So many great books, so little time. Here are three new reads that we can’t wait to sink our teeth into. One of them focuses on a young girl who hasn’t left her room in two years while another sees an editor locked in a battle of wits with an author who literally wrote the book on murder.
And then there’s a very entertaining imagining of Hill without Bill – Curtis Sittenfeld has great fun showing what the world might have been like if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton.
Book 1: Eight Detectives
By Alex Pavesi
Publisher: Michael Joseph
If you’re craving an intelligent thriller that you can read in one sitting then this is the one for you. All murder mysteries follow a simple set of rules – or so says Grant McAllister, an author of crime fiction and professor of mathematics, who worked them out in the 1930s and then wove them into a book of crime stories. And then after doing this, he disappeared.
Thirty years later Julia Hart, an ambitious editor, wants to republish the stories and travels to a secluded island in the Med to track McAllister down. But then she notices that there’s something rather strange about his stories: they seem to offer clues to a real-life crime that has remained unsolved for decades.
Suddenly Julia finds herself drawn into a battle of wits but can she really triumph over an adversary who wrote the book on murder?
What the critics are saying
"Pavesi’s cerebral debut blends a mystery with an academic discussion of the mystery genre." - publishersweekly.com
“One of this year’s most entertaining crime novels.” – Joan Smith, The Sunday Times (UK)
Book 2: Not to Mention
By Vivian de Klerk
Katy Ferreira has not left her bedroom in two years. That’s because, weighing in at 360 kilograms, she is incapable of moving. How did the 21-year-old get to be like this, lying in bed all day doing a newspaper crossword puzzle while guzzling biscuits, pies and doughnuts?
The beauty of this novel is how it drip feeds the reader information about Katy’s past. To fill her days, she starts compiling her own crossword and each clue inspires an anecdote which explains her heartbreaking back story.
It’s an inventive narrative technique which is brilliantly employed by author, Vivian de Klerk, who is a professor emeritus of linguistics at Rhodes University.
“Hello, mother. Today is a special day – the day I’ve begun to compile my very own crossword puzzle. I’m doing it with you in mind, and I hope you enjoy solving all the clues eventually, one by one. I find it’s an interesting way to get through the day – compiling a puzzle instead of solving one.”
Book 3: Rodham
By Curtis Sittenfeld
In this novel, Curtis Sittenfeld explores what it would have meant for America and the world if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton. When I first read about this book, I found it a really bizarre premise. Who would actually want to read that?
But when it arrived on my desk I paged through it and was soon so hooked that it joined my growing to-read pile.
By the way, the idea of Hill turning Bill down isn’t much of a stretch – Hillary has revealed twice rejected his proposal. On the third go he wore her down, but in this book Sittenfeld has great fun imagining what might have happened if she'd stuck to her guns.
What the critics say
“I went into the novel thinking the entire premise was crass and came out of it thoroughly entertained.” - Emma Brockes, The Guardian
“I don’t know if Sittenfeld ever met the real Hillary, but in Rodham, she paints a post-Bill life for her that seems perfectly plausible, one that becomes richer with the passage of time.” - Jill Abramson, The New York Times
“The first time I saw him, I thought he looked like a lion. He was six foot two, though I knew them only that he was tall. And in fact, his height seemed even greater because he was big-tall, not skinny tall . He had broad shoulders and a large head and his hair was several inches longer than it would be later, which drew attention to its coppery colour, his beard was the same shade. I suppose I thought he looked like a handsome lion, but even from a distance, he seemed full of himself in a way that canceled out his handsomeness. He seemed like a person who took up more than his share of oxygen."
Curtis Sittenfeld on why she wanted to write this book
“Around the time of the 2016 election, I realised that school children who knew that Hillary was running for president often, literally, didn’t know that Bill existed. I was really fascinated by the idea of how the election might have turned out differently if adults didn’t see Bill and Hillary as so interconnected.”
Has Hillary read it?
“I’ve considered sending her the book, but it feels a little cheeky,” Sittenfeld told Vogue magazine.