THE FALL by John Preston (Penguin £9.99, 352 pp)

THE FALL John Preston (Penguin £9.99, 352 pp)


by John Preston (Penguin £9.99, 352 pp)

The yacht that docked in New York on March 1991 was an extravagantly grandiose vessel. Four storeys high, gleaming white, with pristine cream carpets, the Lady Ghislaine — named after his ill-fated daughter — was the perfect setting for its owner, the Press baron Robert Maxwell.

Less than a year after his triumphant arrival in the city as the buyer of The New York Daily News, Maxwell’s naked body would be found floating in the sea near the Lady Ghislaine. The cause of death — accident, murder or suicide — has never been established.

Heartfelt tributes from world leaders followed, but it soon became clear that Maxwell’s business empire had been embroiled in fraud on an immense scale.

John Preston’s biography is a finely detailed portrait of a man in whom courage and wickedness were inextricably entwined.

THE SEARCHER by Tana French (Penguin £8.99, 416 pp)

THE SEARCHER Tana French (Penguin £8.99, 416 pp)


by Tana French (Penguin £8.99, 416 pp)

Cal Hooper is being filmed by someone while he renovates his abandoned cottage in a remote Irish town. Cal Hooper, who is now retired from Chicago’s police force after 25-years and has been through a bitter divorce, has made a new start in rural Ireland.

He was half-expecting the villagers to treat an American stranger with suspicion, but his neighbours prove surprisingly friendly — until he feels himself being spied on.

Trey, Trey’s troubled teenager, turns out that the prowler is actually Trey, who has been missing with his brother. The local police don’t think it worth following up, but Trey is determined that Cal should investigate.

Tana French’s atmospheric novel beautifully evokes the landscape and characters of small-town Ireland, where dark secrets are kept well hidden and outsiders are welcome, until they start asking troublesome questions.

SNOW by John Banville (Faber £8.99, 368 pp)

SNOW John Banville (Faber £8.99, 368 pp)


by John Banville (Faber £8.99, 368 pp)

It is midwinter, and in the library of Colonel Osborne’s Irish manor house, the body of Father Tom, a popular local priest, lies horribly mutilated.

Detective Inspector St John Strafford is well acquainted with the decaying country houses of 1950s County Wexford — he grew up in one, not far from the Osborne family home.

With an insider’s ease, he recognises the Osbornes as familiar types: Colonel Osborne, the bandy-legged military man, now Master of the local hunt; his highly-strung second wife, Sylvia, and grown-up children: Dominic, a medical student, and Lettie, the sulky, sexy daughter.

Marooned by snow, bullied by his boss in Dublin, with a scandalous murder to solve that the Catholic Church is determined to hush up, John Banville’s idiosyncratic detective pursues his case to a classically elegant conclusion.