Reading for pleasure
This month's selection of leisure reading, chosen by the Journal's book review editor
Gillian Flynn (Phoenix: £8.99; e-book £1.26)
Opening the covers of a “must read” book is a ticklish business. The possibilities for disappointment are endless. The friend who pressed this into my less than enthusiastic hands spoke in breathless tones about the twist in the middle. To be frank, he doesn’t read enough thrillers – it wasn’t that much of a surprise; however, read on and there are twists and turns by the bucketful.
In essence, Missouri boy Nick Dunne goes to New York where he meets and marries Amy, model for her parents’ Amazing Amy books. The recession hits, jobs are lost and the couple return to Missouri to care for Nick’s ailing parents. On their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears. Foul play is suspected.
To say any more would risk spoiling the pleasure of a most splendid read. It is now a blockbuster film, which has received mixed reviews. My suspicion is that the format of the book, with chapters alternating between Nick and Amy, would not translate easily to the screen. Put simply, this is one of the best pieces of light fiction I have read for a long time. Put aside your cynicism and enjoy.
The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson (Faber & Faber: £14.99; e-book £4.19)
Things to do on a flight. Chat to a beautiful stranger. Confess the secrets of your unhappy marriage. Plan the perfect murder. As one does, of course. This column raved about Peter Swanson's debut novel, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, in which nothing was quite as it seemed, and the female of the species was more deadly than the male. Is this, the second, difficult novel, more of the same? Well, for starters, it is Ted Severson who is planning the perfect murder. As one of the few who retained the fortune he made during the dotcom bubble years, and who made a few more thereafter, he realises his glamorous wife may not have married him for his charm alone. Meeting Lily over his nth Martini at Heathrow sets off this story, which rattles like a pinball through the next 300 or so pages.
It may be coincidence, but the structure follows that of last year's smash, Gone Girl, each chapter being written from the viewpoint of one of the protagonists. Which of these is indeed the kind worth killing will keep you engrossed to the very end. More devious than Thomas Cromwell, and with more twists than the Hampton Court maze, this is as good a crime novel as you will read all year.
Whisky from Small Glasses
Denzil Meyrick (Polygon: £8.99; e-book £ 3.59)
This book introduces us to DCI Jim Daley, who is dispatched from Glasgow to lead the investigation into the death of a woman washed up on the shore at Kinloch (for which read Campbeltown, the author's home town), whose body when lifted from the water falls in two, such was the severity of the damage. Another woman goes missing, and Jim is on the case, calling in his trusted lieutenant and team. He is estranged from his wife, and has to face a boor of a divisional commander who has policed the area as if it was his own fiefdom. The book crackles with tension as the story develops. The harbourmaster drives a £60k Jaguar; the small, seemingly quiet coastal town has an unbecoming underbelly. This is solid, well constructed plot but has moments of lightheartedness. Life in a small community, particularly as affecting outsiders, is well crafted. This is essentially a whodunit with a cast of characters from which one could be the culprit, with the least unexpected being in the frame. A good read.