The Lying Room
Simon & Schuster, £14.99, pp432
Over the past eight years, Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, the husband-and-wife writing team that makes up Nicci French, moved away from standalone psychological thrillers to follow the adventures of psychotherapist Frieda Klein in a series of titles. The Lying Room is a return to their roots, and, oh boy, is it a good one. Neve is a publisher, a mother of three, a wife – a good woman who, lost in the morass of work, children and duties, has embarked on an affair with a colleague. When she turns up at his flat one morning to find his dead body lying there, she is presented with a string of choices that leaves her increasingly in danger. “Her secret was like a monstrous thing, growing bloated in the dark.” With its terrifying premise – how easy it is for an ordinary woman to find herself suddenly faced with evil – The Lying Room isn’t merely a return to the form of Nicci French’s earlier chillers – it’s even better.
Through the Wall
Avon, £7.99, pp352
The chapters of Caroline Corcoran’s debut, Through the Wall, alternate between two women who live in adjacent flats in an upmarket London block. Lexie is a freelance writer desperately trying for a baby with her partner, Tom; Harriet is a composer recovering from a traumatic breakup with her fiance. Both neighbours eavesdrop through the wall that divides them, each envious of the perfect life they imagine the other is leading from what they have gleaned from the happy images they post on social media. When Lexie notices that things have gone missing from the flat and Tom is behaving strangely, she starts to realise that something sinister is afoot. This is a creepy indictment of how little many Londoners know about their neighbours – and also a moving, honest portrayal of the suffering felt by women affected by infertility.
The Butterfly Girl
W&N, £14.99, pp272
In Rene Denfeld’s The Butterfly Girl, Naomi Cottle, a private investigator who finds missing children, is looking for her own sister. The trouble is, she doesn’t know her name: Naomi herself escaped from captivity at the age of nine, and was found running through an Oregon strawberry field at night, her memory wiped clean by terror. As she edges closer to the truth, she is drawn into an investigation into the disappearance of street children. She is particularly moved by the plight of 12-year-old Celia, who took to the streets after her stepfather escaped prosecution for sexually abusing her. “The pattern is the same … children of the forgotten, harvested like the berries of the field,” says Naomi. Denfeld, a death penalty investigator, paints a distressingly realistic portrait of life on the street, but her writing sometimes becomes rather florid as the two elements of her story begin to intertwine.
Bantam, £20, pp384
It’s the 24th outing for Lee Child’s immensely popular hero Jack Reacher in Blue Moon, and we’re quickly reminded that we’re dealing here with “six feet five of bone and muscle and 250 pounds of moving mass”. This time, the nomadic Reacher is on a bus when he sees a thief about to steal a wad of cash from the pocket of an old man and steps in to save the day. The problem isn’t solved, though: as Reacher tries to protect the man and his wife, he finds himself drawn into a turf war between rival Ukrainian and Albanian gangs for control of a city. While the multiple set-piece face-offs start to pall a little, it is tremendously comforting to be in the hands of Child and his hero – a good man who we know will save the day in the end before moving on, toothbrush in pocket, “just the clothes on his back. No particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there.”
• To order The Lying Room, Through the Wall, The Butterfly Girl or Blue Moon, go to guardianbookshop.comor call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £15, online orders only. Phone orders min of £1.99