Oh, joy - a new novel by Jane Gardam! Last Friends is the third book in the series which began with Old Filth and continued with The Man In The Wooden Hat, and while they featured Sir Edward Feathers QC and his wife Betty, this one focuses on Terence Veneering, "Filth's great rival in work and - though it was never spoken of - in love. Veneering's were not the usual beginnings of an establishment silk: the son of a Russian acrobat, marooned in north-east England, and a devoted local girl, he escapes the war to emerge in the Far East as a man of panache, success and fame. But, always, at the stuffy English Bar he is treated with suspicion: where did this blond, louche, brilliant Slav come from? ... a tale of love, friendship, grace, the bittersweet experiences of a now-forgotten Empire and the disappointments and consolations of age."
When a blurb says something like "guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books and literature," I have to read on. So it was with The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett which will be out in paperback next month: "After the death of his wife, Peter Byerly, a young antiquarian bookseller, moves from the US to the English countryside where he hopes to rediscover the joys of life through his passion for collecting and restoring rare books. But when he opens an 18th. century study on Shakespeare forgeries, he is shocked to find a Victorian portrait strikingly similar to his wife tumble out of its pages, and becomes obsessed with tracking down its origins. As he follows the trail back to the 19th. century and then to Shakespeare's time, Peter learns the truth about his own past and unearths a book that might prove that Shakespeare was indeed the author of all his own plays."
Kate Griffin's Kitty Peck and the Music Hall Murders (also out early next month) won the Stylist/Faber competition - judged by Ruth Rendell, among others - to find the best new and unpublished crime writing talent in the UK. It is set in London in 1880 where, "in the opium-laced streets of Limehouse the ferocious Lady Ginger rules with ruthless efficiency. But The Lady is not happy. Somebody is stealing her most valuable assets - her dancing girls - and they must be found and made to pay. Bold, impetuous and with more brains than she cares to admit, seventeen-year-old seamstress Kitty Peck reluctantly plays 'bait' for the kidnappers. But as her scandalous and terrifying act becomes the talk of the city, she finds herself facing danger even more deadly and horrifying than The Lady. This thrilling historical mystery takes us deep into the underworld of Victorian London. Take nothing at face value, for Kitty is about to go down a path of discovery that will have consequences not only for herself, but for those she holds most dear ..."