What’s new on the bookshelves

New books about Lionel Messi and Lou Reed, and Hannah Fielding's latest novel
New books about Lionel Messi and Lou Reed, and Hannah Fielding's latest novel

For gripping thrillers try Always Watching by Chevy Stevens, Downfall by Jeff Abbott or Days in the History of Silence by Merethe Lindstrom.

If you fancy something more factual, there are also new biographies of footballing genius Messi and rock legend Lou Reed

Messi by Guillem Balague (£20, ebook £6.99).

The extraordinary rise of Lionel Messi has been captured in a mammoth 628 pages by top Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague.

Having previously written about Messi’s former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, Balague is well placed to offer his take on arguably the greatest talent of the 21st century.

He begins, where it all started, with a shy, minuscule child showing off his skills at a trial by the behemoth club, despite being born and raised mroe than 6,000 miles away near Rosario, Argentina.

Balague captures the atmosphere, the strangeness of the environment, and the moment the smallest kid on the pitch is transformed into a giant simply by placing a ball at his feet.

Natural autobiographical chronology explores Messi’s happy childhood, where he grew up and the challenges faced when he was catapulted into an alien environment.

There’s also a note of the controversial and expensive growth hormone treatment which was administered to Messi, and which saw him develop physically in a matter of months.

Of course, we also map his football career, for club and country, and the challenges he’s faced as his reputation grew worldwide.

What impresses most about the writing here is the wealth of people Balague has been granted access to, and the varying styles he utilises with the interviewees – be it family, friend, famous footballer or personality.

This biography is a very worthy footnote to one of the game’s undoubted greats.

Always Watching by Chevy Stevens (£6.99, ebook £3.49).

Too many children in the world have awful upbringings, but there are some, like Nadine Lavoie, whose backgrounds are so bad their mind shuts out the memory until someone or something comes along to trigger it.

This is a harrowing story about Dr Nadine Lavoie, a doctor in a psychiatric unit who takes comfort in helping those in need.

But as a patient’s story starts to bring back memories of Lavoie’s own past being brought up in a remote commune, the damage it caused takes over her life once more.

It is an interesting concept, digging deeper into the lives of children being brought up in a cult, and giving an insightful look into a world that many of us are not aware of.

Even after leaving a cult, the life of the member is in huge danger, and Nadine Lavoie is no different.

Chevy Stevens pulls you in drawing on different emotional dimensions throughout the novel, as Dr Lavoie learns about her daughter’s drug use and eventually fixes her relationship with her brother.

If you have not read much of Chevy Stevens’s previous work, you’ll be shopping for her back catalogue the moment you close the last page.

Downfall by Jeff Abbott (£6.99, ebook £3.49).

Sam Capra is hoping for a quiet life when he leaves the CIA and starts running a chain of bars.

Despite only being in his 20s, he has had a hard life and wants nothing more than to bring up his son in peace.

But that new peaceful life is shattered when a desperate young woman comes into his San Francisco bar looking for help.

The woman is being followed by two men who try to kill her, and so begins Sam’s involvement in a criminal underworld that gets shadier with every plot twist.

He uncovers a gang of unlikely assassins, America’s high-flying business people run by an ice-cool boss, and finds himself in a race against time to expose their dark secrets before his own also come to light.

At times the twists and turns can be predictable and Abbott often repeats himself, which can jar a bit.

Even in the realms of thriller-land, the premise of a criminal gang of this scope against a man who only spent a couple of years in the CIA seems a little outlandish too.

Having said that, fast-paced and easy reading, Abbott’s combination of deftly described action scenes and unfolding mysteries keep the pages turning until the nail-biting conclusion.

Then We Take Berlin by John Lawton (£17.99, ebook £11.99).

John Lawton’s latest historical thriller flits between Blitz-hit London, post-war Berlin and 1960s New York as it follows the fortunes of thief-turned-spy-turned-smuggler Joe Wilderness.

He brilliantly brings the war-torn cities to life as Wilderness rubs shoulders with a cast of rogues, including real-life statesmen and scientists and fictional Nazis and Soviet spies.

The plot – which takes in small-time crooks fighting over black market rackets and spies fighting the cold war – has twist after twist before eventually petering out after more than 400 pages.

The characters are so engaging, though, and the background written so convincingly, a lot of readers won’t care about plot problems.

Long-term Lawton fans will also be delighted to see the hero of so many of his books – posh policeman Inspector Troy – make a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ appearance.

The Echoes of Love by Hannah Fielding (£17.99, ebook £1.99).

This is the second novel from the author of Burning Ember.

It tells the love story of Venetia Aston-Montagu, a British ex-pat, and Paolo Barone, a stereotypically handsome and passionate Italian.

The story is not a simple boy meets girl though, because Venetia is reluctant to contemplate any form of relationship as a result of an incident that took place when she was much younger.

Eventually though she overcomes this, as well as other obstacles.

The book makes the reader want to visit Italy, as the descriptions of the sights and sounds evoked such beautiful images.

However, there was too much emphasis, at times, on the scenery rather than the protagonists.

Consequently, the length of the book could have been shortened without losing any of the story of Venetia and Paolo.

The book offers romance and suspense, with a heavy dose of Italian culture.

Lou Reed: The Life by Mick Wall (£14.99, ebook £7.99).

That Lou Reed’s death in October came as a surprise was itself surprising.

Famous chiefly for some astounding records, but also for his time as a 1960s and 70s poster boy for the perils of drug abuse, mere survival had somehow turned Reed into a sober elder statesman of rock.

Mick Wall has written biographies of rock legends before, but generally at greater length than this “sincere, speed-written, blood-spattered tribute”.

The rush does show in the writing, but a slim volume suits a subject whose output was so profoundly patchy.

If the oft-told tales are all here, some lesser known patches of Reed’s life are also illuminated.

Wall is admiring, but never sycophantic, and doesn’t try to obscure Reed’s ingratitude, contrariness or violent tendencies.

This is not one of the great music biographies but then, all too often, Reed didn’t make great music.