Sunday 16 December 2018

Scorching reads to get you through long, hot summer days and nights

The essential ingredient for immersive warm-weather fiction is a cracking story. Claire Coughlan picks the best page-turners to keep you entertained on your sun lounger

A good thriller is essential for any beach bag
A good thriller is essential for any beach bag

No beach bag would be complete without a thriller or three, and crime fiction is in rude health thanks to the twisted imaginations of a great many authors, particularly Irish authors.

Top of this list comes Liz Nugent, whose latest book, Skin Deep (Penguin, €14.99), features French Riviera-dwelling socialite Cordelia Russell, who is down on her luck and arrives home from a night out to the decomposing corpse of the person she has killed.

Who and why? You'll find out, but Cordelia is one of those utterly compelling love-to-hate characters.

The sun-drenched glamour of the Cote D'Azur also provides the backdrop for Susan Stairs's beautifully written family drama One Good Reason (Hachette Books Ireland, €19.60) which poses the question: how far would you go for revenge if someone wronged your loved one?

Memorable settings are essential for vacation fiction. If you can't get away this summer, you can be instantly transported to a five-star Arizona spa resort, which is the location for Sophie Hannah's vividly-drawn Did You See Melody? (Hodder, €15.50). It all kicks off when harassed mum-on-the-run Cara Burrows walks into the wrong hotel room by mistake and sees America's most famous murder victim, Melody Chapa, alive and well, even though her parents are serving life imprisonment for her death.

Also delivering lots of twists and turns is women's fiction author and former journalist Claire Allan's first foray into the thriller genre, Her Name was Rose (Avon, €7.99).

For fans of police procedurals, The Ruin (Sphere, €15.90), Dervla McTiernan's debut, is perfect. It is the first in a series featuring Galway DI Cormac Reilly, who investigates whether a recent suicide could be connected to a woman's death 20 years earlier.

Another police story with a difference is Henrietta McKervey's third novel, Violet Hill (Hachette Books Ireland, €15.90), which stars Susanna, a "super-recogniser" - one of an elite Met Police team of officers with extraordinary powers for facial recognition.

Recurring characters in fiction are much-loved by readers and Sam Blake doesn't disappoint with the third novel in her gripping series led by the redoubtable Detective Garda Cathy Connolly, No Turning Back (Bonnier Zaffre, €14.75). Connolly is on the case of the hit-and-run of Tom Quinn, son of power couple Orla and Conor Quinn, when she begins to wonder if Tom's death is linked with the apparent suicide of shy student Lauren O'Reilly.

Persons Unknown (The Borough Press, €9.05) is Susie Steiner's second book in her series featuring sparky Cambridgeshire police DI Manon Bradshaw.

A Richard and Judy Book Club pick, this novel has oodles of intrigue and will satisfy fans of the detective who made her first appearance with Missing, Presumed (The Borough Press, €12.60).

DC Cat Kinsella thinks her father may have been responsible for a murder that happened on holiday in Ireland 20 years earlier. If that isn’t a killer premise, I don’t know what is. Combining police procedural with family drama and a good dollop of suspense, Sweet Little Lies (Bonnier Zaffre, €11.20), by Caz Frear, won Richard and Judy’s Search for a Bestseller competition in 2016. The TV rights have also been optioned.

Another thriller with a cracking premise is Thirteen, (Orion, €15.90) by Steve Cavanagh. It’s a legal yarn with a difference: there’s a serial killer on the jury. There’s already a lot of buzz about this one and it’s not hard to see why.

No sun lounger is complete without something that tugs at the heartstrings. Up-lit is the new genre that everyone’s talking about, when really, stories with heart have never gone out of style. Together (Orion, €9.99), by Julie Cohen, is an epic love story with a clever twist, perfect for fans of Gail Honeyman’s smash hit debut Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (HarperCollins, €7.49)

Meet Me at the Museum (Doubleday, €14.75), by debut author Anne Youngson, is an epistolary novel with buckets of charm, about the correspondence between Tina Hopgood and the curator of a Danish museum, whom Tina writes to without expectation of a response, stirred by memories from childhood.

No-one knows how to tell an emotionally-charged tale like Jojo Moyes. Still Me (Michael Joseph, €22.70) follows Lou Clark and what happens when she meets someone who turns her whole life upside down, because he reminds her of a man she used to know.

The Man Who Didn’t Call (Mantle, €14.75) is Rosie Walsh’s first novel under her own name, though she has blogged about dating for Marie Claire magazine and published four laugh-out-loud novels under the pseudonym Lucy Robinson. This book marks a slightly different direction for Walsh, as she spins a bittersweet love story, layered with mystery.

Sometimes the pleasure of reading lies in re-reading. Earlier this year, Virago re-issued a sumptuous 80th anniversary edition of Rebecca (Virago Modern Classics, €13.70), Daphne du Maurier’s best-known novel, which arguably unpicks one woman’s descent into obsession better than any contemporary psychological thriller. Virago has also published a new edition of Alias Grace (Virago, €11.35) by Margaret Atwood, after the release of the Netflix Original series, which was inspired by the true story of one of the most notorious women of the 1840s.

And following the success of Sky Atlantic’s Patrick Melrose series, featuring the eponymous troubled aristocrat, Picador has published Patrick Melrose, Volume 1 (Picador, €8.15) which includes the first three Edward St Aubyn novels, Never Mind, Bad News and Some Hope.

If you like your fiction laden with prizes and accolades, you can’t go wrong with Grace (Oneworld, €8.30), which won this year’s Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year for author Paul Lynch’s telling of the Irish Great Famine through the eyes of a teenage girl.

And Solar Bones (Tramp Press, €15) doesn’t shy away from playing with form. It recently won the prestigious Dublin Literary Award, as well as the Goldsmiths Prize and the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards Novel of the Year, both in 2016. This is Irish author Mike McCormack’s comeback book, after a hiatus of a decade between that and his previously published novel, Notes from a Coma, which shows that while literary trends may come and go, quality prevails.

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