There’s a nicely varied bunch of paperbacks to look out for in October – enough for two posts, albeit short ones – several of which are already tried and tested by me starting with Oyinkan Braithwaite’s Booker Prize longlisted, Women’s Prize shortlisted My Sister, the Serial Killer. A woman is about to sit down to supper when her sister calls. She’s killed another man and needs Korede’s peerless cleaning skills. Set in Lagos where Korede is a nurse and Ayoola charms men, My Sister, the Serial Killer is a short, darkly funny novel, an enjoyable caper with a sharp edge and a page-turning pace.
Sarah Perry’s chilling, clever and immersive Melmoth is also very dark but in an entirely different way, combining a rattling good yarn with a complex moral dimension. Perry nests stories within stories throughout her book – from a young boy’s betrayal of the Jewish family whose overtures of friendship he resents to the brothers, both civil servants, who coolly help administer the Armenian genocide – all witnessed by Melmoth, who walks through the centuries with her bleeding feet, reaching out a hand to those who resist redemption.
Shirley Barrett’s The Bus on Thursday sounds as if it might have a touch of the gothic leavened with a hefty dose of humour. Primary-school teacher Eleanor finds a job in the remote Australian town of Talbingo after she’s recovered from a mastectomy. She arrives to find that not only has her predecessor apparently done a runner but the town has a distinctly creepy atmosphere. According to the blurb it’s ‘riotously funny, deeply unsettling, and surprisingly poignant… … a wicked, weird, wild ride for fans of Maria Semple, Stephen King and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. And when have those three writers ever appeared in the same sentence?’ When indeed?
Sonia Velton’s Blackberry and Wild Rose has its feet firmly planted in the historical fiction territory I seem to have ventured into recently with its eighteenth-century setting and gorgeous cover. The wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver employs a prostitute as a maid thinking she’s doing a good deed, but Sara despises the hypocrisy she discovers in her new mistress’s Spitalfields house. Blind to it all, Esther is determined that her husband will weave a piece of silk from her designs and can think of little else, apparently. It’s the Huguenot element that appeals to me here although that jacket is well nigh irresistible.
That’s it for October’s first batch of paperbacks. A click on a title will take you to my review for the first two or to a more detailed synopsis for the others, and if you’d like to catch up with October’s new novels they’re here and here. Second instalment soon…