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Recommendations

New fiction for March 2020

A Thousand Moons, The Girl with the Louding Voice, The Ninth Child

The Mirror and the Light, by Hilary Mantel

Probably the literary event of the year. Will Hilary Mantel win another Booker Prize?

"'If you cannot speak truth at a beheading, when can you speak it?'

"England, May 1536. Anne Boleyn is dead, decapitated in the space of a heartbeat by a hired French executioner. As her remains are bundled into oblivion, Thomas Cromwell breakfasts with the victors. The blacksmith's son from Putney emerges from the spring's bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry VIII, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, before Jane dies giving birth to the male heir he most craves.

"Cromwell is a man with only his wits to rely on; he has no great family to back him, no private army. Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry's regime to breaking point, Cromwell's robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. But can a nation, or a person, shed the past like a skin?"

Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell’s first historical novel is set in 1596 and re-imagines the story of Shakespeare’s lost son Hamnet, who died aged 11.

"On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week."

A Thousand Moons, by Sebastian Barry

Sequel to Days Without End.

"Even when you come out of bloodshed and disaster in the end you have got to learn to live.

"Winona is a young Lakota orphan adopted by former soldiers Thomas McNulty and John Cole. Living with Thomas and John on the farm they work in 1870s Tennessee, she is educated and loved, forging a life for herself beyond the violence and dispossession of her past. But the fragile harmony of her unlikely family unit, in the aftermath of the Civil War, is soon threatened by a further traumatic event, one which Winona struggles to confront, let alone understand."

Silver Sparrow, by Tayari Jones

Re-release of Jones' third novel, first published in 2011, following her Women's Prize win for An American Marriage.

"Set in a middle-class neighbourhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, this novel revolves around James Witherspoon's two families, the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet, only one knows they are sisters."

English Monsters, by James Scudamore

"When 10-year-old Max is sent to boarding school, his idyllic childhood comes to an abrupt end. Away from the magical freedom of his grandfather's farm, a world of unfathomable rules and arbitrary punishment awaits. But so too does the companionship of a close-knit group of classmates.

"Later, as Max and his friends face down adulthood, a dark secret from their schooldays is revealed, drawing them together in unforeseen ways. Who knew what, and when? And who is now willing to see justice done, regardless of the cost to themselves?"

The Ninth Child, by Sally Magnusson

Magnusson's previous novel, The Sealwoman's Gift, was a massive hit with Suffolk readers, so we are looking forward to this one.

"Isabel Aird is aghast when her husband is appointed doctor to an extraordinary waterworks being built miles from the city. But Isabel, denied the motherhood role that is expected of her by a succession of miscarriages, finds unexpected consolations in a place where she can feel the presence of her unborn children and begin to work out what her life in Victorian society is for.

"The hills echo with the gunpowder blasts of hundreds of navvies tunnelling day and night to bring clean water to diseased Glasgow thirty miles away - digging so deep that there are those who worry they are disturbing the land of faery itself. Here, just inside the Highland line, the membrane between the modern world and the ancient unseen places is very thin. With new life quickening within her again, Isabel can only wait. But a darker presence has also emerged from the gunpowder smoke. And he is waiting too."

Keeper, by Jessica Moor

"When Katie Straw's body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it's an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide. But the residents of Widringham women's refuge where Katie worked don't agree. They say it's murder. Will you listen to them?"

Murder on the Moorland, by Helen Cox

Librarian turned sleuth Kitt Harley investigates another case. Read our Meet the Author interview with Helen Cox →

"Kitt Hartley wakes to the news that a murder has been committed in Irendale, a village high on the wild Yorkshire moors where her boyfriend, DI Malcolm Halloran, lived with his ex-wife until she, too, was murdered. The MO of the two crimes is identical, right down to the runic symbols carved into the victims' hands.

"Unable to leave it to the local police to solve, Kitt and Halloran travel to Irendale, where a literary mystery awaits. A line of Anglo-Saxon poetry found on the victim leads to a hiding place, and another cryptic clue. Did the victim know she was going to die? Is she trying to help solve her own murder from beyond the grave? And what is the connection to the murder of Halloran's wife all those years ago?

