands and wives and lovers, such is the immediacy that we are with Berlin every step of the way as she shows without blinking the path from innocence to experience [Read more...] in Reviews

October Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

C. J. Sansom has written only nine novels, but he became established as one of the genre’s stars very early in his impressive career. The latest novel, Tombland, features his hunchback lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, in the investigation of a peculiar murder and also in Kett’s Rebellion in Norfolk during the reign of Edward VI. Sansom has the enviable ability to mix serious research with easy prose and great storytelling, and he has added some touching human relationships to this story of privation, cruelty, and punishment [Read more...] in Reviews

I Might Regret This

Abbi Jacobson

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Everyone thought she was mad when she set off. Wouldn’t she be lonely? Would she be safe? Come to that, why didn’t she go by a completely different route while she was at it? But Abbi knew that she needed time on her own, needed a chance to take stock, and needed to do it her way. She writes amusingly about not EVER being able to get to sleep; about the random places where she spends her nights; about the funny looks you get if you travel alone. She offers tips on how to survive in a car on your own for up to 12 hours at a time. She reviews her life, mulling over the mistakes. And then, eventually, there is a chapter about success and the hard graft that led to it [Read more...] in Reviews

Wonder Valley

Ivy Pochoda

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Set in modern-day California but not in the affluent areas often portrayed in films and television programmes, this work is located in the grimy, smelly underbelly of the sunshine state and the city of angels. It opens with a traffic jam on an LA freeway, people sweating in their cars as they try to get to work. Suddenly a naked man appears, running between the cars at a steady pace [Read more...] in Reviews

Severance

Ling Ma

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Ma has referred to her book as ‘an apocalyptic office novel’ and its critique of capitalism, done slyly yet tellingly, is a central ingredient in her fusion of narrative themes. There’s suspense too in the gothic, survivalist scenes, complete with maggot-infested corpses. There’s contemplative analysis in Candace’s musing on the oddities of her world and her place in it. There’s a battle of wills, between our steely heroine and the autocratic leader of the survivalists. And there’s the sardonic take on routine, work, wage slavery and consumerism [Read more...] in Reviews

The Missing List

Clare Best

Reviewed by Alison Coles

[Best] uses these memories, noticing the change in her carefree seven-year-old self, to a child who shunned the camera or showed off for it, never at ease again with her father watching her. ‘We want to believe that abusers are monsters but generally they look and behave like responsible people.’ The damage of abuse is not just a physical one, it does damage psychologically – and Clare is looking for the monster in the father with whom she has always been in a symbiotic relationship. It is this unravelling of each skein of memory that is her quest, trying to separate the two people. The monster and the protector [Read more...] in Reviews