Andrea Camilleri was nearly 70 in 1994, when the first book was published in a series that would make him the bestselling and best-loved writer in Italy. Twenty-five years later he has just died, leaving 20 novels featuring the brooding Sicilian police chief, Salvo Montalbano, whose instinct for understanding ordinary people helps him to solve the most unusual crimes. Helped by a wonderful TV series Montalbano’s popularity has spread around the world.
In this book, Montalbano’s day does not start well as he becomes involved in a brawl over mistaken identities. It doesn’t get any better when a woman is chloroformed and kidnapped at gunpoint. But, strangely, a day later she is found in the countryside unharmed and with all her possessions. The plot thickens with arson, a missing lover and eventually an unidentified body as Montalbano picks his way through the red herrings in another entertaining case for Italy’s most charming detective.
Picador paperback, £8.99
We booksellers are in the wonderful position of never being short of a book (or two!). Every now and then one stands out amongst the myriad of titles, making us put the book we are currently reading to one side. This week, the book to turn our heads is the novel, ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’. Both title and cover are utterly beautiful and the writing sublime. Ocean Vuong is a young Vietnamese man now living in Massachusetts and is a critically acclaimed poet.
His debut novel is a letter from a son to his illiterate mother – a concept as poignant as the writing itself, which has a stunning urgency and grace. A paragraph where the protagonist recalls his refugee mother struggling to be understood in a new country is sharply observed and worth every penny of the cover price. The title may be briefly gorgeous but the prose is consistently spectacular.
Jonathan Cape publishing, £12.99
This may be rather a small book for a town with so much history but that makes it perfect for those wanting a short introduction to Colchester as well as for visitors.
With a map at the front, it can be used as a walking tour guide by following the numbered stopping points. Each page highlights one landmark and includes illustrations showing how Colchester’s streets and buildings changed through the ages.
The Red Lion Inn started life as the White Lion! One photograph of the High Street shows a temporary sign announcing the opening of the first Sainsbury’s store. The Victorian water tower was christened ‘Jumbo’ by a vicar who was upset at the giant structure being built at the bottom of his garden. And look out for the brass elephant on the weather vane atop the tower.
Whether you sit down to read it or follow the guided tour this is a fascinating collection of historical insights.
Amberley paperback. £7.99
It is more than fifty years since ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’ was published. It was the first picture book created by Judith Kerr who has since written and illustrated scores of books that have delighted children for generations. Though she died earlier this year, a last story has just been published.
It features a young boy called Tommy and his sister Angie who volunteer to look after Snowflake the school rabbit. Their father is an out of work actor and the moment Snowflake arrives in the house their already disorderly family life becomes chaotic.
When a famous actor arrives at their house with an offer of a film role, a special tea is prepared – but the visit ends in disaster when Snowflake pees on his trousers.
More escapades follow and things only begin to look up when the idea strikes that perhaps, instead of Tommy’s Dad, it should be Snowflake who stars in a film.
HarperCollins Hardback, £12.99
Slough House is the back-street base for the least popular department of the UK’s intelligence service. It is the dead-end destination for disgraced operatives, for the washed up and the worn out. Jackson Lamb, who heads up this bunch of misfits, might be lazy, overweight and alcoholic but is still master of deception and spy craft.
When a colleague’s teenage son goes missing, the oddball team abandon their desks and head off to Wales to find him. The trail leads to a high-class weekend party thrown by a multinational corporation with a guest list of the rich and famous. Meanwhile, there is a problem with a renegade MI6 double agent and a cabinet minister begins to act suspiciously.
The multiple plot lines collide as the pace speeds up and the body count grows. This is the sixth novel in this brilliantly entertaining series filled with satire, black humour and wit.
John Murray Hardback, £14.99
From the earliest of times people would gather together around the warmth of a fire and tell stories. Out of these oral traditions arose some of the best tales ever told. Tales of dragons and treasure, of great quests and mighty battles.
The Odyssey is one of the oldest works of European literature and after nearly three thousand years it is still has the power to thrill and inspire new audiences. It was the starting point for travel writer, Nicholas Jubber when he embarked on his own epic journey to explore the places and tales which helped define the culture of the developing European nations.
Along with the Odyssey he travels to the scenes of other great epics like Beowulf and the French Song of Roland before ending up in the Iceland of Njals Saga. Along the way he meets people who continue to be inspired by these great tales and asks how they retain their power in a time when Europe faces new kinds of challenges.
John Murray, hardback £20.00