In brief: The Man Who Died Twice; Aesop’s Animals; Breathtaking – reviews

Richard Osman’s second novel doesn’t disappoint. Plus, the science behind Aesop’s fables and on the Covid frontline with Dr Rachel Clarke

The Man Who Died Twice

Richard Osman
Viking, £18.99, pp432

TV presenter Osman’s highly entertaining second novel revisits the quartet of septuagenarians that made his debut, The Thursday Murder Club, a runaway hit. Ex-spy Elizabeth is visited by her former husband and colleague, Douglas, in need of help to escape the clutches of MI5 and the mafia, sending the pensioners on their next sleuthing adventure. Osman’s characters are beautifully drawn, perfectly balancing humour and pathos, and the result is a novel that’s pure pleasure to read.

Aesop’s Animals: The Science Behind the Fables

Jo Wimpenny
Bloomsbury, £16.99, pp368

Jo Wimpenny, a zoologist, questions whether there is any scientific reasoning behind Aesop’s depictions of animals in his collected morality tales. Her canvas is wide-ranging, incorporating personal reflections and research. In one chapter, The Dog and Its Shadow, she sweeps from Darwin to modern neuroscience by way of her own childhood desire to be a canine. Engaging and comprehensive, this is highly readable popular science.


Rachel Clarke
Abacus, £9.99, pp240

Dr Rachel Clarke’s award-winning 2020 book Dear Life established her as a compassionate and lyrical voice within medical literature. With Breathtaking, the palliative care specialist turns her attention to Covid, in a raw and unflinching portrayal of life on the frontline of the pandemic. There is her fury at the government’s ineptitude – here we understand the terrifying reality of insufficient PPE – and an intimate portrayal of her colleagues on Oxford’s Covid wards. And there is her grief for the patients, and co-workers, she loses. Deeply humane, Breathtaking is a book replete with courage, resilience and empathy.


Hannah Beckerman

The GuardianTramp

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