Paperbacks to Look Out For in April 2024: Part Two

Cover image for Death of a BooksellerThe first part of April’s paperback preview began with one of last year’s favourites as does the second. Ex-bookseller Alice Slater’s Death of a Bookseller  took me so vividly back to my own bookselling days I felt I’d been restocking the shelves only yesterday. Set during the run up to Christmas, Slater’s hugely enjoyable novel follows Roach, who’s worked in the dingy Walthamstow branch of Spines for nine years, and Laura, one of three seasoned booksellers parachuted in with the aim of saving it from closure, on whom Roach becomes fixated, convinced she’s hiding something. This was such a nostalgic read for me, although I should point out nothing nefarious happened in my branch of Waterstones, at least while I worked there.Cover image for Cleaner by Brandi Wells

In Brandi Wells’s Cleaner our narrator works the night shift, cleaning an office block, giving the occupants of her favourite floor nicknames, shifting papers she thinks need attention, leaving treats for some and taking revenge on others. When she discovers a phone hidden in the CEO’s office she sets off on a trail which will eventually lead her to a scandal explaining the company’s downturn. A wee bit too long, this is a funny, entertaining debut.

Cover image for Cahokia JazzThere may well be a touch of the speculative about Francis Spufford’s Cahokia Jazz or perhaps a rewriting of history as Cahokia seems to be the site of an abandoned metropolis beside the Mississippi. In Spufford’s version of the city, a fragile peace and harmony is threatened by the discovery of a body on the roof of a skyscraper in 1922 sparking off a series of revelations in what the publishers are describing as ‘a lovingly created, richly pleasure-giving, epically scaled tale set in the golden age of wicked entertainments.’ Elle’s review sealed the deal with this one for me.Cover image for The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr

It was that cover that first attracted me to Suzette Mayr’s The Sleeping Car Porter which sees the titular queer black porter putting up with being called George by his white passengers even though his name’s Baxter. It’s 1929, and Baxter has ambitions to become a dentist but knows he’s lucky to have a job at all. When his train is delayed for two days by a mudslide, the secrets of his more than usually demanding passengers begin to be revealed and Baxter distracts himself with thoughts of his secret love affair. Very much like the sound of that.

Cover image for Close to Home by Michael MageeMichael Magee’s much talked about debut, Close to Home follows Sean from his squalid Belfast flat the night after a bender has seen him assault a guy at a party he’s gate-crashed, through his two hundred-hour-community service sentence. Sean tells us his story with deadpan humour beginning with the assault the details of which he can barely remember or admit to himself. He knows he needs to sort himself out but temptation is constant, jobs are few and the future looks hopeless. Always in the background is the legacy of the Troubles either in the form of murals on his grandma’s estate or in the damage done to those who went through it which has trickled down through generations. Bleak at times, it’s a novel which offers hope as Sean finds his way towards the possibility of a future.

That’s it for April. A click on a title will take you to either to my review or to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more, and if you’d like to catch up with part one it’s here. New fiction is here and here.

29 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in April 2024: Part Two”

    1. I’ve been throughly convinced to read the Spufford! I’m pleased to see the Magee getting so much attention, particularly as there’s an autobiographical element to it.

  1. I really enjoyed Golden Hill so the Spufford will probably end up on my TBR at some point. Death of a Bookseller I must look up too–I remember reading another book with the same title when you were reading this.

      1. No, this wasn’t quite crime though it had a ‘mystery’ element. A young man arrives in 18th century New York with a 1000 pound bill, causing all sorts of suspicions and reactions. I read this with my last 15 books of summer challenge I think.

  2. You’ve persuaded me to get Death of a Bookseller – I’ve always wondered what those people get up to when they’re not answering idiotic questions from customers 🙂

  3. I’ve always been a Francis Spufford fan, so was very disappointed to be unable to engage with Cahokia Jazz – a friend had the same reaction. But reading the comments, perhaps I should have persisted? I also didn’t persist with Cleaner, though at a time when I was glutted out with Must-Reads, I may have been influenced by the comment in your review that it was a tad long. But I’m up for the Slater, the Mayr and the Magee!

  4. An interesting batch. Good to see work roles getting an outing – it’s often a neglected aspect of life in novels, which is odd given how much time we all spend working.

  5. I really loved The Sleeping Car Porter; it made me laugh out loud a couple of times and there’s still one scene that I vividly remember. We have the same cover here, but your font is a little more fancy. Of course I want to read that bookseller story too, for all the same reasons.

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