Top five new books to read this week

Top Five New Books To Read This Week Top Five New Books To Read This Week
This week’s bookcase includes reviews of After The Lights Go Out by John Vercher and The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves.
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By Prudence Wade, PA

Plus, Women’s Prize winner Maggie O’Farrell is back with her latest novel…


1. After The Lights Go Out by John Vercher is published in hardback by Pushkin Vertigo, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99). Available September 1

If you want a happy-go-lucky tale of a man pitted against the odds and overcoming adversity, this really isn’t the book for you. However, if you are after a stark and dark tale of a man fighting against himself and the world, After The Lights Go Out is sheer perfection. John Vercher is economical with his words, the same way lead character Xavier is in the ring. Or at least how he used to be. Until recently, Xavier ‘Scarecrow’ Wallace was an MMA fighter with a career ready for the taking, before he was suspended for a year. We meet Xavier as his suspension is about to be lifted – and as his personal life is falling apart. He is forgetting vast chunks of time due to his violent career and burgeoning dementia pugilistica, his father has end-stage Alzheimer’s and is getting equally violent, and his cousin Shot is betting on Xavier to have his back and save his club. Fans of MMA will be fascinated by this complex story set in the dark shadows of an increasingly lucrative sport.
(Review by Rachel Howdle)


2. The Rising Tide by Ann Cleeves is published in hardback by Macmillan, priced £20 (ebook £9.99). Available September 1


Ann Cleeves’ masterful characterisation and pacey writing drives the plot in The Rising Tide – the tenth instalment of her Vera series – which sees a school reunion turn deadly. A group of ageing friends come together to reminisce about the good old days, but the party is soon over when they find themselves in the middle of a murder investigation, after one of the gang is found dead. Enter Detective Vera Stanhope, a breath of fresh (Northumberland) air, who sets out to discover what they are hiding. Cleeves crafts vibrant characters and places them in the wild and remote setting of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland. As the title suggests, it is not just the causeway tide that rises, but old secrets that resurface too. A thrilling tale with an ending that catches you by surprise, it’s a story both newbies to Vera and diehard fans will enjoy.
(Review by Elspeth Keep)

3. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell is published in hardback by Tinder Press, priced £25 (ebook £10.99). Available now

Maggie O’Farrell began her foray into historical fiction with 2020’s Hamnet and continues with The Marriage Portrait. Both seem a world away from her previous novels, but the success of Hamnet proved this was something O’Farrell excels at – and The Marriage Portrait doesn’t disappoint. Set in the mid-1500s, it tells the story of 15-year-old Lucrezia de Medici, who marries Alfonso d’Este, the Duke of Ferrara. Lucrezia is a captivating character, whose enthusiasm and creativity are palpable – until she hears the news that she is to be married, following her older sister’s unexpected death. Everything changes for Lucrezia from then on, and she starts living in fear, terrified her husband will eventually kill her. The book flits between her marriage and the events that lead her there, and is rich in detail and wonderfully descriptive.
(Review by Frances Wright)


4. Rising To The Surface by Lenny Henry is published in hardback by Faber & Faber, priced £20 (ebook £7.99). Available September 1

The first volume of Sir Lenny Henry’s autobiography, Who Am I, Again?, in 2019, took us back to his formative years growing up in the town of Dudley under the watchful eye of his larger-than-life Jamaican mother, Winifred. The second volume covers his frenetic and largely workaholic life during the Eighties and Nineties, from his success in the sketch show Three Of A Kind to setting up Comic Relief with Richard Curtis. He focuses most of the memoir on work, his personal life taking a bit of a backseat to the professional highs and lows. There’s brief mention of ex-wife Dawn French, but not much emotional openness in this element of his story. Where the writing feels totally from the heart is in the poignant chapters about the health deterioration of his mother, his devastation when she died and how he managed to move on, with the help of grief therapy. There’s plenty more to come from Henry, who has long been one of our national treasures – at least one, maybe two more autobiographies, before we catch up with all his achievements.
(Review by Hannah Stephenson)

Children’s book of the week

5. The Zebra’s Great Escape by Katherine Rundell, illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Children’s Books, priced £14.99 (ebook £10.49). Available September 1


Illustrator Sarah Ogilvie has definitely earned her stripes in The Zebra’s Great Escape, with superb drawings throughout. The book, written by Katherine Rundell, follows the adventure to free zebras and other animals cruelly held by the villain Mr Spit. A scruffy old dog called Rainbow is recruited to help with the mission, passing on messages to other animals including a Siamese cat, a Hungarian puli, a pigeon and a small squirrel. Mr Spit, dressed in black, with an evil scowl and equally evil moustache, doesn’t know what’s coming as the animal world unites against him. I have read scores of books to my daughters and grandchildren, but the illustrations in The Zebra’s Great Escape are among the best I have ever seen. My seven and eight-year-old grandchildren agreed – which is the best recommendation I can give.
(Review by Alan Jones)


1. The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith
2. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
3. The Twist Of A Knife by Anthony Horowitz
4. Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Dr Julie Smith
5. James Acaster’s Guide To Quitting Social Media by James Acaster
6. Fire And Blood by George R.R. Martin
7. Atomic Habits by James Clear
8. The Boy, the Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
9. The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman
10. A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
(Compiled by Audible)

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