Book reviews

John Boyne's new novel A Ladder To The Sky is out now
John Boyne's new novel A Ladder To The Sky is out now

:: A Ladder To The Sky by John Boyne, published in hardback by Doubleday, priced £16.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

"AND you've heard the old proverb about ambition, haven't you?" He shook his head. "That it's like setting a ladder to the sky." Maurice Swift has ambition aplenty. It's the ideas he's lacking. But there are other people for that, and he finds that his charismatic good-looks can give him exactly what he needs to succeed. John Boyne's psychological drama is told over Swift's career lifetime, his soul aim to achieve the literacy acclaim he craves. Through three narrators, we see the way Swift expertly manipulates and betrays the people who love him; elderly novelist Erich Ackermann, American writer Dash Hardy, Swift's talented wife Edith, even his son Daniel. Boyne's narrative arc delivers a perfect balance of pace and detail to keep you gripped from beginning to end.


(Rebecca Wilcock)

:: The Mystery Of The Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah, published in hardback by HarperCollins, priced £18.99 (ebook £11.99).

SOPHIE Hannah's third act as an Agatha Christie resurrectionist is a piece of cake – but only for Poirot. Four people accused of murdering a man called Barnabas Pandy each receive a letter purportedly written by Hercule Poirot. Who is pretending to be Poirot and has murder truly been committed?

Over to Hannah, a perfect choice of ventriloquist who captures the infuriating precision and baffling brilliance of Poirot in a novel that is mostly told through dialogue and builds to a head-scratching denouement.

The sharp wit of Hannah's own crime novels translates here into a reviving breath for Poirot, who again taps and totters across the pages in precise little clockwork circles.

And, yes, this delicious mystery really does contain a 'bake-off' clue as one of many fiendish ingredients. A lovely slice of mystery.


(Julian Cole)

All The Hidden Truths by Claire Askew
All The Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

:: All The Hidden Truths by Claire Askew, published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.99)

AN OVERWORKED police officer, DI Helen Birch, is battling baggage from her past when a shooting at a local college hands her a tough case. Thirteen women and the killer, Ryan Summers, are all dead, but can Birch cope with the complex lives of the bereaved parents – and an unscrupulous journalist – to understand why the young killer did it?

This is a gripping debut crime thriller that draws you in with plenty of accurately-observed characters and a well-drawn setting. It is the page-turner it promises and well worth losing yourself in.


(Helen Smyth)

VOX by Christina Dalcher
VOX by Christina Dalcher

:: Vox by Christine Dalcher, published in hardback by HQ, priced £12.99 (ebook £4.99)

VOX IS the debut novel from theoretical linguistics academic Christina Dalcher. It tells the story of neurolinguist Dr Jean McClellan, living in a dystopian near-future USA, where women and girls can speak no more than 100 words per-day.

Vox shines brightest when Dalcher brings her knowledge of linguistics into the equation, which shows in comparison to the more action-oriented chapters.

It's a shame the book doesn't play more on the politics of the story and the action-filled finale almost leaves you wishing for a more complicated ending.

It is, however, certainly a page-turner and the ideas contained within the book are thought-provoking and bring to light various injustices and problems that still blight the world we live in. It also acts as a cautionary tale for the future.


(Ryan Ward)

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

:: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde, published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20 (ebook £13.99)

WITH Early Riser, the master of the alternate universe Jasper Fforde returns after what he describes as a "creative hiatus" with his first standalone novel.

It is set in a world gripped by icy winters that most people hibernate through. They leave just the Winter Consuls to run affairs in the lawless world that's left.

Consul novice Charlie Worthing has to learn fast how to navigate winter, while investigating a viral dream haunting a remote region of Wales.

The highly-inventive story comes to a swifter conclusion than the reader might like. But along the way, there are enough twists and turns and sinister corporate interests – not to mention dead bazouki players, aristocratic outlaws and an elusive murderous apparition with a love of Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes – to keep any Fforde fan happy.


(Emily Beaumont)


Lush by Gabrielle Fernie
Lush by Gabrielle Fernie

:: Lush: A True Story, Soaked in Gin by Gabrielle Fernie, published in paperback by Sphere, priced £8.99 (ebook £5.99)

GABRIELLE Fernie's memoir Lush tells of the actress struggling to break into the London acting world in her early 20s and the supporting role played by Gordon's gin.

Centring on an early quarter-life crisis, sparked by her best friend from back home in Wales getting married aged 23, Lush draws heavily from Fernie's blog Love Is A Four Letter Turd, billed as the confessions of a modern Bridget Jones who drinks too much, smokes too much and once used a coconut as a makeshift toilet.

Fernie pledges to find a steady plus one for the wedding, but can she find anyone as good as gin? An enjoyable resurrection of the ladette, Lush covers drunken nights out Welsh-style, one night stands and reality TV dating, showing not all Millennials are Instagram-obsessed wellness devotees.


(Laura Paterson)