Book reviews: This week's new publications rated

Book Cover Handout of The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney, published by John Murray. See PA Feature BOOK Reviews. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/John Murray. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature BOOK Reviews.

The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney is published in hardback by John Murray, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99)

THE Blood Miracles is Galway writer Lisa McInerney's follow-up to her award-winning debut novel The Glorious Heresies.

Published to critical acclaim in 2015, it featured a bizarre murder that entangled the lives of five marginalised characters living in post-crash Ireland.

The Blood Miracles returns to Ryan Cusack; a teenage drug dealer in the earlier novel. Five years on, he is trying to manage his burgeoning career as one of Cork city's hard men.

However, his mental health is fragile and his relationship with long-term girlfriend Karine, disintegrating. Plagued by the childhood loss of his mother, Ryan returns again and again to the gifts she left him: a flair for the piano and fluency in Italian.

It's the latter skill his underworld mentor, Dan, exploits to establish a relationship with the Neapolitan mafia and set up a new ecstasy supply route to the city.

With writing as punchy as the characters, The Blood Miracles is more than just a crime thriller. An intense and moving read, it explores class, culture and the toxic effects of modern masculinity.

Bairbre Holmes

The Owl Always Hunts At Night by Samuel Bjork is published in hardback by Doubleday, priced £12.99 (ebook £5.99).

THERE'S something about Scandi-crime fiction that sets it apart from the norm and the second novel in Norwegian author Samuel Bjork's Munch and Kruger series exemplifies everything that is great about the genre.

Veteran detective Holger Munch is reunited with the singularly perceptive, but haunted investigator Mia Kruger for a disturbing case in which a teenage girl has been found dead in an elaborately posed crime scene.

Munch needs Kruger at the top of her game to solve this case, but Mia has her own demons to contend with and nothing seems to quite add up.

Told in short, compelling chapters that alternate between several perspectives, Bjork creates a unique, twisting, unsettling thriller that really epitomises the phrase 'page-turner'.

And at the heart of it are two police officers whose own emotional battles are as enticing as the crime they are investigating.

Read as a standalone novel or as part of the series, the book works equally well. In fact, there is very little to fault in this Nordic crime thriller par excellence.

Jade Craddock

Pursuit by John McAllister is published by Glenlish Publishing.

IT'S a dog's life for professional hit-man Doc Terence in this fast-paced, tongue-in-cheek game of cat and mouse.

If there is such a thing as a paramilitary romp, then McAllister – author of two previous novels featuring Station Sergeant Barlow – has nailed it.

The dialogue is as sharp as a Stanley knife, the action is as packed as a punch, the plot twists like a potholed country road and the body count is rising.

Doc doesn't mind killing people. In fact Doc gets twitchy when he hasn't a target in mind. He has been ordered by one faction of 'the Organisation' to track down a disgraced politician and kill him.

However, he faces a conflict of loyalty as a rival faction, led by Doc's brother Jimmy, wants to interrogate the elusive politician.

Then there are the women who Doc thinks he should kill to maintain his "integrity" – his runaway wife and Connie, who withholds information about the politician's whereabouts.

Set in a slightly alternative Northern Ireland, where history seems to have split off at a tangent, Pursuit races faster than a greyhound around the dog track for a big race and the inevitable showdown.

Tony Bailie

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter is published in hardback by HarperCollins, priced £14.99 (ebook £5.99). Available now

WHILST feminism is widely celebrated, in the age of social media, there is still overwhelming pressure on women to be perfect. So, the first novel for adults from columnist and documentary-maker Dawn O'Porter is definitely much needed.

The Cows is about three women; Tara, Stella and Cam. Through chance and the power of the internet, their stories meet and intertwine.

Stella has lost both her mother and twin sister to cancer and has been told she may be unable to have children. Cam is a lifestyle blogger who promotes independence and childlessness, while Tara is a mother who inadvertantly (and highly embarrassingly) becomes an online viral sensation.

Each of the women wrestle with their own desires whilst shouldering the weight of expectations placed on them by their families, society and themselves.

Tara's storyline undoubtedly steals the spotlight: the way in which her sexuality is exploited and examined by the media is excruciating and sadly all too believable.

It is a true testament to O'Porter's writing prowess that she is able to tackle these controversial subjects and turn them into symbols of empowerment –you'll only wish there was more of it to devour.

A truly funny, important and fearless novel. Don't follow the herd.

Erin Bateman

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