NEW YEAR, NEW READS: From the forgotten stories A.A. Milne wrote for adults to modern


LITERARY FICTION 

CLAIRE ALLFREE

WILD HOUSES

by Colin Barrett 

(Jonathan Cape £16.99, January)

Another year, another rush of novels by hot Irish talent. Barrett has already produced two rapturously received short story collections. This, his debut novel, centres on the kidnapping of a teenage boy in a west Ireland town, before spooling outwards to explore its impact on those who know him.

His short stories prove Barrett knows how to craft a beautiful sentence that simmers with impending violence. This nastily slow-burn chiller is shaping up to be one of the novels of the year.

DAY

by Michael Cunningham 

(Fourth Estate £16.99, January)

Lockdown? So 2020. Yet the author of The Hours finds a bleak bitter-sweet comedy in parsing the impact of the pandemic on three cooped-up New Yorkers in this ruminative, elegiac and spikily funny novel which owes a strong debt to Cunningham’s hero, Virginia Woolf.

THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES OF A. A. MILNE

(Farrago £12.99, February)

I know nothing about this except that it contains — fascinatingly — the Winnie the Pooh author’s stories and sketches for adults, collected together for the first time. Will there be hunny and heffalumps? One can only hope.

STEPHANIE CROSS

CALEDONIAN ROAD

by Andrew O’Hagan 

(Faber £20, April)

The Mayflies author’s latest is being spoken of as a British The Corrections — and at more than 600 pages, it certainly has a Franzen-like heft. Another fall-from-grace tale, this time focused on a celebrity intellectual who becomes entangled with his student. TV rights have already been snapped up.

CALEDONIAN ROAD by Andrew O¿Hagan (Faber £20, April)

THE SPOILED HEART by Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker £18.99, April)

L-R: CALEDONIAN ROAD by Andrew O’Hagan (Faber £20, April); THE SPOILED HEART by Sunjeev Sahota (Harvill Secker £18.99, April)

THE SPOILED HEART

by Sunjeev Sahota 

(Harvill Secker £18.99, April)

Although Sahota has been twice Booker-nominated (for The Year Of The Runaways and China Room), this ‘multi-layered account of one man’s inexorable fall’ is being billed as his breakout. It’s sure to be something special.

THE SAFEKEEP

by Yael van der Wouden 

(Viking £16.99, May)

The subject of fierce bidding wars on both sides of the Atlantic, this debut by lecturer van der Wouden sets its scene in a Dutch country house. It’s 1961 and when Isabel’s brother’s girlfriend comes to stay, things soon spiral out of control. Think Sarah Waters meets Atonement.

THE SAFEKEEP by Yael van der Wouden (Viking £16.99, May)

HARD BY A GREAT FOREST by Leo Vardiashvili (Bloomsbury £16.99, January)

L-R: THE SAFEKEEP by Yael van der Wouden (Viking £16.99, May); HARD BY A GREAT FOREST by Leo Vardiashvili (Bloomsbury £16.99, January)

HARD BY A GREAT FOREST

by Leo Vardiashvili 

(Bloomsbury £16.99, January)

One of the hottest tips for the big prizes, this debut caused a sensation among publishers in the UK and abroad. Three men from the same family return to the Georgia they fled two decades previously, where a sudden disappearance sparks a Kafka-esque odyssey of home, history and the trauma of war.

ANTHONY CUMMINS

CHOICE

by Neel Mukherjee 

(Atlantic £18.99, April)

I loved Mukherjee’s 2017 novel A State Of Freedom and his new novel comes highly praised by A. M. Homes, Monica Ali and The Bee Sting author Paul Murray. The three-part story involves an academic, a rural Indian family and a publisher ‘at war with his industry and himself’.

PARADE

by Rachel Cusk 

(Faber £16.99, June)

The glacial aesthetic of Cusk’s Outline Trilogy has strongly influenced English-language fiction these past ten years and a new book from her always promises to be a game-changer. I’ll be keen to see this novel of ‘art, womanhood and violence’, told in ‘a voice on the border between fiction and reality’.

RESOLUTION

by Irvine Welsh

(Cape £20, July)

The author of Trainspotting returns with a sequel to 2022’s The Long Knives, itself a follow-up to 2008’s Crime, recently televised. It promises to be another chapter in the life of cop Ray Lennox, no doubt caught up in adventures far too filthy to recount here.

DREAM COUNT

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

(Fourth Estate, autumn)

Has it really been 11 years since Adichie’s last novel Americanah? Her new book is bound to be one of the year’s biggest releases. All I know about it is that it’s four linked stories, each following a different woman ‘striving to love and to live on her own terms’.

