Reviews of Find Your Feet, The Midnight Library, My Dark Vanessa, The Night Hawks and No Filter
Thriller: Find You First by Linwood Barclay HQ, 400 pages, hardcover €15.99; e-book £9.99
Miles Cookson is a tech billionaire. The only thing he can’t buy is time, and he’s just found out he’s running out of that precious commodity. His doctor has just told him that at, 42, he has Huntington’s disease, a rare and fatal inherited brain disorder.
More than 20 years ago, when he was a student, Miles donated sperm to a fertility clinic for cash, so he may have children out there. Each has a 50/50 chance of inheriting his fatal condition, so he determines to search for potential heirs so he can warn them and look after them financially.
His bottomless resources soon find nine potential heirs. One of them, Chloe Swanson, is 20, a waitress in a diner who has ambitions to be a film-maker.
She has always thought she was an only child, but has just discovered, through a DNA testing site, she has a half-brother called Todd Cox. She meets up with him, and arranges to meet up again in a few days.
By now, Miles’ in-house private detective has traced Chloe and the billionaire visits her at the diner and tells her he is her father. She says she has already met Todd, who is, of course, also on his list.
But when they go to his home, he has vanished, with no trace that he ever lived there.
To their horror, father and newly-found daughter soon discover that, one by one, Miles’ progeny are been killed, every trace of them systematically wiped away.
Linwood Barclay has conjured up an absorbing and groundbreaking thriller that piles on almost unbearable tension, yet the final sentence of which manages to bring a tear to the eye.
Fiction: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Canongate, 336 pages, paperback €9.49; e-book £6.74
Nora Seed is full of regrets — regrets at the choices she has made throughout a life that didn’t turn out how she might have expected. She lives alone with only her cat for companionship but when her cat dies it’s too much for lonely Nora, so she decides to end it all. Instead of dying however, she finds herself in the Midnight Library. Its books offer choices — a chance to see how life might have turned out if she’d made different decisions. But as Nora tries on one life after another, the pursuit of perfection puts her in danger. Before time runs out, she must figure out what she wants.
An intriguing concept but Nora’s leaps from one life to the next may not win you over.
Fiction: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Fourth Estate, 384 pages, paperback €9.99; e-book £0.99
Vanessa was just 15 when she first had sex with her English teacher, Jacob. For years, she considered it to have not only been consensual but the great love story of her life. Then, with the MeToo movement kicking into gear, Jacob is accused of sexual abuse by another former student. Initially horrified the man she loved has been labelled a paedophile, Vanessa is forced to rethink her past and assess just how equal the relationship really was. Having spent her adult life thinking this man had helped her find sexual awakening, she now has to confront the idea that she might have been groomed by a skilled manipulator. Russell’s novel has been longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize.
Thriller: The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths
Quercus, 368 pages, hardcover €24.10; e-book £12.99
Norfolk metal detectorists the Night Hawks make two startling discoveries — a hoard of Bronze Age weapons and the body of a man recently released from prison. Local DI Harry Nelson asks his archaeologist friend Dr Ruth Galloway to help. The pair have history — Harry is the father to Ruth’s 12-year-old daughter, but is married — and when he is called to a double killing at an isolated farm, Ruth joins him and becomes involved in a deadly conspiracy involving illegal scientific experimentation. In Galloway’s 13th adventure, Elly Griffiths creates a memorable cast of characters and once again pulls off the not inconsiderable feat of making forensic archaeology exciting.
Non-fiction: No Filter by Sarah Frier
Random House, 352 pages, paperback €12.90; e-book £5.99
Billed as the inside story of the rise of Instagram, reporter Sarah Frier takes a look at the humble origins and meteoric rise of the 2010s’ defining app. She looks at the concept launched by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger a decade ago and how it initially grew through word-of-mouth. Then, after catching the eye of Mark Zuckerberg, it was taken over by Facebook. The mega-wealthy founders decided to stay on in an attempt to preserve their vision, but their worldview was frequently at odds with that of their new owner. No Filter, named Financial Times Business Book of the Year, also examines the all-pervasive impact of Instagram and what it says about today’s society.