Book reviews: New reads rated

Ruth Ware's new book The Lying Game is a pacy and claustrophobic coming-of-age tale,

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware is published in hardback by Harvill Secker, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99)

A DARK secret from a long-forgotten summer gnaws at the heart of this impressive new novel from Ruth Ware, who won plaudits for her debut, In A Dark, Dark Wood and the thriller The Woman In Cabin 10.

Her style is more assured in this pacy and claustrophobic coming-of-age tale, hinging on the secrets and lies that bind four friends, Isa, Kate, Thea and Fatima, together into adult life.

Returning to their old boarding school, Isa, now a young mother, is tormented by her hazy and unreliable memories of the weeks surrounding the disappearance of Kate's father 17 years ago, and the consequences of the so-called 'Lying Game' the girls had loved to play.

The dreamy narrative leaps from present to past as the horror and guilt is slowly peeled away before reaching a dramatic close.

Ware perfectly captures the intensity of female teenage friendships, which lie at the very core of the novel, as well as the universal experience of love, betrayal and grief.

A well-trodden idea becomes gripping and urgent in her capable hands.

Lizzy Buchan

The Child by Fiona Barton is published in hardback by Bantam Press, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99).

THE second novel from Fiona Barton – author of bestselling The Widow – tells another psychologically thrilling story.

Journalist Kate Waters is back and this time investigating the decades-old skeleton of a baby found on an east London building site. In an effort to land an exclusive story, Kate is determined to find out who buried the baby and if it's Alice Irving, a newborn stolen from a local maternity hospital in the 1970s.

The pace of Kate's investigation is matched by the unravelling story of Emma Massingham, who is struggling to come to terms with her own past.

A standalone novel, The Child sees Fiona Barton's journalist background come to the fore again, with main character Kate's tenacity to uncover the truth the driving force behind the plot.

Every couple of chapters, Barton kicks the novel's suspense into a new gear, and you won't be able to put it down until all the secrets have been shared.

Rebecca Wilcock

A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall is published in hardback by Bloombsury Circus, priced £16.99 (ebook £6.47).

TOR Udall's first novel is a poetic exploration of grief and love against the backdrop of Kew Gardens.

Widowed Jonah wanders through the gardens, trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife, Audrey, and the reasons for her death. There he meets Chloe, an artist who sketches the gardens and finds solace from unspoken pain in origami.

Also in the gardens amid the changing seasons are Harry, an elderly gardener with a passion for growing plants, and Milly, a child who seems to belong nowhere else.

Udall deftly leads the reader through the tangled web of relationships binding each of these four people to Audrey, whose own story comes to be revealed through her diaries.

Setting and characters come to life via vivid language as the narrative shifts between the different threads of the story. What emerges is a strange and unexpected story of death and its aftermath, which lingers in the mind long after you reach the last page.

Emily Beament

Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give by Ada Calhoun is published in hardback by W.W.Norton & Company, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.12)

AS THE title of American author and columnist Ada Calhoun's new book of essays suggests, it's unlikely you'll hear any speeches quite like these at forthcoming nuptials.

Wincingly honest, there's no place for soul mates and generic declarations of togetherness here. Instead, there's resentment for missing flights, breaking bathroom taps and, more upsettingly, finding other people attractive – and coming clean about it.

If this sounds cynical, it's not meant to be. By and large, Calhoun is pragmatically supportive of love and those who seek it out.

Her sweetest moments are those where she zones in on the minutiae of her marriage and being a parent, recalling family trips to a civil war enactment camp, huddling together to listen to an audiobook in a car.

Calhoun reserves her final essay in the series for the one speech she would give newlyweds.

Hopeful, sensible and grounded in reality, it serves just as much guidance to those in long-term relationships to those embarking on them.

Keeley Bolger

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