New Books / Reviews

Listings and Reviews of New Books.

La Stone is a widow who, as the Nazi threat looms, assembles a ragtag orchestra in rural Suffolk in hopes of altering “the temper of the world.” She falls for one of her recruits, a Polish pilot with a suspicious past. But patriotism trumps passion, leaving La to worry if her life will always be “a play in which I have no real part.” In McCall-Smith’s quintessentially English world, perseverance, pots of tea and the power of music will show the way.

Another Isabel Dalhousie sleuthing adventure. Her son, Charlie, is now of an age–eighteen months–to have a social life, and so off they go to a birthday party, where much to Isabel’s surprise, she encounters an old adversary, Minty Auchterlonie, now a high-flying financier. Minty had seemed to Isabel a woman of ruthless ambition, but the question of her integrity had never been answered. Now, when Minty takes Isabel into her confidence about a personal matter, Isabel finds herself going another round: Is Minty to be trusted? Or is she the perpetrator of an enormous financial fraud? And what should Isabel make of the rumours of shady financial transactions at Minty’s investment bank?

With customary charm and deftness, Alexander McCall Smith gives us another instalment in this popular series, now running in its eighth season in The Scotsman. Will Big Lou find true love at last? Will Bertie’s healthy snacks go down well at his school fair? And has Bruce Anderson really won the lottery? It’s time to catch up with the delightful goings-on in 44 Scotland Street!

Isabel and her fiancé know who they are and where they come from. But not everybody is so fortunate. Jane Cooper, a visiting Australian philosopher on sabbatical in Edinburgh, has more questions than answers. Adopted at birth, Jane is trying to find her biological father, but all she knows about him is that he was a student in Edinburgh years ago. When she asks for Isabel’s help in this seemingly impossible search . . . well, of course Isabel obliges.

Nothing captures the charm of Edinburgh like the bestselling Isabel Dalhousie series of novels featuring the insatiably curious philosopher and woman detective.  Whether investigating a case or a problem of philosophy, the indefatigable Isabel Dalhousie, one of fiction’s most richly developed amateur detectives, is always ready to pursue the answers to all of life’s questions, large and small.

Isabel has been asked for her help in a rather tricky situation: A successor is being sought for the headmaster at a local boys’ school. The board has three final candidates but has received an anonymous letter alleging that one of them has a very serious skeleton in the closet. Could Isabel discreetly investigate it? And so, she does. What she discovers about all the candidates is surprising, but what she discovers about herself and about Jamie, the father of her young son, turns out to be equally revealing.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Arctic explorer Edward Mackley sets out to reach the North Pole and vanishes into the icy landscape without a trace. He leaves behind a young wife, Emily, who awaits his return for decades, her dreams and devotion gradually freezing into rigid widowhood. A hundred years later, on a sweltering mid-summer’s day, Edward’s great-grand-niece Julia moves through the old family house, attempting to impose some order on the clutter of inherited belongings and memories from that ill-fated expedition, and taking care to ignore the deepening cracks within her own marriage. But as afternoon turns into evening, Julia makes a discovery that splinters her long-held image of Edward and Emily’s romance, and her husband Simon faces a precipitous choice that will decide the future of their relationship. Sharply observed and deeply engaging, The Still Point is a powerful literary debut, and a moving meditation on the distances – geographical and emotional – that can exist between two people.

From the bestselling author of A Place Called Winter comes a new novel of boyhood, coming of age, and the confusions of desire and reality. 1970s Weston-Super-Mare and ten-year-old oddball Eustace, an only child, has life transformed by his mother’s quixotic decision to sign him up for cello lessons. Music-making brings release for a boy who is discovering he is an emotional volcano. He laps up lessons from his young teacher, not noticing how her brand of glamour is casting a damaging spell over his frustrated and controlling mother.  When he is enrolled in holiday courses in the Scottish borders, lessons in love, rejection, and humility are added to daily practice.

Drawing in part on his own boyhood, Patrick Gale’s new novel explores a collision between childish hero worship and extremely messy adult love lives.

Joel Creasey has known he wanted to be on the world’s stage since he was in short pants, and nothing was going to get in his way. After his first stand-up performance at 17, he had to follow his dream – that is, to always have the spotlight on him.  His breakout moment was appearing on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! and now he’s a comedy superstar, performing non-stop at sell out events in Australia and around the world. Even the late, great comedy superstar Joan Rivers was a fan, inviting him to open for her last Broadway shows.

Like Joel, Thirsty is acerbically funny, and full of his most personal, hilarious, joyous, heartbreaking, outrageous, ridiculous and scandalous stories. From what it’s like to be growing up gay in suburban Australia, with parents who understand the call of the spotlight – his mum was a West End actress, his dad starred in the famous Solo Man advertisements and both his parents were extras in Star Wars – to his early life at school, finding his comedy and what life is like on the road now.  From the ridiculous (visiting the anti-gay capital of Australia) to the sublime (opening for his idol Joan Rivers), this is the story of a hopeless romantic who believes women should run the world and men should just kiss him.

A tour de force of history and imagination, The Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier’s answer to the mystery behind one of the art world’s great masterpieces—a set of bewitching medieval tapestries that hangs today in the Cluny Museum in Paris. They appear to portray the seduction of a unicorn, but the story behind their making is unknown—until now.

Paris, 1490.  A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the house—mother and daughter, servant, and lady-in-waiting—before taking his designs north to the Brussels workshop where the tapestries are to be woven. There, master weaver Georges de la Chapelle risks everything he has to finish the tapestries—his finest, most intricate work—on time for his exacting French client. The results change all their lives—lives that have been captured in the tapestries, for those who know where to look.

