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7:00am Saturday 21st April 2012 in Books
A look at the latest releases, plus what's new in paperback.
By Kate Whiting.
Beastly Things by Donna Leon is published in hardback by William Heinemann, priced £17.99. Available now.
The waterways of Venice have delivered Commissario Guido Brunetti all manner of mysteries during the two-decade span of Donna Leon's crime series.
In this, the 21st novel, the corpse of a man with a rare disfiguring disease is found floating in a canal.
With no identification on the body, the commissioner must first work out who the victim is before he can start looking for the murderer.
As usual, lovable cynic Brunetti spends much of the novel despairing of his surroundings: his hapless colleagues, unyielding Eurozone bureaucracy and the city's parasitic tourist population.
American Leon has lived in Venice for 30 years. Her books paint such an appealing portrait of modern Venetian life - all siestas, prosecco and lavish lunches - that they've sent droves of holidaymakers in the direction of the Commissario's stomping ground.
Save for some grisly abattoir action, Beastly Things is just as picturesque. Brunetti would no doubt thoroughly disapprove.
7/10 (Review by Katie Wright) By Battersea Bridge by Janet Davey is published in hardback by Chatto & Windus, priced £12.99. Available April 12.
By Battersea Bridge, the new novel by Janet Davey, tells the story of Anita Mostyn, a thirty-something woman living in Chelsea and working in a gallery, who takes off to Bulgaria on an assignment as her brother's second wedding approaches.
Anita is well-settled in her role as third best in a family that adores her self-assured older brothers, and is conscious of a lack of concrete achievements compared to her ambitious, orderly parents' lives.
Surrounded by a shallow supporting cast of acquaintances and friends, Anita's trip abroad and the impending wedding uncover unsettling memories from her past.
The novel contains some beautiful and evocative descriptions and the fine detail is allowed to flourish.
While the character of Anita is at times frustrating and some of her decisions don't garner much sympathy, her response to the tragedy at the centre of her family is convincingly and movingly described.
7/10 (Review by Claire Ennis) Hour Of The Wolf by Hakan Nesser is published in hardback by Mantle, priced £16.99. Available April 12.
Chief Inspector Van Veeteren isn't supposed to be working any more, but in Hour Of The Wolf he is thrown back into the world of detective work by accident.
A series of unfortunate events conspires against the murderer and they are sent spiralling downwards.
In steps Van Veeteren, bringing order where the chaos of his dispirited team looks like it could let the murderer slip through the net.
Nesser, an award-winning writer who has sold millions worldwide, has an easy style which pulls the reader along nicely and before they know it there are deadly consequences.
Comparisons with other Scandinavian thriller writers don't work as Nesser has a style all his own, making him a writer who needs to be on the bookshelves of all crime fans.
And in Van Veeteren he has created a hero who is easy to like.
8/10 (Review by Roddy Brooks) The Chemistry Of Tears by Peter Carey is published in hardback by Faber and Faber, priced £17.99. Available now.
Peter Carey, twice winner of the Booker Prize, oscillates between the 21st century and the Victorian era to tell a tale of life, death and fascination of all things mechanical in his latest novel The Chemistry of Tears.
Catherine Gehrig is struggling to cope with grief after her married lover and boss's demise.
A conservator at London's Swinburne Museum, she is left to mourn in silence, away from the prying eyes of her colleagues as her new boss gives her a mysterious artefact to reconstruct.
Rewind 150 years, and we are transported back to Henry Brandling's luxurious 19th-century home, where he is making the decision to travel to Germany to commission a special gadget for his ailing son.
Catherine and Henry are connected by an automation inspired by 18th-century inventor Jacques de Vaucanson, that survived the ravages of time.
Most interesting is the character of Herr Sumper. A terrifying criminal reminiscent of grotesque Dickensian villain Fagin from Oliver Twist, Herr Sumper is also an unhinged genius who creates a brilliantly fascinating contraption.
6/10 (Review by Nilima Dey Sarker) Seven Years by Peter Stamm is published in hardback by Granta Books, priced £14.99. Available now.
Translated from its original German, Seven Years is the latest offering from Swiss author Peter Stamm.
