The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Sulari Gentill adds an intriguing wrinkle to the mystery genre with “The Woman in the Library,” which sees Winifred “Freddie” Kincaid arriving in Boston from Australia as the recipient of a prestigious writers’ fellowship. While contemplating her manuscript in the Boston Public Library, a woman’s scream pierces the stillness, which becomes  the central conceit of her novel: that of a group of strangers united by a piercing cry.

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Bad Actors by Mick Herron

Mick Herron’s caustically satirical spy series continues with “Bad Actors,” its eighth instalment, which deals with the disappearance of Sophie de Greer, a ‘superforecaster’ employed by the British government — who might be a Russian agent, which would be very bad news indeed for the man who hired her; Anthony Sparrow, the Prime Minister’s key adviser; and for MI5 chief Diane Taverner, who must rely on Jackson Lamb’s ragtag collection of misfits, failures and exiles to dig her out of a very black hole.

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Your Show by Ashley Hickson-Lovence

Uriah Rennie was the English Premier League’s first Black match official. He was a trailblazer. Or, at least, he should’ve been — Rennie retired more than a decade ago, in 2008. Yet he remains the only Black referee to officiate a match in the world’s biggest football competition.

Ashley Hickson-Lovence’s “Your Show” isn’t about Rennie’s legacy, but I can’t help but reflect on it, and the complete lack of BAME (Black and minority ethnic) representation in football beyond the players on the pitch. At least a third of the players we watch every week must be BAME; something is prohibiting their representation in other facets of our game; something deep-rooted, malignant and noxious.

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Cop and Robber by Tristan Bancks

Tristan Bancks is my go-to author for young readers who come into the bookshop desperate for something pacy and addictive. I can’t rave highly enough about “Two Wolves,” “Detention” and (my favourite) “The Fall.” Bancks knows how to create a killer hook, a scintillating premise that demands exploration; and his characters are always fully-fledged concoctions, accoutred with authentic foibles and imperfections. He writes thrillers with heart and personality; page-turners that pose moral dilemmas for their young protagonists. 

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Lying Beside You by Michael Robotham

If you’re after a gripping thriller, you can’t do better than Michael Robotham; as close to a sure thing as you get in the genre, which is a line I used last year when reflecting on “When You Are Mine,” but one that deserves repeating. He makes it look so easy, you wonder why all suspense novels aren’t this slick.

“Lying Beside You” is the third novel in his Cyrus Haven series, which sees the forensic psychologist embroiled in a complicated police investigation involving two missing women; the second of whom was last seen by Evie Cormac, the young woman Cyrus has opened his home to as she struggles to deal with her traumatic childhood.

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Shit Cassandra Saw by Gwen E. Kirby

“Shit Cassandra Saw” is a treasure trove of short stories centred around women dealing with everyday grievances and aggressions precipitated by the perpetual behaviours of men. Gwen E. Kirby bequeaths her characters the superhuman fortitude — and even superhuman abilities, in the case of “A Few Normal Things that Happen a Lot” — to fight back in this collection that is ablaze with her wild ingenuity and suffused with genuine laugh-out-loud humour. 

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The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

“The Heron’s Cry” is my first Ann Cleeves, and it most assuredly will not be my last. There’s no reason why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading the prolific creator of the Vera Stanhope mysteries and the Shetland series (among others…) — my only excuse is that I only have so much time to read so many crime writers, and Cleeves slipped through the cracks. Well, no longer.

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Shadows Reel by C.J. Box

“Shadows Reel” is not the place to start the Joe Pickett series. Never mind that it’s the twenty-second instalment — really, the expanse of a series should never prohibit new readers from jumping into the fray — but C.J. Box’s latest picks up directly from last year’s stellar “Dark Sky,” with Joe’s old pal, master-falconer Nate Romanowski teaming up with Black Lives Matter activist Geronimo Jones to hunt down Axel Soledad, who we last saw beating Nate’s wife, threatening his baby, and stealing his birds. 

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The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

In Jessamine Chan’s “The School for Good Mothers,” Frida Liu — a recently divorced Chinese American mother of 18-month old Harriett — makes the imprudent, sleep-deprived decision to leave her daughter at home alone for a few hours to head into the office and catch up on work. When the authorities discover Harriett unattended, Frida’s parental rights are rescinded pending the outcome of her stay at a live-in rehabilitation program for bad mothers. If she can prove herself a better mother, she’ll be reunited with Harriett. If not, her parental rights will be severed entirely, and she won’t be able to see her daughter again — ever.

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