Here Comes Trouble
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £8.99 (paperback)
Despite lofty comparisons with Orwell and Adrian Mole, the touchstone for Simon Wroe’s intermittently funny second novel is actually Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat. It’s set in a fictional central European hellhole called Kryzbekistan (“winner of Most Corrupt Country 2011 and 2012, a regional accolade rather than a world record”), where the last bastion of truth in a morass of fake news is the Chronicle, edited by the long-suffering Cornelius Lau, who unfashionably believes in principles and honour. The story is told from the perspective of his son Ellis, torn between teenage idealism and giving in to the ghastliness around him. Wroe can certainly write, but his satirical thrust might have been more effective if applied to a real setting.
The Wicked Cometh
Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99
This lively debut is set within a bleak and mysterious Georgian London, where young and impoverished men and women are disappearing, their absence going largely unnoticed. Carlin’s protagonist, doughty orphan Hester White, finds herself caught up in an increasingly chilling saga when she investigates why, especially when she forms an attachment to the aristocratic Rebekah Brock, her mentor, and more besides. Carlin can tell a good story, and this will appeal to fans of Sarah Waters and Kate Summerscale. The dialogue can be too on-the-nose and the plotting sometimes overly convenient, but the murky atmosphere and likable characters keep the attention engaged throughout.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £16.99
The journalist and writer Julia Buckley suffers from a chronic pain condition, like a third of the British population. Unlike many of them, she undertook a globe-trotting quest to find a cure for her debilitating illness, encountering everyone from cutting-edge medical practitioners to witch doctors. She writes with wit and compassion, and a bracing absence of self-pity, about her (eventually successful) odyssey, but the book is at its best when it explores the grievous failings of the male-dominated healing system, where those with serious conditions are dismissed as hysterical and prone to exaggeration. A timely, worrying and extremely important book.
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