Book Reviews

Second Honeymoon

James Patterson and Howard Roughan (Century, £18.99)

Roddy Brooks

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FBI agent John O’Hara has enough on his plate – looking after two young boys and being suspended from work after failing to cope with the prison release of the drunk driver who killed his wife. It would be enough to test the best of men. But somehow, O’Hara doesn’t just cope – he finds himself back on the job, trying to track down two serial killers.

The first is killing honeymooners, the second is killing men named John O’Hara. To complicate matters even more, John O’Hara is also the name of the brother-in-law of the President of the United States of America. It doesn’t take long for agent O’Hara to work out he is the final victim on the kill list, and also why someone else so badly wants him dead. As the action zigzags across America, O’Hara jets from coast to coast and the killers leave trails of death in their wakes.

James Patterson’s penchant for producing murder mystery is unrivalled in the literary world. The author who has brought us the likes of Alex Cross and Detective Michael Bennett offers up his latest collaboration, this time with Howard Roughan, an author in his own right as well as having previously worked with Patterson.

In Second Honeymoon they have brought to life two clever murderers, each with their own reason for delivering death to those unlucky enough to cross their path. For one group of victims, it appears to be for no other reason than their name. For the other, it appears to be because they are newlyweds. And caught in the middle is the agent John O’Hara who needs all of his skills to get out of is one alive.

Kiss Me First

Lottie Moggach (Picador, £14.99)

Nicole Gallagher

Coming from a family of successful authors – including a mother who wrote These Foolish Things, the novel adapted into BAFTA-winning movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Lottie Moggach had a lot to live up to with her debut novel. In fact, expectations were high way before Kiss Me First was even a twinkle in the author’s eye.

But live up to them, she did. Kiss Me First is a well written and thought-provoking novel asking questions about our identities in reality, and in the realm of the online world.The novel follows Tess and Leila as they embark on an ambitious plan to hide Tess’s planned disappearance from the world. Leila begins a master course in everything about Tess in order to assume her online identity when she is gone. However, she soon learns that it’s never that easy and there is much more to a person than what you see through the computer screen.

Closed Doors

Lisa O’Donnell (William Heinemann, £14.99)

Holly McKenzie

Lisa O’Donnell releases her second book of the year, the follow-up to Commonwealth Book Prize-winning The Death Of Bees. In a similar vein to her previous work, this latest novel tells a harrowing tale through the naivety of a child’s voice – here the story of Michael Murray and his life in the provincial town of Rothesay.

Michael is an uncomplicated young boy whose greatest achievement is mastering nearly 50 keepy-uppys at a time. But one night his innocence is stripped from him when he overhears his family shouting, and is told that “a man flashed your ma, and then she tripped and fell”. The story follows Michael as he slowly comes to realise and deal with the consequences of what the adult reader is already painfully aware; that his mother has been brutally raped.

By contrasting the torture of sexual assault with the greenness of a child’s understanding, O’Donnell lets the reader deal with the emotional complexity of the situation and the confusion of his mother after her attack.

Though dark, and at times painful, Closed Doors benefits from a smattering of humour which lets you feel the weight of humanity throughout the story. A touching, humble and sincere read, Closed Doors is sure to secure O’Donnell another great prize.

The Son-in-Law

Charity Norman (Allen and Unwin, £10.99)

Lauren Turner

Making a convicted killer a central character – and trying to paint him in a sympathetic light – is a bold move by former family lawyer Charity Norman. But as her third novel unfolds, we learn that all is not quite as it seems.

We meet father-of-three Joseph Scott on the day he is released from prison in Leeds, desperate to be reunited with his children. His crime? Killing his wife, Zoe.

The story is pieced together by accounts from Joseph, teenage daughter Scarlet and her grandmother Hannah. The differing perspectives of what happened to Zoe three years ago are key as Joseph fights to gain access.

Norman has created a compelling and sensitive drama, but Joseph’s inherent selfishness makes him a hard character to fully warm to.

The Son-in-Law is still a gripping read though, and one that fans of Jodi Picoult, queen of the moral drama, will love.

The World According to Bob

James Bowen (Hodder and Stoughton, £16.99)

Vicki Bartram

After recovering from his drug addiction and getting a job selling The Big Issue, James Bowen, author of A Street Cat named Bob, now regales further tales of life with his feline friend on the streets of London. Full of detailed accounts of their adventures, each chapter depicts a different event in their unfolding journey, with Bob’s first bike ride and their first tabloid appearance.

Written in a simple style, this book is a quick read and although James often throws in moments of woe, the chapters often end with a degree of optimism.

One gripe about this book is that James seems to be a cat mind-reader. Most cat owners understand the need to communicate with their beloved moggies, but the voice that he puts into the mind of Bob often seems contrived and is only there to create tension in the story. We can be pretty sure that cats don’t think half the things James claims that Bob does.

If you are a fan of the first book and want a slightly humorous look into the further adventures of the street cat then you’ll definitely enjoy this book.

The Reason I Jump

Naoki Higashida (Sceptre, £12.99)

Sophie Herdman

Why do some people with autism repeat the same questions over and over again, speak loudly or move in awkward ways? Do they really prefer to be on their own and dislike being touched? In The Reason I Jump, severely autistic Naoki Higashida, aged 13 when he wrote this book, tries to answer these questions.

Naoki describes how frightening and confusing the world can be for him. He proves his emotional intelligence and the pain he feels when not able to express his thoughts. He shows the strength and determination it takes to live with this condition. He has also scattered the book with thoughtful short fiction stories, which once again prove his high level of insight into social situations.

This book was discovered and translated by Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell and his wife, who have an autistic son, and features a beautiful introduction by the thoughtful writer.

The Reason I Jump is an enlightening, touching and heart-wrenching read. Naoki asks for our patience and compassion – after reading his words, it’s impossible to deny that request.

Horace And Me: Life Lessons From An Ancient Poet

Harry Eyres (Bloomsbury, £16.99)

Viki Bartram

Harry Eyres, the one-time theatre critic, author of the Slow Lane column in the Financial Times, poet and wine writer, offers up this literary criticism-cum-memoir-cum-travelogue.

Along the way he reflects on how the poetry of the Roman lyric poet Horace has inflected his life; drawing parallels between his own life and Horace’s, and between our modern epoch and Horace’s Rome.

Big claims are made for this poetry – and poetry more generally – as a useful guide through life. It’s regarded as an insight into human subjectivity, feeling and emotion – or, as Eyres might put it, into our metaphysical condition.

The book is at its strongest when discussing the poetry, and Eyres brings it vividly to life, clearly coaxing out its themes of friendship, wine, living the good life, seizing the day (carpe diem) and freedom of thought and expression.

However, as a memoir, everything falls a little flat as we dourly traipse through Eyres’ upbringing, how he came to love wine, his time at Cambridge University, his first job, his brief sojourn in Spain in his twenties and his vocation as a writer.

The descriptions of Spain, and later Italy as Eyres walks in Horace’s shadow, do thankfully offer brief respites from the tedious life reflections, banal thoughts and often laborious prose.