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS

CHRISTENA APPLEYARD

LEAVING 

by Roxana Robinson

(Magpie £16.99, February)

When two American former high school sweethearts, 60-year-old Sara and Warren, bump into each other at the opera, they are propelled into a new world of psychological torture as they calculate the risks of them being together again.

Robinson’s smart, seductive writing style creates a sense of quiet menace that keeps the reader guessing until the book’s shattering conclusion.

THE FURY 

by Alex Michaelides

(Michael Joseph £18.99, February)

This is the third book by the author of the bestselling The Silent Patient. A fading film star, Lana Farrar, invites a group of friends to stay on a Greek island. One of them is a murderer. But gradually we learn that absolutely nothing is as it appears. Michaelides is a master story teller with a unique tone that never fails to deliver.

LISTEN FOR THE LIE

by Amy Tintera

(Bantam £14.99, March)

Lucy Chase doesn’t remember murdering her best friend, despite being found wandering the street covered in blood (not a good look, she admits). But she knows everyone thinks she is guilty. Her quest for the truth involves a true crime podcast and crazy sense of humour. A brilliantly dark subversive romp.

POPULAR FICTION

WENDY HOLDEN

THE EXCITEMENTS

By C. J. Wray

(Orion £18.99, January)

I’ll be reviewing this in glorious detail in January. But I can’t wait till then to let the world know of the wonderful Penny and Josephine, nonagenarian sisters, World War II heroines, occasional jewel thieves and general lifters of the spirit. I adored this novel.

MRS QUINN’S RISE TO FAME

by Olivia Ford

(Penguin Michael Joseph £14.99, March)

Bake Off fans, don’t miss this! When Jennifer Quinn’s love of baking wins her a spot as a contestant on a primetime TV show, it’s only the second time ever she’s kept something from her husband. But as modest ambition leads to stardom, can Jennifer’s other secret stay hidden? Delectable food writing and a quietly loveable heroine.

THE EXCITEMENTS By C. J. Wray (Orion £18.99, January)

MRS QUINN¿S RISE TO FAME by Olivia Ford (Penguin Michael Joseph £14.99, March)

L-R: THE EXCITEMENTS By C. J. Wray (Orion £18.99, January); MRS QUINN’S RISE TO FAME by Olivia Ford (Penguin Michael Joseph £14.99, March)

THE BEACH HUT

by Leah Pitt

(Hodder, May)

Matilda is killed in a tragic accident on the Dorset rocks, leaving her best friend Sophie racked with guilt. Decades later, Sophie is back for the first time, to sell her family’s old beach hut and bury the memories.

But on clearing out the hut, she finds evidence suggesting Matilda’s death was no accident. What really happened the night she died? Find out in this tense, gripping debut.

CONTEMPORARY

SARA LAWRENCE

PIGLET

by Lottie Hazell

(Transworld £16.99, January)

January also delivers this sharp, dark, must-read story about appetite, ambition, secrecy and shame. Called Piglet since she was a child, our protagonist sees getting married to fiance Kit as the pinnacle of her reinvention. Days before the wedding an awful truth is revealed, threatening to destroy Piglet’s carefully curated public image.

COME AND GET IT

by Kiley Reid

(Bloomsbury £16.99, January)

Such A Fun Age was my book of the year in 2020, so I’m thrilled about this second novel which comes out in January and is set on a college campus. It’s a coming-of-age story featuring a group of women and, once again, Reid shines fresh light on issues of class and race in America.

EXPIRATION DATES

by Rebecca Serle

(Quercus £14.99, March)

Serle excels at producing beautifully written rom-coms with plenty of twists to keep us gripped. Every time protagonist Daphne meets a new man, she receives a note containing his name and the exact amount of time they will spend together. When she receives only a name, the wildest rollercoaster begins.

HISTORICAL

EITHNE FARRY

THE WARM HANDS OF GHOSTS

by Katherine Arden

(Century £18.99, March)

Expect lyrically beautiful prose, a brave heroine and a story shot through with the darkness of war, made more shadowy by a supernatural element that ups the eerie quotient from Arden as she unravels the fate of two enemy soldiers and a determined sister in this WWI story, told with a dark magical twist from the author of The Bear And The Nightingale.

THE HOUSEHOLD

by Stacey Halls

(Manilla Press £16.99, April)

The winning combination of Charles Dickens, damaged women, a quiet country house in a secret location (offering refuge for prostitutes and petty thieves), a millionairess benefactor and her dangerous stalker who’s just been released from prison, make for an excellent, atmospheric slice of historical fiction from the best-selling Halls.

