Enemy of the Raj by Alec Marsh
Alec Marsh’s detective duo, the reporter Sir Percival Harris and the academic Ernest Drabble, return for a second outing in the febrile 1930s. This time it is India in 1937 and true to his instincts as an upper-echelon pasticheur Marsh includes a maharaja, a winsome and enigmatic blonde, tiger hunts, and an assassination plot. Crisp period dialogue – laced with wit, a natty turn of phrase and neat asides on racial attitudes – complements a rapidly evolving plot. The result is a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable diversion.
Headline Accent, 263pp, £9.99
Hag: Forgotten Folk Tales Retold
In this perceptive collection, ten female authors – including the Man Booker Prize nominee Daisy Johnson, and Liv Little, founder of gal-dem magazine – reimagine forgotten folktales. At the heart of each mystical story is a woman, who, often on the cusp of a new beginning, remains haunted by traumas from her past. These vivid narratives weave themselves around the dramatic landscapes of the British Isles – from the wild coast of Orkney to the Suffolk fens – terrain which is both a haven and a place of danger for the women in its midst.
Little, Brown, 304pp, £12.99
House of Music by Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason
What’s it like raising seven musically gifted siblings as they pursue grade eight on multiple instruments, conservatoire training, record contracts, Britain’s Got Talent, and even a royal wedding performance? Loud, for one thing. And joyful, stressful, expensive and rewarding all at once, according to matriarch Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason’s memoir, which details how her exceptional Nottingham household came to be, and the journey through Britain’s barriers of class and race to get there.
Oneworld, 320pp, £18.99
Between Light and Storm by Esther Woolfson
When turning the pages of Wolfson’s spellbinding books, you can’t help but wonder what creatures may have been peering over her shoulder as she wrote. The rook she adopted as a nestling, perhaps? Or her magpie named Spike? This intimacy feeds into her new examination of our relationship with the wilder world: from ancient ideas about human exceptionalism in philosophy to the pandemic-spreading consequences of mistreating nature. “What moves us to love or hate or grieve beyond the boundaries of our species?” Read and be caught.
Granta, 368pp, £20
Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason and Esther Woolfson will appear at Cambridge Literary Festival’s Winter Festival Online, from 19 to 22 November. Tickets are available at cambridgeliteraryfestival.com
This article appears in the 04 Nov 2020 issue of the New Statesman, American chaos