In brief: States of Passion; Unnatural Causes; Devil’s Day – reviews

A story of passion in Syria’s golden age; a compassionate memoir by a leading pathologist; and a tension-filled gothic horror

States of Passion
Nihad Sirees

Pushkin, £12.99, pp256

The first novel translated into English by exiled Syrian writer Nihad Sirees opens with a bureaucrat who, caught in a storm, stumbles into a mansion inhabited by an elderly man and his butler. The old man begins to narrate a strange tale of family secrets and the pursuit of love in Syria’s golden age, and as the bureaucrat becomes involved in the story, his own life becomes endangered. Beautifully translated by Max Weiss, it’s a captivating novel about memory and storytelling, highlighting the rich cultural history of Aleppo.

Unnatural Causes
Dr Richard Shepherd

Michael Joseph, £20, pp400

As one of the country’s leading pathologists, Dr Richard Shepherd has worked on many high-profile cases. This fascinating memoir includes the personal as well as the professional: the death of Shepherd’s mother from a heart condition when he was nine, his medical training, his marriage and his experiences of parenthood, not to mention the psychological toll of dealing with death every day and the stresses of giving evidence in court. Revealing the humanity with which he treats his cases, Shepherd’s memoir is insightful, candid and compassionate.

Devil’s Day
Andrew Michael Hurley

John Murray, £7.99 (paperback), pp304

In an assured follow-up to his Costa-prize winning debut, The Loney, Hurley delivers another tale of gothic horror. John Pentecost has left his rural childhood home to become a teacher, but every autumn he returns to the family farm to help his father gather the sheep. This year is the first since his grandfather died and the first on which his wife has accompanied him. Combining mythology, folklore and rural superstition, menace permeates every page until the chilling conclusion.

To order States of Passion for £11.04, Unnatural Causes for £17 or Devil’s Day for £6.79, go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99


Hannah Beckerman

The GuardianTramp

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