THE PAINTER’S DAUGHTERS

by Emily Howes

(Phoenix £20, February)

Sibling bonds, arts and artifice, mental illness and marriage twine together in a story that was inspired by Gainsborough’s portrait of his daughters, Peggy and Molly. Plunged into Bath polite society, their closeness is thrown into confusion as Peggy falls in love and Molly’s illness threatens incarceration in an asylum.

CLASSIC CRIME

BARRY TURNER

BEFORE THE FACT

by Francis Iles

(British Library Crime Classics £9.99, June)

The inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Suspicion, this is a chilling story of a woman who begins to fear that her husband is a murderer. As her conviction hardens so, too, does the tension in this riveting tale.

MURDER IN TRANSIT by Edward Marston (Allison & Busby £19.99, January)

MURDER IN TRANSIT by Edward Marston (Allison & Busby £19.99, January)

OTHER PATHS TO GLORY

by Anthony Price

(Penguin £9.99)

An apparently simple request to identify a fragment of map from the Great War propels military historian Paul Mitchell into espionage. With his own life at stake, he must discover why a battle of long ago threatens today’s peace. A thrill-a-page adventure.

MURDER IN TRANSIT

by Edward Marston

(Allison & Busby £19.99, January)

For the latest in the Railway Detective series, Detective Inspector Colbeck is off to the Isle of Wight to solve a case of blackmail and murder before Queen Victoria arrives for her annual summer holiday.

CRIME AND THRILLERS 

GEOFFREY WANSELL

COVER THE BONES

by Chris Hammer

(Wildfire £20, January)

This latest story from the gifted Hammer — whose magnificent debut Scrublands has just landed on television — returns to the Australian Outback and a campaign of terror waged against the dynasties that own this piece of paradise on the edge of the wilderness. Fierce, gripping and spine-chilling.

COVER THE BONES by Chris Hammer (Wildfire £20, January)

WHAT WE DID IN THE STORM by Tina Baker (Viper £16.99, February)

L-R: COVER THE BONES by Chris Hammer (Wildfire £20, January); WHAT WE DID IN THE STORM by Tina Baker (Viper £16.99, February)

WHAT WE DID IN THE STORM

by Tina Baker

(Viper £16.99, February)

Set in the Isles of Scilly, this fourth novel from former journalist Baker confirms her promise as a teller of haunting, atmospheric stories. In the midst of a storm two women are attacked on Tresco and one goes missing. What secrets does this island community hide? Many it seems: not to be missed.

MURDER ON LAKE GARDA

by Tom Hindle

(Century £16.99, January)

A locked room mystery set against the background of a celebrity wedding held on a private island in Lake Garda in Italy. The glamorous Heywood clan are gathered to see their son marry an Italian influencer when a blood-curdling scream halts proceedings. It proves Hindle is one heir to Christie.

MURDER ON LAKE GARDA by Tom Hindle (Century £16.99, January)

MOSCOW X by David McCloskey (Swift Press £18.99, January)

L-R: MURDER ON LAKE GARDA by Tom Hindle (Century £16.99, January); MOSCOW X by David McCloskey (Swift Press £18.99, January)

MOSCOW X

by David McCloskey

(Swift Press £18.99, January)

This second spy novel from former CIA officer McCloskey follows his brilliant debut Damascus Station a year ago and underlines his talent. Two CIA officers launch a bid to recruit Vladimir Putin’s moneyman, but will they succeed? Packed with insider knowledge, it shimmers with threat.

THE HUNTER

by Tana French

(Viking £18.99, March)

Former Chicago detective Cal Hooper has retired to Ireland looking for peace and finds it with a local woman and a half-wild teenager called Trey. Then two men come looking for the girl and Hooper is determined to protect her, even if she wants revenge. This is the best-selling French at her best.

FIVE BAD DEEDS 

by Caz Frear

(Simon & Schuster £14.99, April)

From the author of the excellent Sweet Little Lies comes this dark story of a hard-working mother who suddenly finds herself threatened out of the blue. As she struggles to find out who is set on destroying her life, the anonymous threats only increase. A fabulous standalone that moves the heart.

CLICKBAIT

by L.C. North

(Bantam £14.99, April)

Told exclusively through interviews, transcripts and diary entries, this charts the decline of reality television royalty — the Lancasters — after an old video emerges of one of their legendary parties and a missing teenager. What happened? A look at the dark side of fame, it’s a 21st-century morality tale.

DEBUTS

SARA LAWRENCE

GREEN DOT

by Madeleine Gray

(W&N £18.99, February)

This novel about the terrible allure of wanting something that promises nothing and the torturous journey taken in deciding who we are has been hailed as this year’s Sorrow And Bliss. It’s a hilarious and heartbreaking story about a young woman’s affair with an older colleague.

