Bookshelf: Newsnight man's debut novel made me miss my train stop

Cold by John Sweeney. Thomas & Mercer, £8.99 (ebook £3.99). Review by Kate Whiting

The cover of Cold by John Sweeney, published by Thomas and Mercer.
The cover of Cold by John Sweeney, published by Thomas and Mercer.

Rarely is a book so engrossing and pacy that it makes me miss my train stop. But such is the case with Newsnight reporter John Sweeney’s first thriller, Cold. Irishman Joe Tiplady has a murky past involving training in North Korea, but now enjoys a quiet life as a special needs teacher in London – and walking his dog Reilly. When Reilly is dognapped, Joe finds himself drawn into the world of Russian beauty Katya Koremedova, who’s on the run from her psychopathic boyfriend. The action shifts effortlessly across the globe and between Sweeney’s cast of eerily convincing characters, many based on his experiences as an investigative reporter for Panorama.

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss Granta, £12.99 (ebook £8.54). Review by Natalie Bowen

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Adam Goldschmidt is a stay-at-home father whose world view changes dramatically when his 15-year-old daughter’s heart stops beating for no apparent reason. Thrown into uncertainty, the family struggle through the frustration of waiting for answers and a return to “normality”, trying to adjust to the realisation that Miriam will never be truly safe again. University professor Sarah Moss is an astute storyteller, and in The Tidal Zone shares societal observations around her slow-burning plot. Moss taps into a range of experiences that you do not need to be a parent to feel and tackles this extremely uncomfortable subject with tact, plausibility and flowing prose.

Umami by Laia Jufresa. Oneworld Publications, £12.99 (ebook £11.99). Review by Liz Ryan

Laia Jufresa’s novel is constructed around a group of middle-class families in Mexico City. It offers the enticing prospect of a vast and filthy megatropolis being opened up. The households that Jufresa writes about encircle a small courtyard in a modern housing complex. The estate has been designed by a semi-retired anthropologist who is an expert on the recently-discovered “fifth taste” of umami. And that shut-off-ness from the hum and throb of street life is reflected in the preoccupations of Jufresa’s inward-looking characters, as the story moves backwards in time to excavate a narrative that is mostly about death, absence and loss.

The Meaning of Cricket: or How to Waste Your Life on an Inconsequential Sport by Jon Hotten. Yellow Jersey Press, £12.99 (ebook £9.49). Review by Roddy Brooks

Jon Hotten is a respected cricket writer who has been in love with the game from an early age. This book charts his sporting journey – from his personal playing perspective through to the heroes he has been lucky enough to encounter along the way. With chapters on the art of making a cricket bat and the careers of former players such as Mark Ramprakash, it delves beyond the mere covers of the sport, examining what motivated the former England batsman to continue playing in pursuit of his one hundredth hundred. The Meaning of Cricket is a thorough examination of the noble art of leather on willow.