"It will take the combined ingenuity of Kitt and Halloran, as well as Evie Bowes, Grace Edwards and, despite their best efforts, Ruby the (possible) psychic to solve this case."

Come Again, by Robert Webb

"Kate still sleeps with her husband's T-shirt, but it doesn't smell of Luke any more. She misses him every day.

"One morning, Kate wakes up back at college. She's eighteen years old. She remembers everything. And she realises that this is the week that she will meet Luke for the first time.

"What if the man you lost could be found again? But then, what if he doesn't know he's lost? And what if he's still just a boy?"

Trace Elements, by Donna Leon

"When Dottoressa Donato calls the Questura to report that a dying patient at the hospice Fatebenefratelli wants to speak to the police, Commissario Guido Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, waste no time in responding. 'They killed him. It was bad money. I told him no', Benedetta Toso gasps the words about her recently-deceased husband, Vittorio Fadalto.

"Even though he is not sure she can hear him, Brunetti promises he and Griffoni will look into what appears to be a private family tragedy. They discover that Fadalto worked in the field collecting samples of contamination for a company that measures the cleanliness of Venice's water supply and that he had died in a mysterious motorcycle accident."

You Let Me In, by Camilla Bruce

"Everyone knows bestselling novelist Cassandra Tipp twice got away with murder. Even her family are convinced of her guilt. So when she disappears, leaving only a long letter behind, they suspect her conscience finally got the better of her.

"But the letter is not what anyone expected. Instead of a confession, it tells two chilling, equally dark, equally disturbing stories. One is a story of bloody nights and magical gifts, of children lost to the woods, of husbands made from twigs and leaves and feathers and bones. The other is the story of a little girl who was cruelly treated and grew up crooked in the shadows.

"Both stories might be true. Both stories end in murder. But is this a tale of supernatural seduction? Or the story of a broken child? It is up to you, the reader, to decide."

House of Earth and Blood, by Sarah J. Maas

First adult novel from YA fantasy superstar Maas, which launches the Crescent City series.

"Half-Fae, half-human Bryce Quinlan loves her life. Every night is a party and Bryce is going to savour all the pleasures Lunathion - also known as Crescent City - has to offer. But then a brutal murder shakes the very foundations of the city, and brings Bryce's world crashing down.

"Two years later, Bryce still haunts the city's most notorious nightclubs - but seeking only oblivion now. Then the murderer attacks again. And when an infamous Fallen angel, Hunt Athalar, is assigned to watch her every footstep, Bryce knows she can't forget any longer.

"As Bryce and Hunt fight to unravel the mystery, and their own dark pasts, the threads they tug ripple through the underbelly of the city, across warring continents, and down to the deepest levels of Hel, where things that have been sleeping for millennia are beginning to stir."

The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré

"Adunni is a 14-year-old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants: an education. As the only daughter of a broke father, she is a valuable commodity. Removed from school and sold as a third wife to an old man, Adunni's life amounts to this: four goats, two bags of rice, some chickens and a new TV.

"When unspeakable tragedy swiftly strikes in her new home, she is secretly sold as a domestic servant to a household in the wealthy enclaves of Lagos, where no one will talk about the strange disappearance of her predecessor, Rebecca. No one but Adunni.

"As a yielding daughter, a subservient wife, and a powerless servant, 14-year-old Adunni is repeatedly told that she is nothing. But Adunni won't be silenced. She is determined to find her voice - in a whisper, in song, in broken English - until she can speak for herself, for the girls like Rebecca who came before, and for all the girls who will follow."

The Good, the Bad and the Little Bit Stupid, by Marina Lewycka

"After walking out on his wife Rosie on Referendum night 2016 to shack up with hairdresser 'Brexit Brenda' next door, George thinks he's got it made - especially when he wins millions on a Kosovan lottery he only vaguely remembers entering. Unfortunately, he's forgotten his password and can't get at his money. Which is a problem because he suddenly has to contend with lots of forceful new friends desperate to know his mother's maiden name. As things quickly get out of hand, he must make a mad dash from Sheffield to the Adriatic - and into the arms of organised crime gangs who specialise in illegal kidney transplants and heroin smuggling.

