Mandy Haggith (Saraband, £8.99)

Partly influenced by the writings of Pytheas of Massalia, the first Greek to explore the British Isles, this is the first novel in the Stone Series by Highlands-based author Mandy Haggith. Taking place around 320 BC in the lands of the Celts, it follows Rian, an apprentice healer who is gambled away by one of her kinfolk and taken aboard a slave ship, whose female captain is on a quest to find the fabled Walrus Mutterer to recover a stone skull he stole from her. Passed from owner to owner, including the very Pytheas who inspired the book, Rian is reduced to a shadow of her former self, but her voyages also bring adventure, new languages and the promise of discovering her true parentage. With the deck stacked against her from the start, Rian is a sympathetic central character, a nurturing healer with the grit to endure every hardship she encounters, and Haggith’s woman’s-eye view of the Iron Age feels fresh and distinctive.


Laura Purcell (Raven, £7.99)

In this gothic supernatural thriller set in the 1860s, Elsie Bainbridge has been charged with murder after fire consumed the house where she was living. Badly burnt and struck mute, she is confined to an asylum, where a supportive doctor encourages her to write her account of events to try to save her from the gallows. So Elsie writes of how she went to live on her late husband’s estate and found a diary from 1635 written by one of his ancestors, a woman considered to be a witch. The diary mentions “silent companions”, the very wooden figures which seem to Elsie to be multiplying, and moving around the house of their own accord. In reality, these free-standing life-size figures were popular in the 17th Century, dotted around big houses for their owners’ amusement. Purcell’s use of them in this tense and spooky chiller is highly effective, and writers for Doctor Who will be kicking themselves that she got there first.


Hunter Davies (Simon & Schuster, £8.99)

Now 82, the veteran journalist and author has quite a life to look back on. Davies’ previous memoir, The Co-op’s Got Bananas!, dealt with his childhood in Cumbria, and this volume covers the era when he really made his mark. Writing the only official book about The Beatles, he had access to the Fabs for two years and became a close friend, but although famous names are scattered like confetti throughout A Life in the Day Davies comes across as a grounded family man at heart. The book spans the full length of his marriage to writer Margaret (Georgy Girl) Forster, including the battles with cancer that would end in her death. The contrast in their personalities could hardly be starker, but their marriage lasted 56 years none the less. A very readable account of living through times which have seen tumultuous change, it’s written in a well-honed conversational style, with perhaps a slight air of bewilderment at his good fortune.