A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.

By Kate Whiting

New fiction

The Merde Factor by Stephen Clarke is published in paperback by Century, priced £12.99. Available now.

Paul West (or 'Poll Wess' as his colleagues insist on calling him) is trying his best to survive as an Englishman in Paris.

His patience is put to the test, however, by those seemingly intent on making his life a misery - former boss Jean-Marie, who wants to sell the English tea shop they co-own, ex-girlfriend Alexa, whose presence is causing ructions between Paul and his new girlfriend, and a cantankerous neighbour, whose loud Gallic swearing threatens to disrupt his new business venture.

Some scenarios are so cringeworthy you suspect they may just have happened in real life.

Paul, the outsider in a deeply patriotic nation, is more than believable with his candour and humour.

His unintentionally hilarious sidekick Jake, with his unique X-rated poetry, also provides plenty of laughs.

This latest instalment in Stephen Clarke's series based on Paul's adventures is like a pain au chocolat by the Seine - light, sweet and just a little bit naughty.


(Review by Lauren Turner)

John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £16.99. Available now.

It is more than 20 years since Lawrence Norfolk's debut novel, Lempriere's Dictionary, hit the best-seller lists and saw the author hailed as one of literature's bright, young things.

His latest novel combines a trademark historical setting, a complex plot and an exuberant embrace of English guaranteed to introduce the reader to a few unfamiliar words along the way.

The story of a young boy chased from his home by superstitious villagers in 17th century England travels from the kitchens of a local manor house to the battlefields of the Civil War as John Saturnall attempts to create a long-forgotten feast which has been handed down the generations in his family.

Norfolk recreates the sights, smells and sounds of another world in vivid, atmospheric detail, littering the book with evocative recipes of exotic spices to produce a fictional feast fit for a king.


(Review by Robert Dex)

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon is published in hardback by Fourth Estate, priced £18.99. Available now.

Since winning the Pulitzer prize with his stunning The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon has been on a mission to introduce literary fiction readers to the delights of other genres - until now.

Archy Stallings is the co-owner of a struggling Oakland record shop. He's expecting his first child with wife Gwen, but his long-lost son from a previous relationship has just turned up in the neighbourhood - as has Archy's own estranged dad, faded blaxploitation icon Luther.

As if this weren't worry enough, a megastore specialising in used vinyl is about to open nearby.

Chabon's style is still as fluent, evocative and rich with allusion as ever, and some sections, especially a parrot's eye view of the neighbourhood, are stunning.

But the plot feels implausible in places and far too neat elsewhere, and beyond that, there's a sense (absent from previous Chabon novels) that a lot of other authors could have handled this material.


(Review by Alex Sarll)

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke is published in hardback by Serpent's Tail, priced £14.99. Available now.

Orange prize-nominated author Attica Locke follows up her debut novel, Black Water Rising, with this suspenseful murder mystery.

Set in south Louisiana, the story centres around Belle Vie - a plantation managed by Caren Gray.

Caren's own history is deeply connected with Belle Vie - she lives there with her daughter, her ancestors worked the land as slaves and her mother cooked in the kitchen - so her feelings about the plantation are complicated to say the least.

When a dead girl's body is discovered near the sugar cane fields and a staff member suddenly goes missing, shattering revelations about Belle Vie surface that Caren would rather not have to contemplate.

Steeped in generational history, Locke successfully manages to intertwine modern-day America with the past, while providing a thrilling story full of believable characters and a fascinating commentary on politics, race, family and love.


(Review by Lyndsey Cartwright)

The Nightmare by Lars Kepler is published in hardback by Blue Door, priced £14.99. Available now.

Swedish husband and wife writing duo Lars Kepler return to the forefront of crime thriller fiction with The Nightmare, their follow-up to the acclaimed novel The Hypnotist.

Detective Inspector Joona Linna, the protagonist from the first book, returns to the fray when the body of a young lady is discovered aboard a pleasure boat.

The strange thing is she had been drowned while on the boat with no signs of water anywhere on the body or clothes, however this isn't the only crime about to be committed.

As the case unfolds, Linna has to call upon his very best policing skills to track a killer for whom death is not the end.

With each turn of the page, you are hooked to find out what clue will turn up next and how it fits into this complex puzzle. But more importantly, why this is happening in the first place.


(Review by Philip Robinson)

Children's book of the week:

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £10.99. Available now.

American author Lauren Oliver returns with a fantasy tale about a young girl's mission to save her young brother from sinister creatures.

Liza wakes to find her brother Patrick is an imposter. He looks and talks like Patrick but there is something about him that makes Liza suspicious.

She soon realises that her brother's soul has been captured by the Spindlers, spider-like creatures who live underground.

Determined to rescue her brother, Liza starts her journey in the basement of her house armed with a broomstick.

Following the scratching noises, she finds a concealed hole behind a narrow bookcase. As Liza makes her way through the passageway, she falls into darkness and lands on top of Mirabelle, a large rat with make-up and a skirt made out of newspaper.

Wary of Mirabelle and unsure where to start, Liza is forced to follow Mirabelle deeper underground in the hope of finding her brother.

This fun, creepy story is full of mystery and adventure.


