Books Monthly
June 2024

New fiction for 2024
This page was updated 21st May with my review of the Stephen King book YOU LIKE IT DARKER...

Stephen King: You Like it Darker

Published 21st May 2024

'You like it darker? Fine, so do I', writes Stephen King in the afterword to this magnificent new collection of twelve stories that delve into the darker part of life - both metaphorical and literal. King has, for half a century, been a master of the form, and these stories, about fate, mortality, luck, and the folds in reality where anything can happen, are as rich and riveting as his novels, both weighty in theme and a huge pleasure to read. King writes to feel 'the exhilaration of leaving ordinary day-to-day life behind', and in You Like it Darker, readers will feel that exhilaration too, again and again.

'Two Talented Bastids' explores the long-hidden secret of how the eponymous gentlemen got their skills. In 'Danny Coughlin's Bad Dream', a brief and unprecedented psychic flash upends dozens of lives, Danny's most catastrophically. In 'Rattlesnakes', a sequel to Cujo, a grieving widower travels to Florida for respite and instead receives an unexpected inheritance - with major strings attached. In 'The Dreamers', a taciturn Vietnam vet answers a job ad and learns that there are some corners of the universe best left unexplored. 'The Answer Man' asks if prescience is good luck or bad and reminds us that a life marked by unbearable tragedy can still be meaningful.

King's ability to surprise, amaze, and bring us both terror and solace remains unsurpassed. Each of these stories holds its own thrills, joys, and mysteries; each feels iconic. You like it darker? You got it.

In the 1960s, Pan Books started their annual ghost-fest with the Pan Book of Ghost Stories. Every year they would gather together classic ghost stories and horror stories, the precursors to Stephen King. Often, the anthologies would contain a stoory by the absolute master of ghost stories, M R James, and these were often very dark indeed. I have to admite that I was expecting this anthology to contain stories in the mould of M R James or H P Lovecraft, but the stories are mainstream, small-town America, which is just how I like my STephen King short stories. Two stand out in this collection: TWO TALENTED BASTIDS and DANNY COUGHLIN'S BAD DREAM. One concerns aliens, the other concerns precognition, and they are both of them vintage and hugely enjoyable Stephen King. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories but these two really did it for me. I'm not sure I would have appreciated anything darker than what's contained in this handsome volume - I was lucky enough to receive a numbered copy from Hodder, thanks very much indeed - but I would go so far as to say that these are classic King short stories along the lines of RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. Certainly in my opinion the finest short story collection from Stephen King since Shawshank! Absolutely brilliant, and not too dark at all...

Richard Osman: The Last Devil To Die

Published 9th May 2024

Shocking news reaches the Thursday Murder Club.

An old friend in the antiques business has been killed, and a dangerous package he was protecting has gone missing.

As the gang springs into action they encounter art forgers, online fraudsters and drug dealers, as well as heartache close to home.

With the body count rising, the package still missing and trouble firmly on their tail, has their luck finally run out? And who will be the last devil to die?

Faith Martin: Murder on the Train

Published 24th May 2024

When the body of a talented photographer is found on the rocksSix passengers in a locked train carriage. One of them is dead. No one saw a thing. Former Detective Hillary Greene is off on holiday. For a blissful two weeks, her life will be free of murder victims, murder suspects - and, best of all, no paperwork. She's heading for the beautiful Welsh town of Hay-on-Wye, where she plans to spend her time browsing old bookshops and generally relaxing. Hillary arrives at the picturesque Riverside Inn where she finds the residents an eclectic bunch: a charming Irishman, a rich American and his spoilt daughter, a thrice-married Canadian influencer, a wealthy widow and a taciturn taxidermist. The next day, Hillary and her fellow guests set off on a steam train ride through the stunning Cambrian Mountains. But when the train arrives at its final destination, not all the passengers get off. One of them has been stabbed neatly and cleanly through the heart. Which of the five passengers who shared the carriage is the killer? And how come no one saw a thing . . . ?

Dreda Say Mitchell & Ryan Carter: Girl, Missing

Published 1st June 2024

What really happened to Sara-Jane?

It’s been fifteen years since Gem’s eight-year-old daughter Sara-Jane went missing, snatched with her best friend Abby right outside their school. A frantic search united the community at first, but after Abby was found and brought home, single mother Gem’s dogged persistence only led to accusations that she was stirring up class tensions. Even that she was somehow involved.

