May Picks

Patchett, Ann (2021) These Precious Days. Bloomsbury.

In this collection of personal essays Ann Patchett ponders and explores the nature of the people, events and memories that have influenced and inspired her life, from a portrait of the three men she called father, the choice to be childless, a feigned offer to buy a woman’s newly adopted baby, to the unstinting support of a terminally ill new friend – the protagonist in the title essay. Ann’s journey as a writer is a recurring theme. An intimate, warm and affectionate mix. A joy.

Rating: 9/10

Swanson, Peter (2022) Nine Lives. Faber.

In a plain envelope, with no return address, is a single sheet of white paper containing an identical list of nine names. Nine people marked for death. In this Agatha Christie inspired And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians) thriller when one by one the letter’s recipients die. None of the recipients recognise the other names on the list and their reactions vary – so why have they been targeted? FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is on the list herself, is determined to find out why. As a Peter Swanson fan I found this predictable tale wanting. Disappointing.

Rating: 7.5/10

 Tóibín, Colm (2021) The Magician. Viking.

In this fictionalised epic account of the life of Nobel literature winner, Thomas Mann, we journey with him from his conservative upbringing in Lübeck on the German Baltic coast, to Munich and his marriage to Katia and often troubled relationships with his six children, to exile from his homeland. Although Mann was always concerned about the soul of Germany this novel is foremost a portrait of Thomas Mann as a family man. Set against the panorama of the upheaval of the early 20th-century, Tóibín traces Mann’s subtly changing politics. It is not a treatise of his literary achievements. This is a story of a private man whose personal conflict is played out in public. An ambitious and accessible read.

Rating: 9/10

St James, Simone (2022) The Book of Cold Cases. Berkley.

True-crime blogger Shea Collins has an ongoing fascination with the 1977 Lady Killer Murders, where two men were randomly murdered with the same gun. When Beth Greer, the woman acquitted of the Murders, agrees to an interview in 2017 Shea is over the moon. They meet regularly at Beth’s mansion but something is not right – is Shea being manipulated or are there other dangers lurking? A chilling gothic mystery with plenty of supernatural suspense.

Rating: 8.5/10

Lloyd, Ellery (2022) The Club. Mantle.

The ultra-exclusive Home Group is opening its newest private members club – Island Home. CEO Ned Groom claims this is his most spectacular club, located on a private island 90 minutes from London, accessible only by car across a causeway at low tide. The launch is billed as the celebrity event of the decade, but as the beautiful people arrive ugly things start to happen. Tensions are high, the body count rises and things get more and more sinister. The tale is told in flashbacks by four narrators, all who have something to hide, supported by a Vanity Fair article, ‘Murder on the Island’. Too-smart for its own good. A skim read for me. Just didn’t care.

Rating: 7.5/10

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