White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (Picador, £7.99)
Helen Oyeyemi, a Nigerian-born, Lewisham-raised Catholic, wrote her first novel, The Icarus Girl, in just two weeks while studying for her A-levels. It was a huge critical success, and made her a literary star; Oyeyemi, though, wasn’t impressed. “It was a good beginner’s effort,” she said later.
White is for Witching is her third novel, billed as “Angela Carter meets Edgar Allen Poe”. It centres on a family recovering from the death of mother-and-wife Lily in an old, mazy house in Dover which is creepily possessed by the spirits of her ancestors.
The Icarus Girl was a gripping, straightforwardly written tale of an eight-year-old girl and her sinister imaginary twin; The Opposite House was a difficult second novel, crammed with metaphor and poetic ambition. Her latest book, like the first two, has had rave reviews.
Mark Greaves An Empty Death by Laura Wilson (Orion, £7.99) Laura Wilson has made a name for herself crafting intelligent historical mysteries set (mostly) in post WWII London.
An Empty Death is the second in her DI Ted Stratton series which reaches further back to the heady days of the Blitz.
It is 1944, London is still threatened by the Nazis, the city is in ruins and the population tired and war weary.
Stratton, an eminently likable protagonist, is called to the mysterious death of a doctor amidst the war rubble. As he investigates he uncovers a deeper conspiracy concerning Polish exiles, German spies and the fate of England.
Wilson’s characterisations are subtle and intriguing, the inner psychological world of the characters as deftly drawn as the smoking ruins of London, producing a taut thrilling novel that evokes the chaos of war expertly.
Stav Sherez Essays in Zen Buddhism by DT Suzuki (Souvenir Press, £14.99)
Souvenir Press reissues a 1927 classic by re-printing Dr D T Suzuki’s essays on Zen Buddhism. Anyone interested in Eastern Religions should have these essays as library mainstay. D T Suzuki introduced the western world to Zen Buddhism in the beginning of the 20th century. In the essays, Suzuki outlines the main goal of Zen, which is to achieve satori, or “sudden enlightenment”, and explains Zen as a Chinese interpretation of the doctrine of enlightenmment. He also outlines the different ways of attaining satori. In the essays Suzuki writes about the history and development of Zen Buddhism, describes daily monastic life and the way in which Zen Buddhism works towards the path of enlightenment. Suzuki was himself educated in a Japanese monastery in Kamakura and wrote widely about Buddhism in over 100 books.
Elizabeth Barley The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton (Orion, £9.99) Steve Hamilton’s Michigan-based mystery novels are far less known here than they are in his native America. This is a shame as Hamilton writes tough and engaging thrillers, using the landscape of the frozen north almost as a separate character.
One hopes that with The Lock Artist Hamilton will gain the kind of respect and readership he enjoys on the other side of the Atlantic.
In the story Michael hit the headlines when as a seven-year-old he survives the terrible incident that left his parents dead. Nicknamed ‘the miracle boy’, he is left unable to speak because of the trauma and his school life turns into a nightmare of bullying and persecution. But he soon realises that he’s acquired a special talent: picking locks. A coming-of-age novel disguised as a thriller, this is an exciting rollercoaster ride through trauma and emancipation.
Stav Sherez The Long Fall by Walter Mosley (Phoenix, £7.99) Walter Mosley is one of those long-simmering writers whose work just seems to get better with age like a good wine.
The Long Fall introduces a new character, Leonid McGill, exboxer, hard drinker and working private investigator in 21st century New York.
Suffering a crisis of conscience, McGill is trying to straighten out his life and work practices when he is employed to uncover some seemingly harmless information by a rich client.
But, as with all good murder mysteries, nothing is what it seems and when McGill starts poking around he quickly realises that the “new” New York can be as corrupt as the city of old.
This is written with his usual verve and style. Mosley paints a sanguine portrait of NYC, beset by corruption and crime in high places.