"George is in need of rescue - both from this pickle and from himself. But will his son Sensible Sid, Brenda, and Rosie put aside their differences long enough to help? And might the journey bring this dysfunctional family back together?"

The Bass Rock, by Evie Wyld

"Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries borne witness to the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries, the fates of three women are inextricably linked to this place and to each other.

"Sarah, accused of being a witch, is fleeing for her life. Ruth, in the aftermath of the Second World War, is navigating a new marriage and the strange waters of the local community. Six decades later, Viv, still mourning the death of her father, is cataloguing Ruth's belongings in the now-empty house.

"As each woman's story unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that their choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men who seek to control them. But in sisterhood there is also the possibility of survival and a new way of life."

The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, by Natasha Pulley

"Step back into the enchanting world of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. This extraordinary sequel takes readers to Japan, where time, destiny and love collide to electrifying effect.

"For Thaniel Steepleton, an unexpected posting to Tokyo can't come at a better moment. The London fog has made him ill and doctor's orders are to get out. His brief is strange: the staff at the British Legation have been seeing ghosts, and his first task is to find out what's going on. But staying with his closest friend Keita Mori in Yokohama, Thaniel starts to experience ghostly happenings himself. For reasons he won't say, Mori is frightened. Then he vanishes.

"Meanwhile, something strange is happening in a frozen labour camp in northern Japan. Takiko Pepperharrow, an old friend of Mori's, must investigate."

The Boy from the Woods, by Harlan Coben

"Thirty years ago, a child was found in the New Jersey backwoods. He had been living a feral existence, with no memory of how he got there or even who he is. Everyone just calls him Wilde. Now a former soldier and security expert, he lives off the grid, shunned by the community - until they need him.

"A child has gone missing. With her family suspecting she's just playing a disappearing game, nobody seems concerned except for criminal attorney Hester Crimstein. She contacts Wilde, asking him to use his unique skills to find the girl. But even he can find no trace of her.

"One day passes, then a second, then a third. On the fourth, a human finger shows up in the mail. And now Wilde knows this is no game. It's a race against time to save the girl's life - and expose the town's dark trove of secrets."

The Recovery of Rose Gold, by Stephanie Wrobel

"Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years. She thought she needed the feeding tube, the surgeries, the wheelchair. Turns out her mother is a really good liar.

"After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with her daughter - and care for her new infant grandson.

"When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty won't rest until she has her daughter back under her thumb. Which is inconvenient because Rose Gold wants to be free of Patty. Forever.

"Only one Watts woman will get her way. Will it be Patty or Rose Gold? Mother or daughter?"

The Second Wife, by Rebecca Fleet

Suspenseful thriller from the author of The House Swap

"When Alex met Natalie she changed his life. After the tragic death of his first wife, which left him a single parent to teenage daughter Jade, he's determined to build a happy family. But his new-found happiness is shattered when the family home is gutted by fire and his loyalties are unexpectedly tested.

"Jade insists she saw a man in the house on the night of the fire; Natalie denies any knowledge of such an intruder. Alex is faced with an impossible choice: to believe his wife or his daughter? And as Natalie's story unravels, Alex realises that his wife has a past he had no idea about, a past that might yet catch up with her. But this time, the past could be deadly."

Wolf of Wessex, by Matthew Harffy

"AD 838. Deep in the forests of Wessex, Dunston's solitary existence is shattered when he stumbles on a mutilated corpse. Accused of the murder, Dunston must clear his name and keep the dead man's daughter alive in the face of savage pursuers desperate to prevent a terrible secret from being revealed.

"Rushing headlong through Wessex, Dunston will need to use all the skills of survival garnered from a lifetime in the wilderness. And if he has any hope of victory against the implacable enemies on their trail, he must confront his long-buried past - becoming the man he once was and embracing traits he had promised he would never return to. The Wolf of Wessex must hunt again; honour and duty demand it."

The City We Became, by N. K. Jemisin

First contemporary novel from the triple Hugo Award winning author.

"Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She's got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all."