July is my favourite month, but it's generally fairly quiet when it comes to new books being published in the northern hemisphere. However, do not despair, because I've hunted out some real gems — two Irish literary novels, one French novel and two crime novels — which are due to be released this month.
The books have been arranged in alphabetical order according to author's surname.
Alexander Cleave, an actor who thinks his best days are behind him, remembers his first unlikely affair as a teenage boy in a small town in 1950s Ireland: the illicit meetings in a rundown cottage outside town; assignations in the back of his lover's car on sunny mornings and rain-soaked afternoons. And with these early memories comes something sharper and much darker — the more recent recollection of the actor's own daughter's suicide ten years before. Ancient Light is the story of a life rendered brilliantly vivid: the obsession and selfishness of young love and the terrifying shock of grief. It is a dazzling novel, funny, utterly pleasurable and devastatingly moving in the same moment.
For a period in my mid-20s, John Banville was my favourite writer — particularly after I read Mefisto and The Book of Evidence — but it's been a while since I've read his stuff; the most recent was The Sea, back in 2006, which I loved. I do like the sound of this new one, not least because of its time period and setting, although it's already stirred up some controversy, judging by this piece in the Irish Independent.
The Investigator is a man quite like any other. He is balding, of medium build, dresses conservatively—in short, he is unremarkable in every way. He has been assigned to conduct an Investigation of a series of suicides (twenty-two in the past eighteen months) that have taken place at the Enterprise, a huge, sprawling complex located in an unnamed Town. The Investigator's train is delayed, and when he finally arrives, there's no one to pick him up at the station. It is alternating rain and snow, it's getting late, and there are no taxis to be seen. Off sets the Investigator, alone, into the night, unsure quite how to proceed. So begins the Investigator's series of increasingly frustrating attempts to fulfill his task. In a highly original work that is both absorbing and fascinating, Claudel undertakes a sweeping critique of the contemporary world through a variety of modes. Like Kafka, Beckett and Huxley, he has crafted a dark fable that evokes the absurdity and alienation of existence with piercing intelligence and considerable humor.
I've read a couple of Philippe Claudel's novels and found them strangely compelling. He is a French writer and I don't usually get on with French fiction, but Grey Souls and Brodeck's Report, convinced me that I shouldn't be so dismissive. This new one sounds intriguing...
Psychotherapist Frieda Klein thought she was done with the police. But once more DCI Karlsson is knocking at her door. A man's decomposed body has been found in the flat of Michelle Doyce, a woman trapped in a world of strange mental disorder. The police don't know who it is, how he got there or what happened — and Michelle can't tell them. But Karlsson hopes Frieda can get access to the truths buried beneath her confusion. Painstakingly, Frieda uncovers a possible identity for the corpse: Robert Poole, a jack of all trades and master conman. But the deeper Frieda and Karlsson dig into Poole's past, the more of his victims they encounter - and the more motives they find for murder. Meanwhile, violent ghosts from Frieda's own past are returning to threaten her. Unable to discover quite who is telling the truth and who is lying, they know they are getting closer to a killer. But whoever murdered Poole is determined to stay free — and anyone that gets too close will meet the same fate.
What can I say about Nicci French that I haven't already said? I love her work and have read everything she's written, so there was never any question that I would not want to read this one, the second in her new series about psychotherapist Frieda Klein.
Broken Harbour by Tana French
Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover & Kindle, 544 pages (July 19)
In Broken Harbour, a ghost estate outside Dublin — half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned — two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad's star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once. Scorcher's personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she's resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .
I've been looking forward to Irish crime writer Tana French's fourth novel for a long time, particularly after seeing this review on Maxine's blog. I've read and reviewed French's previous three books and very much enjoyed them for their pace and entertainment value.
Hawthorn and Child are mid-ranking detectives tasked with finding significance in the scattered facts. They appear and disappear in the fragments of this book along with a ghost car, a crime boss, a pick-pocket, a dead racing driver and a pack of wolves. The mysteries are everywhere, but the biggest of all is our mysterious compulsion to solve them. In Hawthorn & Child, the only certainty is that we've all misunderstood everything.
Keith Rigway is (another) Irish writer, who has somewhat of a cult following. He has several novels to his name (none of which I have read), but I adored his 2003 novella Horses and have promptly bumped this new novel very high on to my to-be-read-as-soon-as-possible list. Note that the Kindle edition is already available.
Please note that the release dates quoted are for the UK and are subject to change.
Are there any on this list that have piqued your interest?