The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett (Viper, £14.99)
Hallett’s first bestseller, The Appeal, a clever mystery set within the deceptively genteel confines of a local am-dram band, was a modern epistolary novel, told in emails. His second is even better and presented as audio files, with intriguing errors made by the transcription software. Saved on an iPhone by ex-con Steven Smith for his probation officer, these are recordings of his attempts to find his former English teacher, who disappeared on a school trip to Bournemouth, the former home of the Blytonesque children’s writer Edith Twyford. Twyford’s books are catnip for conspiracy theorists; they are believed to contain code that may have something to do with their author’s activities during World War II. Steven, with the help of his old classmates and a librarian, sets out to solve it – and in the process, solve the puzzle of his own life. This devilishly clever book, which manages to be both delicate and surprisingly moving, is the perfect antidote to the post-Christmas carb stupor.
The Second Cut by Louise Welsh (Canongate, £14.99)
Twenty years after Welsh’s award-winning debut, The Cutting Room, it’s the return of gay auctioneer Rilke, now middle-aged but still tiptoeing to the far reaches of Glasgow’s underworld. When old friend Jojo is found dead after giving Rilke a clue about a lucrative house clearance in Galloway, the police are inclined to call it off due to a decadent lifestyle – Jojo had a thing for Grindr connections and chemsex parties – but Rilke decides to investigate. House clearance isn’t quite what it seems either. There’s the abandoned car in which two people died, the terrified Asian who may be fleeing traffickers, the terrier found locked in a trunk – and what happened to the old lady who owned the place? Complex and highly atmospheric, with plenty of sardonic humor and pointed observations on injustice, like its predecessor, it’s a tough gem.
Nita Prose’s Maid (HarperCollins, £14.99)
If you’ve already trashed your New Year’s resolutions, you could do a lot worse than comfort yourself with this delicious cozy mystery. The narrator, Molly Gray, 25, neurodivergent, works at the Regency Grand Hotel, in an unspecified North American city. Although her tendency to take things at face value poses some problems, she enjoys the anonymity her uniform gives her and finds solace in restoring order, especially after the death of the much-loved grandmother. beloved who raised her. Although some colleagues support her, others abuse her trust, and when she discovers the body of tycoon Charles Black in the penthouse suite, she soon finds herself part of his murder. The plot is undemanding and readers will be several steps ahead of Molly at all times due to her difficulty decoding situations and reading social cues, but her bravery, kindness and lack of artifice are enough. engaging for all of you to support her. the path.
Wahala by Nikki May (Doubleday, £14.99)
“Wahala” loosely means trouble, and there’s a lot of that in this entertaining start. Friends since university, where they bonded over their Nigerian and British heritage, Ronke, Boo and Simi now live in London, where they oscillate between cultures. Dentist Ronke wants to settle down with her unreliable boyfriend. Boo, feeling trapped by family life, contemplates an affair; and Simi, who is making progress in her career, isn’t as eager as her husband to have a baby…but their friendship is rock solid until glamorous Isabel, a former classmate of Simi, arrives to drive a wedge between them, ruthlessly heading for each woman’s weak spot. Mystery takes second place to character study, and by the end of the story, the vengeful Isabel teeters dangerously on the edge of caricature, but Wahala is a compelling, funny, and nuanced look at identity and character. female friendship.
Real Easy by Marie Rutkoski (Tinder, £18.99)
There’s a different kind of female friendship in children’s author Rutkoski’s adult debut: the camaraderie, or lack thereof, between exotic dancers at an Illinois strip club. When Samantha, aka Ruby, reluctantly agrees to take the Lovely Lady’s new colleague Lady Jade home, they are driven off the road – but police officer Victor Amador finds only one body. Real Easy is more than the story of the ensuing investigation: multiple narrators, including dancers, their loved ones, detectives, club bosses and the killer himself, provide a kaleidoscopic view of a world morally precarious where male desire is a hair’s breadth away from male violence. With a cast of fully realized characters – the cops have their own problems, and club life, with its layering of sordid glamour, is balanced by domestic vignettes and day-to-day concerns – it’s a familiar story told in a way which packs a real emotional punch.