Recently longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award, the novel tells the story of Alex, a Munich architect who leads a seemingly picture-perfect life in a lakeside house with his beautiful and erudite wife Sonia.
Together, they have built up a successful architectural firm and have a charming daughter.
However, into the mix comes Iwona, Alex's dowdy and dour Polish mistress, who he just can't seem to resist despite her lack of obvious appeal.
It is a deeply unsettling modern-day love triangle. Stamm's prose is sparse and matter-of-fact, so much so that the reader often does not realise how disturbing the situation is until it is too late.
The architectural references can become tedious to the uninitiated, but all in all, it is a minimalist soap opera that will serve to make the reader question their own life choices.
6.5/10 (Review by Zahra Saeed) The Seamstress by Maria Duenas is published in hardback by Viking, priced £12.99. Available April 26.
Author Maria Duenas makes her debut with an epic tale about the life of a seamstress, set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and World War Two.
From an early age until her late teens, Sira Quiroga is taught how to be a dressmaker under the guidance of her mother.
With Spain teetering on the brink of civil war, Sira runs away to Morocco with her lover.
When she discovers she is pregnant, her lover abandons her. Panic-stricken, she tries to go back to Spain. But with the country in turmoil, Sira is forced to stay in Morocco.
Left penniless, Sira tries to survive by making dresses for wives and mistresses of powerful politicians. As Hitler begins to invade Poland, a British client of Sira's persuades her to help the British Secret Service.
Sira soon finds herself embroiled in the world of espionage and political conspiracies... and danger.
7/10 (Review by Julie Cheng) Non-fiction Miaow! Cats Really Are Nicer Than People! by Sir Patrick Moore is published in paperback by Hubble & Hattie, priced £7.99. Available April 15.
Sir Patrick Moore has combined his love for astronomy and cats in this little book.
He combines anecdotes and personal pictures of the three cats in his life - Smudgie, who died at the age of 20, Jeannie, who passed away recently, and Ptolemy.
Moore, who is now 89 years of age, gives a personal account of the felines who have been part of his family. He recounts how he was chosen to be their companion and how these cats have transformed his life and the people around him.
There are various stories about Jeannie and Ptolemy, including the time when Ptolemy had an 'accident' on Moore's new book transcript, and the only time when Jeannie went missing.
Funny, insightful and very touching, Miaow! Cats Really Are Nicer Than People has been written by a cat lover for other cat lovers, who will appreciate it the most.
6/10 (Review by Shereen Low) Jubilee Lines: 60 Poets For 60 Years by Carol Ann Duffy is published in paperback by Faber and Faber, priced £12.99. Available May 3.
Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy offers a companion to celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
To mark every year of the monarch's 60-year reign, Duffy has collated specially commissioned works by acclaimed contemporary poets from the UK and Commonwealth, including Andrew Motion, Simon Armitage, Gillian Clarke, Don Paterson, Fleur Adcock and Jo Shapcott.
The poems recall important political and historical events since 1953, such as the assassination of President John F Kennedy, the Great Storm of 1987, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Millennium.
They appear alongside personal works reliving the emotions of first love, bereavement and recalling the music that has defined the past, to create a compelling time capsule.
Whether readers are planning on hanging up their Union Jack bunting this summer or just thankful for an extra day off, this anthology is a must for poetry lovers and those interested in political and social history.
8/10 (Review by Rebecca Taylor) The Power Of Habit: Why We Do What We Do And How To Change by Charles Duhigg is published in paperback by William Heinemann, priced £12.99. Available now.
Have you been biting your nails for so long that you have no idea how you will ever stop?
Hope is at hand, as New York Times investigative reporter Charles Duhigg explains why we form habits and, crucially, how we can break them.
He uses anecdotes of alcoholics, gamblers and nail biters just for starters. But it gets even more interesting when he identifies problems within a money-losing company and blundering hospital and explains how changing bad habits across the board turned around their fortunes.
Then it goes up another notch, when are told how a man with a memory problem who forgets where the toilet is automatically finds it without thinking when he needs to use it.
And Duhigg also details why the civil rights movement and Rick Warren's Saddleback Church were so successful.
It's a fascinating insight into making and breaking habits and offers practical advice, funny stories and critical thinking.
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