HOME BEFORE DARK
Riley Sager (Hodder & Stoughton)
Maggie Holt is haunted by a book. A book her father wrote and sold to the masses, revealing an elaborate tale of ghosts that tormented and chased their family from Baneberry Hall. And it was marketed as a true story.
After her father’s unfortunate passing, Maggie is alarmed to discover that the Victorian ‘House Of Horrors’ has been willed to her, despite his claim it was a violent dwelling that almost killed them. Twenty-five years since their infamous ordeal, Maggie needs to know the truth. Were the events in her father’s story as real and as terrifying as he made out?
She returns, surrounded by locals who share her hate for the attention the book has drawn to them. And there’s the eerily familiar presence of a family – still in mourning for the loss of their teenage daughter, who vanished without a trace shortly after her encounter with Maggie’s family…
Home Before Dark has more twists than you can shake a ghost at. Just when you’re getting over one shocking revelation, another blows it right out of murky waters! Like snake bites to naked flesh, the plot darts its clever terrors beneath the reader’s skin. This is an unforgettable horror book of intelligence and chills.
Price: £8.99. Info: here
words KARLA BRADING
JANIS JOPLIN: DAYS AND SUMMERS
Sally Millard [ed.] (Genesis)
Janis Joplin is a legendary name of blues rock‘n’roll, a voice like a sucker-punch, sensual and mystifying – but little is known about the woman behind the performance, eclipsed by her untimely death at the age of 27. Days And Summers is an intimate and revealing insight into this bright, short-lived star.
From personal letters to her family, to the reviews she’d carefully cut out and underlined, this annotated scrapbook lets Joplin’s personality shine through and it is delightful and surprising. For such a big performer, it’s the small details that make this limited-edition collection so enjoyable: casual mentions of her reading Lord Of The Rings, or her doodled fashion designs, help to bring this mythological figure down to human form.
Each savoured memento between the years 1966-68 melts the cool exterior of Joplin’s rock star image, revealing someone who cared deeply about the way she was perceived and who never stopped getting a kick out of her hard-earned success. Days And Summers doesn’t portray a tortured soul, but a giddy, fallible young woman at the cusp of achieving her dreams. Although Joplin’s own annotations are certainly the highlight, this is also a visual and immersive celebration of the counterculture of the 1960s and the explosive fusion of blues and rock on the American music scene.
Part historical artefact and part biography, Days And Summers does what it sets out to do: capturing a piece of the indomitable, frenetic energy Joplin gifted to the world through her own round-framed, tinted lens.
Price: £325. Info: here
words RHIANNON MORRIS
Sara Jafari (Cornerstone)
This is the first published novel for author Jafari, and it tells the intersecting stories of Soraya Nazari and Neda Nazari. Soraya is the youngest sibling in her family: a recent Goldsmiths University graduate, she is navigating the complexities of early adulthood alongside romance, tradition and family. Her mother Neda is a practising Hijabi Muslim who left Tehran with her husband around the Iranian revolution. She is struggling to reconcile her marriage, motherhood, and Westernised ideologies.
I initially struggled to immerse myself in this novel. The romance between Soraya and her love interest Magnus felt too clichéd at times. Despite this, the chapters from Neda’s perspective felt so fresh and interesting that I found myself persevering, something I’m incredibly glad for.
It is clear that Jafari has a great love of her culture – the descriptions of Tehran felt vivid and present, and mentions of Iranian traditions were lovingly inserted into the novel. Additionally, the intersecting relationships between the Nazari family were some of the strongest aspects of Jafari’s writing. I found myself incredibly compelled and even deeply moved at points. This is definitely a book that grows on you, and one I believe is worth your time.
Price: £7.99. Info: here
words SEREN MCKEEVER
S.A. Cosby (Headline)
Ike Randolph left jail two decades ago, the only clue to his mischievous past a BG tattoo on his left hand, and now runs a successful lawn maintenance business in Virginia. Buddy Lee lives in a trailer park trying to pay off his rent arrears, keep out of trouble and drink less. Randolph is African-American, Lee white; their sons, Isiah and Derek, were married to each other. Neither Randolph or Lee approved of, or was comfortable with, their son’s sexuality, making father-son relationships volatile and difficult.
When Isiah and Derek are both brutally murdered, their attitudes are forced to change. Randolph and Lee set out together to avenge their sons on a violent and dark journey into America’s heart of darkness. Their investigative methods, though unsound, turn up a clue: a girl named Tangerine could lead them to the killers. Yet Randolph and Lee are not the only two people seeking to find answers, and the tension is cranked up to 11 when a seriously evil biker gang enters the frame.
Razorblade Tears is more than just a fine slice of noir crime fiction: it has a heart too, as the two grieving fathers seek both redemption and revenge. Anthony Award-winning author S.A. Crosby’s previous book Blacktop Wasteland was listed as being one of the best crime thrillers of 2020 by the Guardian; Razorblade Tears will no doubt end up on a few lists for 2021.
Price: £18.99. Info: here
words DAVID NOBAKHT
THE VIEW WAS EXHAUSTING
Mikaella Clements & Onjuli Datta (Headline)
An interesting novel with a thought-provoking concept, The View Was Exhausting is at times challenging but consistently fascinating. The St Tropez setting heightens the juxtaposition between its characters’ endless career-or-pleasure? decisions; the celebrity lifestyle, as portrayed by married couple Clements and Datta, is exhausting by osmosis. Constant scrutiny, strategic positioning, monitoring of what is said and done for media purposes… references to many well-known gossip sites further adds to the authenticity.
Leo, a rich guy used to the good life, is looking to bolster his own career through a relationship with actress Win – the steering of whom, as a woman of colour in the industry and her struggle to be picked for roles due to her mixed heritage, is insightful. Racism and other prejudice is well navigated here, and extremely relevant.
The View Was Exhausting captures a world fuelled by controlling concern over what external parties might think of every decision Leo and Win make: are the real fake romances (as it were) of the celebrity world navigated this manically? This story could spark many interesting conversations; either way, it’s recommended as a means of escapism to far-off climes, if you’re so inclined.
Price: £18.99. Info: here
words BILLIE INGRAM SOFOKLEOUS
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