HAGSTONE

by Sinead Gleeson

(Fourth Estate £16.99, April)

The award-winning non-fiction author’s first novel features artist Nell and the mysterious Inions, a commune of women who have travelled to a wild and isolated island from all over the world. Nell is invited into their community to produce a magnificent piece of art.

GREEN DOT by Madeleine Gray (W&N £18.99, February)

HAGSTONE by Sinead Gleeson (Fourth Estate £16.99, April)

L-R: GREEN DOT by Madeleine Gray (W&N £18.99, February); HAGSTONE by Sinead Gleeson (Fourth Estate £16.99, April)

GUILTY BY DEFINITION 

by Susie Dent

(Bonnier Books £16.99, August)

From Dictionary Corner to debut fiction author, Countdown’s resident word genius releases this murder-mystery in the summer. She’s writing about what she knows, because it all starts when an anonymous letter to lexicographers arrives at the offices of the Clarendon English Dictionary.

SCI FI & FANTASY

JAMIE BUXTON

THE CITY OF STARDUST

by Georgia Summers

(Hodderscape £20, January)

There’s a young girl fighting an ancient family curse, a tremendously chilly villain, and the gothicky atmosphere of corridors and libraries is invigorated by a sweeping trans-continental narrative. Want more? How about monsters, magic, a quest and a mystery? A hugely promising debut; beautifully written as well.

 

THE CITY OF STARDUST by Georgia Summers (Hodderscape £20, January)

EMPIRE OF THE DAMNED by Jay Kristoff (Harper Voyager £22, February)

L-R: THE CITY OF STARDUST by Georgia Summers (Hodderscape £20, January); EMPIRE OF THE DAMNED by Jay Kristoff (Harper Voyager £22, February)

EMPIRE OF THE DAMNED 

by Jay Kristoff

(Harper Voyager £22, February)

If you were bitten by Empire Of The Vampire, you’ll know what to expect; if not, here’s another beautifully constructed, epic maelstrom of high-stakes gore and adventure. The fight for the Holy Grail is won, but now Gabriel must end the curse of Daysdeath and bring the light. Awesome.

SONG OF THE HUNTRESS 

by Lucy Holland

(Tor £18.99, March)

Lucy Holland’s debut, Sistersong, gave us a beguiling blend of Dark Ages history, strong heroines and magic. She’s gone and done it again, but even better. Two women warriors — one a cursed British immortal, the other a Saxon queen — must find common ground to fight a growing evil. Captivating.

SONG OF THE HUNTRESS by Lucy Holland (Tor £18.99, March)

SHIGIDI AND THE BRASS HEAD OF OBALUFON by Wole Talabi (Gollancz £14.99, February)

L-R: SONG OF THE HUNTRESS by Lucy Holland (Tor £18.99, March); SHIGIDI AND THE BRASS HEAD OF OBALUFON by Wole Talabi (Gollancz £14.99, February)

SHIGIDI AND THE BRASS HEAD OF OBALUFON

by Wole Talabi

(Gollancz £14.99, February)

It starts with a succubus and retired nightmare god being chased through London in a ghostly hansom cab — and kicks on from there. To break free from his oppressive, divine company board, Shigidi must lift an artefact from the British Museum. Pure post-colonial magic and huge, heisty fun.

SHORT STORIES

EITHNE FARRY 

A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD 

(Abacus £18.99, June)

June 2024 marks the centenary of the death of Kafka. Inspired by the master surrealist, ten international writers, including Ali Smith, Tommy Orange and Helen Oyeyemi, take Kafka’s themes of existential angst and alienation and gives them a 21st-century twist with tales of horrific flat hunts, perplexing panic attacks and a futuristic society who task their AI servants to build a giant tower to reach God.

A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD (Abacus £18.99, June)

THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS by Naomi Wood (Phoenix £16.99 April)

L-R: A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD (Abacus £18.99, June); THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS by Naomi Wood (Phoenix £16.99 April)

NEIGHBORS AND OTHER STORIES 

by Diane Oliver

(Faber £9.99, February)

Diane Oliver was just 22 when she died in 1966, and this sharply observed, chilling collection explores race and racism in 1950s and 1960s America, as her beleaguered characters — who range from the well-to-do to those living below the poverty line — navigate the day-to-day horrors of trying to survive in a prejudiced country. An unmissable collection from a lost voice.

THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS

by Naomi Wood

(Phoenix £16.99 April)

From the winner of the BBC Short Story Award comes a smart, skewering collection of tales on the subversive sides of womanhood. Failed sisterhood, the shadowy side of modern love, perilous parenting classes and the dangers of inviting an ex-wife to a former husband’s wedding are explored with gleeful aplomb.



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