I have never read any of Marian Keyes's books but of course I know her as an enormously popular writer with a huge, loyal following. Her latest - much-anticipated - novel The Mystery of Mercy Close comes out next week, and I'm greatly looking forward to reading it because in preparation, as it were, I've been looking at clips of Marian on YouTube and she is just the funniest person - so warm and friendly and mad in the nicest way, and with a sense of humour which makes me laugh out loud.
The book revolves around Helen Walsh, the youngest sister in the Walsh family who feature in a number of Marian's earlier novels (Watermelon and Angels, for example), and this one finds her in a bad patch, her work as a private investigator having dried up, her flat being repossessed and herself in the grip of some old demons. It is billed as "hilarious, heart-breaking and life-affirming and as epic as it is entertaining"; you could hardly ask for more.
England's Lane by Joseph Connolly begins in Winter 1959 and concerns three married couples living in England's Lane. "Each with an only child, and each attending to family, and their livelihoods - the ironmonger, the sweetshop and the butcher. Each of them living a lie, disguising sin, and coping in the only way they know how." Joseph Connolly has been described as "like a weird mix of Dickens and Martin Amis - quite impossible to put down", and that and the vague and tangential association with Eric Ravilious's High Street draws me to the book. Intriguing, don't you think?
Lots of us have read and greatly enjoyed The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man, the first two books in Peter May's gripping Lewis Trilogy, and you'll be glad to hear that the third novel in the series will be out before long. In The Chessmen, our hero Fin Macleod is now head of security on a privately owned Lewis estate, investigating a spate of illegal game-hunting on the island. "This mission reunites him with Whistler Macaskill, a local poacher, Fin's teenage intimate and possessor of a long-buried secret. But when this reunion takes a violent, sinister turn and Fin puts together the fractured pieces of the past, he realises that revealing the truth could destroy the future."
The Year After by Martin Davies sounds like a book in which to immerse yourself: "Home of the Stansbury family, Hannesford Court was always Tom's sanctuary. But in the hot summer of 1914, in the last weeks before the war, its famous tranquillity was shattered. Now, five years later, having finally returned from fighting in France, Tom finds himself alone in London at Christmas, and a last-minute invitation from Margot Stansbury proves irresistible. Soon he is caught up in a web of secrets and deceptions that he could never have imagined. The more he uncovers the truth ... the more he realises that he never really knew Hannesford and its people at all."
Horse Stories is another in the lovely Everyman's Pocket Classics series (we had a quick look at their Dog Stories recently), and this covers "racehorses, ponies and cowboys' steeds" with tales from Kipling, Conan Doyle, Margaret Atwood, Ted Hughes, Jane Smiley and John Steinbeck among others. As someone who was utterly horse-mad as a youngster and a devourer of pony books, I'm looking forward to reading this grown-ups' equivalent!