1940: The Spanish Civil War is over, and Madrid lies ruined, its people starving, while the Germans continue their relentless march through Europe. Britain now stands alone while General Franco considers whether to abandon neutrality and enter the war.

Into this uncertain world comes Harry Brett: a traumatized veteran of Dunkirk turned reluctant spy for the British Secret Service. Sent to gain the confidence of old school friend Sandy Forsyth, now a shady Madrid businessman, Harry finds himself involved in a dangerous game – and surrounded by memories.

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

 

Vivid, bold and brisk, Internet Wars traces one of the most critical emerging power struggles of the 21st century, the battle to control the internet.  Already exploitation of this super-network has helped create the world’s most valuable company, toppled governments, led to the largest wealth transfer in history, and created the most extensive global surveillance system ever known.

Google’s Eric Schmidt described the internet as ‘the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand’. Yet only by understanding the broad currents of the internet’s growth will we be able to secure its vitality and promise into the future.

It is the summer of 1940, and Lisbon, Portugal, is the only neutral port left in Europe—a city filled with spies, crowned heads, and refugees of every nationality, tipping back absinthe to while away the time until their escape. Awaiting safe passage to New York on the SS Manhattan, two couples meet: Pete and Julia Winters, expatriate Americans fleeing their sedate life in Paris; and Edward and Iris Freleng, sophisticated, independently wealthy, bohemian, and beset by the social and sexual anxieties of their class. As Portugal’s neutrality, and the world’s future, hang in the balance, the hidden threads in the lives of these four characters—Julia’s status as a Jew, Pete and Edward’s improbable affair, Iris’s increasingly desperate efforts to save her tenuous marriage—begin to come loose. This journey will change their lives irrevocably, as Europe sinks into war.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of East-End London poverty, works the legendary code-breaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger—and their true enemy—closer.

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

Vivid, bold and brisk, Internet Wars traces one of the most critical emerging power struggles of the 21st century, the battle to control the internet.  Already exploitation of this super-network has helped create the world’s most valuable company, toppled governments, led to the largest wealth transfer in history, and created the most extensive global surveillance system ever known.

Google’s Eric Schmidt described the internet as ‘the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand’. Yet only by understanding the broad currents of the internet’s growth will we be able to secure its vitality and promise into the future.

It is the summer of 1940, and Lisbon, Portugal, is the only neutral port left in Europe—a city filled with spies, crowned heads, and refugees of every nationality, tipping back absinthe to while away the time until their escape. Awaiting safe passage to New York on the SS Manhattan, two couples meet: Pete and Julia Winters, expatriate Americans fleeing their sedate life in Paris; and Edward and Iris Freleng, sophisticated, independently wealthy, bohemian, and beset by the social and sexual anxieties of their class. As Portugal’s neutrality, and the world’s future, hang in the balance, the hidden threads in the lives of these four characters—Julia’s status as a Jew, Pete and Edward’s improbable affair, Iris’s increasingly desperate efforts to save her tenuous marriage—begin to come loose. This journey will change their lives irrevocably, as Europe sinks into war.

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of East-End London poverty, works the legendary code-breaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart.

1947. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger—and their true enemy—closer.

A look at what power is, who gets it, and what happens when they do, based on over 500 interviews with those who (temporarily, at least) have had the upper hand—from the creator of the Power Corrupts podcast and Washington Post columnist Brian Klaas.

Does power corrupt, or are corrupt people drawn to power? Are tyrants made or born? Are entrepreneurs who embezzle and cops who kill the result of poorly designed systems or are they just bad people? If you were suddenly thrust into a position of power, would you be able to resist the temptation to line your pockets or seek revenge against your enemies?

A look at what power is, who gets it, and what happens when they do, based on over 500 interviews with those who (temporarily, at least) have had the upper hand—from the creator of the Power Corrupts podcast and Washington Post columnist Brian Klaas.

Does power corrupt, or are corrupt people drawn to power? Are tyrants made or born? Are entrepreneurs who embezzle and cops who kill the result of poorly designed systems or are they just bad people? If you were suddenly thrust into a position of power, would you be able to resist the temptation to line your pockets or seek revenge against your enemies?

BAFTA-winning actor, voice of everything from Monkey to the Cadbury’s Caramel Rabbit, creator of a myriad of unforgettable characters from Lady Whiteadder to Professor Sprout, Miriam Margolyes, OBE, is the nation’s favourite (and naughtiest) treasure. Find out how being conceived in an air-raid gave her curly hair; what pranks led to her being known as the naughtiest girl Oxford High School ever had; how she ended up posing nude for Augustus John as a teenager; why Bob Monkhouse was the best (male) kiss she’s ever had; and what happened next after Warren Beatty asked ‘Do you fuck?’

From declaring her love to Vanessa Redgrave to being told to be quiet by the Queen, this book is packed with hilarious stories. With a cast list stretching from Scorsese to Streisand, a cross-dressing Leonardo di Caprio to Isaiah Berlin, This Much Is True is as full of life and surprises, as its inimitable author.

From the best-selling author of The Name of the Rose and The Prague Cemetery, a novel about the murky world of media politics, conspiracy, and murder.

A newspaper committed to blackmail and mudslinging, rather than reporting the news. A paranoid editor, walking through the streets of Milan, reconstructing fifty years of history against the backdrop of a plot involving the cadaver of Mussolini’s double. The murder of Pope John Paul I, the CIA, red terrorists handled by secret services, twenty years of bloodshed, and events that seem outlandish until the BBC proves them true.

A fragile love story between two born losers, a failed ghost writer, and a vulnerable girl, who specializes in celebrity gossip yet cries over the second movement of Beethoven’s Seventh. And then a dead body that suddenly appears in a back alley in Milan. Set in 1992 and foreshadowing the mysteries and follies of the following twenty years, Numero Zero is a scintillating take on our times.

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