Books Monthly May 2020 new fiction books
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Stephen King's new book of short stories leads...


My book of the month for May is Stephen King's  brand new collection of four novellas, including a new tale featuring the brilliant Holly Gibney from The Outsider...

Book of the Month - Stephen King: If It Bleeds

Published by Hodder 29th April 2020

A collection of four uniquely wonderful long stories, including a stand-alone sequel to the No. 1 bestseller THE OUTSIDER.

News people have a saying: 'If it bleeds, it leads'. And a bomb at Albert Macready Middle School is guaranteed to lead any bulletin.

Holly Gibney of the Finders Keepers detective agency is working on the case of a missing dog - and on her own need to be more assertive - when she sees the footage on TV. But when she tunes in again, to the late-night report, she realises there is something not quite right about the correspondent who was first on the scene. So begins 'If It Bleeds', a stand-alone sequel to the No. 1 bestselling THE OUTSIDER featuring the incomparable Holly on her first solo case - and also the riveting title story in Stephen King's brilliant new collection.

Dancing alongside are three more wonderful long stories from this 'formidably versatile author' (The Sunday Times) - 'Mr Harrigan's Phone', 'The Life of Chuck' and 'Rat'. All four display the richness of King's storytelling with grace, humour, horror and breathtaking suspense. A fascinating Author's Note gives us a wonderful insight into the origin of each story and the writer's unparalleled imagination

I have been looking forward to this book for several months, as I always do with a new Stephen King. Let's look at them in order, shall we? Mr Harrigan's Phone is purely and simply a ghost story in the same mould as those written a century or so ago by M R James. Not out and out horror, but supernatural goings on that can't be explained. The premise is simple - Craig introduces Mr Harrigan to the idea of cell phones when he buys him an iPhone. First of all Mr Harrigan leaves him a huge sum of money that will get him through college comfortably, and then comes to his aid when he is bullied and beaten and threatened. Even after Mr Harrigan is dead, Craig finds he can still contact him via the iPhone, and Mr Harrigan's interventions, whilst being somewhat extreme, are well intended and ... final. I found this story charming and quite satisfying. Anything that deals with maleficence and expecially bullying in such a terminal way is OK in fantasy fiction and ghost stories. The Life of Chuck, the second story, reminded me for a long while of Nevil Shute's On The Beach - everyone knowing the world is coming to an end and attempting to behave normally and rationally. The second half of the story introduces us to Chuck and gives us some insights into his life and times. Again, I enjoyed it, but I think it is flawed and inconsistent, the first half seemingly totally divorced from the first. Now to the longest novella in the collection: If It Bleeds, which is Holly Gibney's first solo outing, and a follow-on to The Outsider. In his afterword, Stephen King reveals that he really likes Holly as a character, and most of us share that in common with him. She is a brilliant character, especially when she is standing up to people who used to push her around. The story is bog standard vampire-type fare, but it reveals so much more about Holly that we didn't know before, so that's good enough for me. Finally Rat, which to my mind is another M R James type of story, this time with a humanised rat who seems able to influence events in Drew's life, almost as though Mr Harrigan and the Rat are bookends to the two middle tales. Hugely enjoyable, and I'm overjoyed to have received a numbered limited edition proof copy from Hodder - this means a great deal to me, and I will, I know, get a finished copy as soon as they become available. The rest of you will simply have to buy a copy, I'm afraid... but it will be worth it. After all, he is the Master...

Ben McPherson: The Island

Published by Harper Collins 30th April 2020

The chilling new psychological thriller by Ben McPherson, author of A LINE OF BLOOD.

A shocking act of violence…
It should have been the safest place on earth. A summer camp for teens, on a beautiful island off the coast of Oslo. But what started out as a haven becomes hell on earth as two men start shooting.

A family torn apart…
With Norway in shock, the families gather, desperately hoping their children have survived. Some have their prayers answered. Some must confront their worst nightmare. But for one family, this is just the beginning…

A daughter gone missing…
Cal and Elsa’s daughter Licia was on the island that day. But the police can find no trace of her – dead or alive. Stuck in limbo, Cal and Elsa delve into their daughter’s life. The secrets they uncover are shocking. But they still don’t know – did Licia survive the shooting? Or is she gone forever?

