Ah, summer. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the first batch of the season’s literary fiction is ripe and ready to be devoured. This way, please…
Like This Afternoon Forever by Jaime Manrique
(Akashic Books, 9781617757150, p/b, £13.99)
Two Catholic priests fall in love amid deadly conflicts in the Amazon.
For the last fifty years, the Colombian drug cartels, various insurgent groups, and the government have fought over the control of the drug traffic, in the process destroying vast stretches of the Amazon, devastating native communities, and killing tens of thousands of homesteaders caught in the middle of the conflict. Inspired by these events, Jaime Manrique’s sixth novel, Like This Afternoon Forever, weaves in two narratives: the shocking story of a series of murders known internationally as ‘the false positives,’ and the related story of two gay Catholic priests who become lovers when they meet in the seminary.
The Great Eastern by Howard A. Rodman
(Melville House, 9781612197852, h/b, £20)
An extraordinarily imagined steampunk novel set aboard the largest ship of the 19th century, the Great Eastern.
When the Great Eastern – the largest ship of the 19th century and the first to cross the Atlantic – is used to help lay the first transatlantic telephone cable between the US and the UK, Brunel finds himself kidnapped by Captain Nemo of the Nautilus, who wants to know how to destroy the ship before it can connect the two imperialistic countries he hates … and under attack by Captain Ahab, who has been hired to stop the mysterious creature who keeps destroying the cable on the ocean’s bed.
The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff
(Melville House UK, 9781911545293, p/b, £8.99)
A sprawling gothic novel that strikes at the dark heart of human behaviour.
‘The skin was smooth and bright as porcelain, but looked as if it would give to the touch. What manner of wood had he used? What tools to exact such detail? What paints, tints or stains to flush her with life?’ So wonders the window dresser Colton Kemp when he sees the first mannequin of his new rival, a silent man simply call The Carpenter. Rocked by the sudden death of his wife in childbirth and left with twins to raise, Kemp hatches a dark and selfish plan to make his name and thwart his rival. What follows is a gothic tale of art and deception, strength and folly, love and transgression.
The Kennedy Moment by Peter Adamson
(Myriad Editions, 9781912408269, p/b, £8.99)
A daring, ingenious and profoundly moving political thriller from an author whose career has put him at the very heart of international affairs.
Moving between Oxford, New York, Washington, Geneva and Burkina Faso, The Kennedy Moment is story of ordinary people from different countries drawn into a global conspiracy. Out of their forgotten ideals and mid-life frustrations comes the audacious idea. Suggested in the first instance as a joke, it is a joke that none of them can forget. At a second get-together, this time in New York, they devise their plan. The aim is a great humanitarian advance; but the method is fraught with risk. A gripping thriller about ordinary people caught up in an extraordinary turn of events.
Exposed by Jean-Philippe Blondel
(New Vessel Press, 9781939931672, p/b, £12.99)
A dangerous intimacy emerges between a French teacher and a former student who has achieved art world celebrity when a portrait upturns both their lives.
A French teacher on the verge of retirement is invited to a glittering opening that showcases the artwork of his former student, who has since become a celebrated painter. This unexpected encounter leads to the older man posing for his portrait. Possibly in the nude. Such personal exposure at close range entails a strange and troubling pact between artist and sitter that prompts both to reevaluate their lives. Blondel, author of the hugely popular novel The 6:41 to Paris, evokes an intimacy of dangerous intensity in a tale marked by profound nostalgia and a reckoning with the past that allows its two characters to move ahead in to the future.
Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou
(No Exit Press, 9780857303394, p/b, £7.99)
Two sisters. One fire. A secret that won’t burn out.
The Grayson sisters are trouble. Everyone in their small town knows it. But no-one can know of the secret that binds them together. Hattie is the light. Penny is the darkness. Together, they have balance. But one night the balance is toppled. A match is struck. A fire is started. A cruel husband is killed. The potential for a new life flickers in the fire’s embers, but resentment, guilt, and jealousy suffocate like smoke.
The Fragments by Toni Jordan
(Text Publishing Company, 9781925773132, p/b, £10.99)
An infamous second novel, supposedly destroyed by fire in the 1930s. But fifty years later the world’s greatest literary mystery might be about to unravel.
Inga Karlson died in a fire in New York in the 1930s, leaving behind three things: a phenomenally successful first novel, the scorched fragments of a second book – and a literary mystery that has captivated generations of readers. Nearly fifty years later, Brisbane bookseller Caddie Walker is waiting in line to see a Karlson exhibition featuring the famous fragments when she meets a charismatic older woman. The woman quotes a phrase from the Karlson fragments that Caddie knows does not exist – and yet to Caddie, who knows Inga Karlson’s work like she knows her name, it feels genuine. Caddie is electrified. Jolted her from her sleepy, no-worries life in torpid 1980s Brisbane she is driven to investigate: to find the clues that will unlock the greatest literary mystery of the twentieth century.