(Review by Julie Cheng)


What Are You Looking At? 150 Years Of Modern Art In The Blink Of An Eye by Will Gompertz is published in hardback by Viking, priced £20. Available now.

Do you enjoy mooching around art galleries but wish you 'understood' it all a bit more? Ever gawped at a piece of modern art, only to conclude, frustrated, that you just don't 'get it'?

As the BBC's art editor, and former Tate Gallery director for seven years, Will Gompertz certainly doesn't have this problem - but he's aware that thousands of gallery visitors do.

This book aims to change that, and first and foremost, Gompertz is keen to point out that you don't need to be intimidated by modern art, as it's often a lot more simple that you might think.

Not all modern art is weird, abstract and indecipherable (think Monet, for instance), though some of it might at first appear so. Then there are those pieces that aren't really works of art, in the traditional sense, but statements (starting with Marcel Duchamp's urinal).

Gompertz distinguishes between the two (thereby letting you off the hook for sometimes 'disagreeing' with it!) and takes the reader through the series of isms (impressionism, cubism, expressionism) which make up modern art.

In clear, easy-to-follow language, he explains what each really means, putting them into historical and social context.

It's an immensely enjoyable, interesting read for novice art-lovers and long-time gallery-goers alike. By the end of the book, you won't be an expert but you'll certainly 'get' modern art a lot more, and be free to enjoy it without worrying that you don't.


(Review by Abi Jackson)

Why French Children Don't Talk Back by Catherine Crawford is published in paperback by John Murray, priced £14.99. Available now.

First there was the Tiger Mother, describing the strict Chinese way of parenting, and now comes Catherine Crawford's latest book, extolling the virtues of the rearing method a la Francais.

Why French Children Don't Talk Back is New Yorker Crawford's account of how she tried to 'Frenchify' the raising of her two daughters.

The idea is born after a dinner party with some French friends, whose children Crawford realises are far better behaved than her own American offspring.

From stopping separate meals for the kids and instilling in them a sense of fashion (Crawford suggesting but thankfully not going as far as number coding her children's clothes) to praising them less, Crawford soon sees positive changes in her enfants terribles.

Crawford's guide is wittily written and peppered with amusing anecdotes gleaned from her own social circle and their little darlings.

It never dictates but merely suggests, and provides a persuasive alternative to the increasingly child-centric British way of raising kids.


(Review by Zahra Saeed)

There Was A Country: A Personal History Of Biafra by Chinua Achebe is published in hardback by Allen Lane, priced £20. Available September 27.

Chinua Achebe, born in 1930 and the author of works such as Things Fall Apart, sets about recalling one of the most life-changing experiences of his life, the Biafra Civil War.

Achebe begins with the mixed world of religions he was brought up in, with the new religion of Christianity his parents had both adopted and the traditions most of his family maintained. Most prominent to him was his great uncle, who became a source of inspiration.

Achebe brings to life a history of a civil war that is currently unheard of by most and forgotten by many. At the time, however, it was famous for the brutality of a war whose origins lay in a small secessionist state in the south-east corner of Nigeria.

This book is brilliant for those with little knowledge of the history of colonialism, and also serves as a point of comparison in helping explain the state of many ex-colonial states today.

A brilliant example of history through memory.


(Review by Tinashe Sithole)

1912: The Year The World Discovered Antarctica by Chris Turney is published in hardback by Bodley Head, priced £20. Available now.

Just over 100 years ago, five teams set out to explore what is now called Antarctica. It was an unknown world, the last blank space on the map, and what they found was to change how we would look at the Earth forever.

Chris Turney, a celebrated scientist and author, brings this fascinating story to life.

You may already be familiar with the tragic tale of Robert Scott and the race for the South Pole, but this book delves deeper into the stories of the men who journeyed into the great white void.

We learn about the less heralded teams, such as the unprepared and underfunded Japanese party and the German expedition that involved attempted murder and mutiny!

Turney is mostly interested in investigating the scientific breakthroughs that were made during these expeditions, rather than focussing solely on the race for the South Pole.

For this reason, it is recommended for readers looking for the bigger picture in the exploration of Antarctica.


(Review by Chris Gray)

Best-sellers for the week ending September 22


1 The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson

2 Fifty Shades of Grey, EL James

3 Thinking, Fast And Slow, Daniel Kahneman

4 Double Cross: The True Story Of The D-Day Spies, Ben Macintyre

5 The Hairy Dieters: How To Love Food And Lose Weight

6 The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year

7 Fifty Shades Darker, EL James

8 Fifty Shades Freed, EL James

9 A Street Cat Named Bob, James Bowen

10 The House Of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel, Anthony Horowitz


1 Dodger, Terry Pratchett

2 Ratburger, David Walliams

3 My Family And Other Animals, Claire Balding

4 Winter Of The World, Ken Follett

5 Guinness World Records 2013

6 A Wanted Man, Lee Child

7 The Life, Martina Cole

8 Lorraine Pascale's Fast, Fresh And Easy Food, Lorraine Pascale

9 A Possible Life, Sebastian Faulks

10 The Mystery Of Mercy Close, Marian Keyes

:: Note to editors: This is a resend of Book Reviews column transmitted Wednesday, September 26, adding the latest book chart from Waterstone's