Inspired in part by the massacre of 27 people, mostly children, by Anders Behring Breivik at a summer camp in Norway on 22nd July 2011, Ben McPherson's new book centres on just one possible victim, Licia, and the efforts of her parents, Cal and Elsa, to find her or her body. Gripping and very tense indeed, this is a superbly crafted thriller.

Robert Pobi: City of Windows

Published by Mulholland Books 16th April 2020

Severely injured on a case, Page retired from the FBI to become a professor. But now his friend has been killed by a sniper in New York and Page's extraordinary mind is needed urgently.

The shot that killed the man should have been impossible: in the middle of a blizzard, down a busy New York avenue, into a moving car. But it happened.

Only Page can work out the science behind the shot, the geometry that reveals the killer's location. The logic that says the shooter has killed like this before. And will do it again, and again, until they are stopped ...

Paperback version of last year's blockbuster release...

Rebecca Thornton: The Fallout

Published by 2nd April 2020

At the school gates, there’s no such thing as yesterday’s news . . .

When Liza’s little boy has an accident at the local health club, it’s all anyone can talk about.

Was nobody watching him?
Where was his mother?
Who’s to blame?

The rumours, the finger-pointing, the whispers – they’re everywhere. And Liza’s best friend, Sarah, desperately needs it to stop.

Because Sarah was there when it happened. It was all her fault. And if she’s caught out on the lie, everything will fall apart.

Excellent psychological thriller revealing hidden depths of the characters involved. The perfect read for the spring months or the summer holidays...

Camilla Lackberg: The Gilded Cage

Published by Harper Collins 2nd April 2020

All that glitters…

People would kill to have Faye Adelheim’s life. She lives in an ultra-swanky apartment in the most exclusive area of Stockholm, she has a gorgeous husband who gives her everything she’s ever wanted, and she has an adorable daughter who lights up her world. Faye’s life is perfect.

So how is it, then, that she now finds herself in a police station?

The truth is that Faye’s life is far from what it seems. The truth is that Faye isn’t even her real name. And now she’s been caught out. There’s no way she’s going to go down without a fight. The only question is – who will escape with their life?

A gripping new thriller that will keep you hooked from the first page to the last!

The cream of Sweden's crime thriller writers is back with a sensational and gripping thriller, where nothing is as it seems... you won't want to put this one down!

Arthur Clifford: Far, Far The Mountain Peak

Published by Allison & Busby 26th March 2020

John Denby had a troubled childhood and upbringing. His teenage years saw him battling with his homosexuality in an experimental comprehensive school in a notorious sink estate, and he was thrust into a maelstrom of delinquent and criminalised pupils. Desperate to conceal his sexuality and to prove his masculine credentials, he had a string of girlfriends and led a double life - cowering beneath the surface. He joined a youth expedition to Morocco and became tangled up in a mess of adult ideologies and burgeoning egos, leaving him bewildered and disillusioned. He longed to prove himself. Now at the age of sixteen, his academic life has flourished, and he has a clutch of excellent exam results. About to enrol in the prestigious Stirling Academy, he must decide if this is really the path he wishes to take. Only time will tell...

Bernard Cornwell: Sword of Kings

Published by Harper Collins 28th May 2020

England is in turmoil as Vikings and Saxons battle for territory. Rumours build about the fatal sickness of the King, and the country awaits an heir.

A violent clash at sea forces the warrior lord Uhtred to lead his men from his Northumbrian fortress to London and plunge into the eye of the storm. For two kings claim the empty throne, and a new kingdom cannot be born without bloodshed.

Uhtred’s sword will leave one king dead and the other victorious. But sometimes it is hard to know the will of the gods…

Out soon in paperback...

The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its 22nd year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email at and I'll let you know where to send it.

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Arch Hades: High Tide

5th July 2018 Independently published

I don't often get to review books of poetry in Books Monthly, and this was a most welcome diversion from the many, many books of fiction I get to read during the course of the year. What I like best about Arch's poetry, other than the fact that it is head and shoulders better than anything Simon Armitage has ever written, both before and after becoming Poet Laureate (!), is the fact that Arch's poetry is recognisable as poetry - that's the first thing, the essential thing about poetry for me. I love the rhyming which is missing from most modern day poetry, and I can feel the emotion pouring out of the author (poet) in this gentle, moving collection of poems and postcards about love and loss, two things that affect each and every one of us. Very moving.