This week's bookcase includes reviews of sexagenarian Texan David Searcy's collection of essays, Shame And Wonder, twin thriller Beside Myself by Ann Morgan and the 10th Logan McRae outing, In The Cold, Dark Ground, by Stuart McBride

Shame And Wonder

David Searcy

Texan writer David Searcy is far from a household name; as yet, he doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. But that should soon change if these essays and meditations find the audience they deserve, something which certainly seems possible given the increased appetite of late for thoughtful non-fiction whose precise genre is hard to define.

Sixty-something Searcy covers ostensible subjects ranging from coyotes, Google Maps and dental hygiene, to Santa's old diocese and the toys that used to come in breakfast cereal. But really, as with the essay form's great eminence Montaigne, this is the spectacle of a mind considering its world and itself - using the everyday, the specific and the peculiar to poke at universal questions of time, love, loss and perception.

Consider this passage, from the piece which began by talking about cereal toys: "So extraordinarily sensitive to meaning yet transparent to it, I suspect profundities passed through us all the time. We knew all sorts of deep, important things, but only very briefly. What I'd like to know is what might be required to get it back." Elsewhere the effect can seem simple and homespun at first glance, but if you try reading Searcy on a busy commute, or after a couple of drinks, you soon realise just how intricately his thoughts are woven into these words.

As the title suggests, Shame And Wonder is a bittersweet book, but also a sharp and profoundly wise one. Wherever Searcy starts, he often circles back to a particular set of preoccupations - wide open spaces (Texan or astronomical), old graffiti and the melancholy temporality it suggests, absent friends (many of whom sound like interesting artists in their own right). Fans of nature writing, Americana and the philosophical will all find much to soothe, divert and provoke between these covers.

Beside Myself

Ann Morgan

The subject of twins and their relationship seems to be a popular one in fiction at the moment and this debut thriller follows the story of twin sisters, Ellie and Helen, who swap places aged six. At first, it is a game, but Ellie - the more submissive twin who has lived in her sister's shadow - refuses to swap back and Helen is forced into a new identity. Helen goes on to develop a range of behavioural problems and while Ellie flourishes, she spirals into a self-destructive path of mental illness and addiction. This is an accomplished read with an excellent plot and a brilliant, multi-layered narrative voice, but for me, at times it felt a bit too like a misery memoir. However, there is no doubt this is a taut and compulsive read.

In The Cold Dark Ground

Stuart MacBride

When a body is found in the woods outside Banff - naked, hands tied behind its back and a bin bag duct-taped over its head - the Major Investigation Team, led by Logan McRae's ex-boss DCI Steel, charges up from Aberdeen. As usual, Steel wants McRae to do her job for her while she takes all the credit, but it's not going to be easy. A new superintendent has been brought in over her head, Steel is being investigated by Professional Standards and Hamish Mowat, the godfather of Aberdeen's criminal underbelly, is on his deathbed. Rival gangs are eyeing up his territory, a turf war's about to break out and McRae is caught in the middle. If you like your crime fiction gritty, unsparing and violent, MacBride's your man. He's an accomplished storyteller and in this, the 10th Logan McRae book, he deftly weaves together seemingly disparate plot strands to create a suspenseful page-turner that will leave you wanting more.

The Good Liar

Nicholas Searle

Author Nicholas Searle developed his debut novel at the Curtis Brown writing school - and it begins with an old couple on a seemingly ordinary first date, in a well-known pub. But all is not as it seems since Roy is addicted to scamming vulnerable women who he targets through online dating websites. Wealthy widow Betty is his latest victim, although, as his scheming became more obvious towards the end, I found it hard to believe she was oblivious to it. The book is written in alternating sections, switching from the present tense about Roy's excitement at the thought of financially deceiving Betty, and past-tense, telling the backstory of Roy and how he came to be a fraudster. Overall, the book takes the reader on an interesting journey, the plot deceives you as Roy does in his fictional world. As soon as you think you've figured out the twist, the story takes a completely different turn. The story did lose pace in the middle and it took a while to build up the tension to the big reveal.