This week’s top fiction includes Heather Young’s unexpected debut at The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Mahaer. A Covid-inspired story from Amitava Kumar and Stephen Spotswood.

The Lost Girls 

Heather Young                                                                                               Verve £9.99

When Justine inherits her great-aunt Lucy’s lakeside house in Minnesota, it comes with a notebook in which Lucy records events from the summer of 1935, when she and Justine’s grandmother’s six-year-old sister went missing.

Justine is able to leave California’s toxic relationships and provide stability for her girls. But, in isolated Mid-West winter, Justine feels the longing to be free from their past.

It’s a great debut.

Hephzibah Anderson


The Paris Bookseller

Kerri Maher                                                                           Headline Review £16.99

It’s 1919 and American-in-Paris Sylvia Beach is smitten by the City of Light’s liberal attitude to sex and literature. 

She is a bibliophile and opens Shakespeare and Company, a famous Left Bank store, where she sells and lends novels to the literati. 

James Joyce is also among them. Beach begins the daunting task of getting Ulysses into print after Ulysses gets banned in the USA. Based on fact, it’s an intriguing story, beguilingly told.

Eithne Farry


Time beyond This Time

Amitava Kumar                                                                                       Picador £14.99

As Covid starts to spread, an Indian author at an American writers’ retreat works on a novel about the nature of truth.

Trump’s and Modi Prime Minister lies are good for Trump’s polemic mill. He also uses psychological experiments and long political stories to make his point.

Many novels that are about writing novels tend to be self-conscious. Although this novel is interesting, it falls into the trap.

Anthony Gardner


Murder Under Her Skin

Stephen Spotswood                                                                                  Wildfire £20

The second installment of a 1940s-set series features Pentecost and Parker as New York detectives investigating the death at traveling carnival of a tattooed woman.

Lillian Pentecost, a Holmes-like character, has her MS that only limits her genius, but Will Parker was her younger sidekick.

It is an intricate tribute, written with love and care to American noir’s great times.

John Williams