What’s new on the bookshelves

New releases from Ian Rankin and Sebastian Faulks
New releases from Ian Rankin and Sebastian Faulks

This week is packed with well-known names, from Ian Rankin and Sebastian Faulks to Cecelia Ahern and Fay Weldon.

Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin (£18.99, ebook £8.11).

John Rebus has always existed somewhere between the law and the shadowy backwaters of Edinburgh life.

He hankers after the devil-may-care days when the police bent the rules and covered up things which should have been brought into the light.

He has always done whatever it took to get a result, not caring how he put crooks behind bars and made the streets of the capital, in his mind, a better place.

In this 20th edition of the trials of Rebus – a series now deeply ingrained in British crime literature – Rankin poses three questions long on the lips of Rebus fans the world over: Is Rebus good? Is he bad? Do we care?

Saints of the Shadow Bible sees Rebus back on the force, but he is fighting for his career – which is even more of an addiction for him than his drink and cigarettes.

He has been demoted and he has something to prove.

Pitted against old friends who once trusted him with their darkest secrets, Rebus must peel back the half-truths and lies of colleagues and criminals alike and must tread carefully for fear of exposing his own many misdemeanours.

Just as Rebus looks like he might be about to pay for his own ‘crimes’, Rankin throws him a lifeline which forces him into a difficult choice.

Does Rebus stay faithful to the pledge he made to the Saints many years ago or does he sacrifice friendship in order to feed the only need he ever really loved?

Few alternative heroes have created the sort of passion from his faithful audience as Rebus, and Rankin has once again come up a winning formula to tap into this country’s love of crime writing.

How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern (£16.99, ebook £6.65).

For the second time, Christine Rose is put in a life or death position. But this time it’s not her own life that’s on the line.

Obsessed with self-help books, one night she heads out looking for her ‘happy place’.

There, she comes across a man planning to kill himself. Try as she might to turn his decision around, he shoots himself in front of her.

Although he survives, it affects her life tremendously – so much so, her marriage breaks down.

A few weeks later, walking down the Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin, she sees a man, Adam, stood on the railings, poised and ready to jump.

Realising she can’t let this happen again, she is determined for him to get down and achieves this by making him a promise.

He has two weeks left before his 35th birthday. Before that day, she has to convince him that life is still worth living.

The two embark on wild adventures, and Adam starts to fall back in love with life... or is he just falling in love with Christine?

This novel is acclaimed author Cecelia Ahern at her best.

Like her past work, you fall in love with the characters, laugh, cry, appreciate what you have and are captivated by the world she portrays, leaving you craving more of the Ahern magic.

Another fantastic read – this could well be her most successful work to date, and also follow in the footsteps of PS I Love You to the big screen.

Jeeves And The Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks (£16.99, ebook £9.20).

The first point to note about this uproarious novel is that Faulks stresses this is a ‘homage’ to P G Wodehouse.

Indeed, throughout, Wodehouse’s much-loved Bertie Wooster takes new readers in hand, explaining the background behind mad aunts and old friends.

The result is a novel that works both as an introduction to the farcical world of Wooster and his devoted Jeeves, and a welcome revisit for the hordes of faithful fans.

This particular romp opens with Jeeves ensconced in the guest rooms of Sir Henry Hackwood’s estate, while Bertie sleeps in the uncomfortable servant’s quarters.

The reason is, of course, woman-related. Bertie met charming Georgiana (charge of Sir Henry) on the Cote d’Azur, who happens to be cousin to his old friend Woody Beeching’s ex-fiance.

Jeeves and Woosters’s mission is to reunite the unhappy couple: and despite cases of mistaken identity, disastrous cricket matches and chases over rooftops, this charming and witty plot unfolds into a hilarious story.

Someone by Alice McDermott (£16.99, ebook £10.04).

Seven years since Alice McDermott wrote her last novel, After This, the writer returns with Someone.

It is testament to the author’s talent that the novel, in which not all that much happens, is near impossible to put down.

The book, set in Brooklyn, follows the life of Marie, a short-sighted young girl.

We first meet her in the 1920s when she is a youth sitting on the steps of her house, observing the assortment of characters that make up her neighbourhood, while waiting for her beloved father to come home.

Marie’s Irish-American mother is a devout Catholic and her brother, set to enter the clergy, is the apple of her eye. Meanwhile Marie has a special bond with her father.

From Marie’s childhood we progress through her life, via lost love, death, jobs, child birth and mental illness.

Her life is interesting, but not beyond the realms of normality. In the same way, she is a bold and funny character, but not a hero.

It might not sound like the perfect ingredients for a book, but this beautiful, non-sensationalist portrait of someone’s life is one that will stay with you for a long time.

The New Countess by Fay Weldon (£14.99, ebook £5.99).

The New Countess is the final instalment in Fay Weldon’s ‘Love & Inheritance’ trilogy, which follows the trials and tribulations of the Edwardian aristocratic Dilbernes household.

Everyone, upstairs and downstairs, is preoccupied with the impending visit of King Edward VII and his mistress for a shooting weekend.

While making extensive preparations, and even renovations, for the royal visit, the family also has to contend with a wayward daughter, the publication of a scandalous book and rumours of adultery.

The plot is engaging enough to make this lightweight novel easily readable, but because many of the characters aren’t developed to the extent they could be, it’s not a story you ever feel truly immersed in.

The incorporation of historical figures into the action is entertaining though – particularly an incident at the shooting party resembling a real-life scandal concerning the King.

Kill or Cure: An Illustrated History of Medicine by Steve Parker (£19.99, ebook £6.99).

This book, packed full of fascinating information, illustrations and photographs, begins right back in pre-historic times, examining early techniques for dealing with illness, and looking at beliefs and traditions from across the world.

Parker then goes on to examine the rise of scientific medicine as the subject moved away from religion and a more empirical methodology was adopted.

Modern approaches are then considered, including the rise of antibiotics and immunisation, modern-day diseases such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, and the success of techniques including IVF, before the question is raised about what the future might hold for medicine.

Set out in small, easy to digest sections, this is a fascinating insight into a subject relevant to all of us, and an excellent introduction for anyone who wants to take their first steps into this fascinating area of history.

Covering a multitude of historical figures, ground-breaking discoveries and techniques for combating disease this is a fascinating and, at times, gruesome read.

Leningrad – Siege and Symphony by Brian Moynahan (£25, ebook £11.15).

The terrible 900-day siege of Leningrad – now St Petersburg – during the Second World War, and the famous symphony that came to represent its suffering, are the theme of this gripping book.

Award-winning journalist and historical author Brian Moynahan describes in grim detail the horrors inflicted on Russia’s second-largest city by Nazi forces.

It was subjected to periodic bombing and shelling and hardly any food could be brought in.

Hunger became so acute that anything edible – even glue from the bindings of books – was consumed and some people resorted to cannibalism. At least 600,000 died.

Leading Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and his family experienced part of the siege but were later evacuated.

His Seventh Symphony, which he dedicated to Leningrad, was performed there during the siege and in capital cities around the world in 1942. It became a symbol of the city’s crucifixion.

Moynahan also describes the senseless persecution and murder of many innocent Russians by their paranoid dictator Joseph Stalin and his underlings, even in St Petersburg, during the war.

Few cities at that time had so much misery and terror to cope with.