When Gem hears that human remains have been unearthed in the school’s chapel, she casts aside the new life she’s carefully built around herself and returns to the community that closed ranks against her all those years ago. Someone there knows something, she’s sure of it. And when Sara-Jane’s belongings start appearing on her doorstep, Gem knows she’s getting close―dangerously close―to the truth.

John Grisham: Camino Ghosts

Published 26th May 2024

Daphne Following John Grisham's international bestsellers, Camino Island and Camino Winds, Camino Ghosts is the story of an island off the Florida coast with a haunted, violent history and an uncertain future. Dark Isle off the Florida coast is said to be cursed: drownings, disappearances and hauntings have been the fate of intruders. The people who lived there were once enslaved. Now abandoned, it is the target of greedy developers. Lovely Jackson is the last survivor and claims to be its legal owner. But there is not a shred of evidence to prove that is true. It's unlikely that the developers will be deterred by the claims of one old woman. They have millions; Lovely only has Steve Mahon, a pro bono environmental lawyer, and Mercer Mann, a floundering novelist, to fight in her corner. With the court case looming and the bulldozers waiting to roll in, Steve and Mercer are in a race against time to unearth the truth behind Lovely's story and save the legacy of the island.

Karin Slaughter: This Is why We Lied

Published 26th June 2024

One toxic family. Eight suspicious guests. Everyone is guilty. But who is a killer?
Welcome to the McAlpine Lodge: a secluded mountain getaway, it’s the height of escapist luxury living.

Except that everyone here is lying. Lying about their past. Lying to their family. Lying to themselves.

Then one night, Mercy McAlpine – until now the good daughter – threatens to expose everybody's secrets. Just hours later, Mercy is dead.

In an area this remote, it’s easy to get away with murder. But Will Trent and Sara Linton – investigator and medical examiner for the GBI – are here on their honeymoon.

And now, with the killer poised to strike again, the holiday of a lifetime becomes a race against the clock…

The Reverend Richard Coles: Murder At The Monastery

Published 6th June 2024

Canon Daniel Clement has suffered a secret humiliation and to recover takes respite at the monastery where he was a novice. But the monastery doesn't allow the break he needs, for tensions are building there too. There is a death at the monastery, and Daniel thinks it might be murder.

Meanwhile back at Champton, Daniel is the subject of village gossip, his mother Audrey is up to something again, there's trouble at the dress shop, trouble up at the big house, and the puppies are running riot.

As dark secrets unfold, can Daniel solve the mystery at the monastery without the help of Detective Seargeant Neil Vanloo?

Chris Carter: The Death Watcher

Published 6th June 2024

When a routine autopsy on what looked like a straightforward hit-and-run leads the LA Chief Medical Examiner, Dr Carolyn Hove, to discover some puzzling inconsistencies, she calls in Detective Robert Hunter of the LAPD Ultra Violent Crimes Unit. Not only did Dr Hove discover that the death wasn’t caused by a hit-and-run, but she also found indications that the victim had been severely tortured prior to death.

What no one realises is that what Dr Hove has stumbled upon is just the tip of the iceberg and it will lead Hunter and his partner, Carlos Garcia, on the trail of a twisted and clever killer who hides in plain sight. A serial killer no one even knew existed – a killer who has always operated under the radar, expertly disguising every gruesome murder as an accidental death.

But with no leads as to why the victim was targeted, the investigation comes to a standstill, until another body is discovered with an alternative cause of death.

What becomes clear is that this serial killer isn’t going to stop – unless Hunter and Garcia can get to him.

But how do you investigate a murder when you have no victims? How do you catch a killer who leaves behind no crime scene? How do you stop a ghost who no one can prove even exists?

Barbara Erskine: The Story Spinner

Published 1st August 2024

The land of the Silures, 382 AD

Elen is a princess promised to a general of Rome. Macsen came to Wales seeking an alliance that would advance his quest for power.
Despite warnings her marriage is destined for heartache, Elen is determined to honour her vows. But this union will change her destiny forever…

Camp Meadow, 2024

Cadi is a writer who has discovered Elen’s lost story. As she puts pen to paper, she hears the sound of ghostly marching feet. Opening the gate to the ancient meadow behind her cottage, could the secret behind Elen’s fate lie closer than she thinks? But someone is desperate to keep the past buried, plotting to destroy the meadow…

Can Cadi uncover Elen’s story before it’s lost to time?

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