Michael J. Malone (Orenda, £8.99)

Malone’s previous thrillers, A Suitable Lie and House of Spines, may have raised expectations for this new novel to unreasonable heights, but his winning streak continues. A note slipped into Paula Gadd’s pocket at her husband’s funeral warns her that Thomas Gadd wasn’t the respectable businessman he appeared. According to community worker Cara Connolly, Gadd was up to his neck in the Glasgow underworld and ordered her brother’s murder. Overcome with grief, Paula resents this trashing of her late husband’s reputation, but strange things happen which suggest there was indeed more to Tommy than she knew. Obviously, Paula and Cara are destined to team up, but the class friction between them makes for an uneasy partnership, and Paula’s relationships with her brothers-in-law are plagued by unanswered questions too. Set in a dark and dangerous Glasgow where both ends of the social spectrum are prey to organised crime, it’s gripping and suspenseful fare that reinforces Malone’s renown for producing psychological thrillers.


Michael Tobert (Top Hat, £13.99)

Stephen has never got on with his half-Indian mother, and when she dies, leaving him boxes of writings, clippings and sketches belonging to her Scottish father, he seeks a connection with the grandparent he never knew. As someone who has already shown that he looks to stories to find himself, and identifies with Karna, one of the heroes of the Mahabharata, Stephen embarks on a film script reconstructing his grandfather’s journey from the jute centre of Dundee to the jute centre of Calcutta and telling of how he fell in love with an Indian woman. As we see from Stephen’s struggles with his pushy co-writer, Seamus, Karna’s Wheel is about taking ownership of the stories that tell us who we are, and Tobert smoothly shifts gears between Stephen’s voyage of self-discovery in present-day St Andrews and 1930s India, amidst the unrest that marked the death throes of the British Empire. A resonant, involving novel highlighting the forgotten connections between Dundee and Calcutta.


Donna M. Lucey (Norton, £14.99)

Coinciding with a renewed wave of interest in Elizabeth Siddall, muse and model to the Pre-Raphaelites, Lucey writes here of four women who posed for John Singer Sargent, the leading American portraitist of his day. Like characters from Henry James or Edith Wharton, they were society ladies. English heiress Elsie Palmer, uprooted to the Rocky Mountains as a girl, became her paralysed father’s carer when he was thrown from a horse. Isabella Stewart Gardner built up an impressive art collection and opened a private museum. Elizabeth Chanler spent two years strapped to a board after contracting tuberculosis of the hip. Lucia Fairchild never actually sat for Sargent (though her sister did), but his example inspired her to become an artist in her own right. All four in some way broke out of the roles assigned to them in late-19th Century America and forged their own paths. Sargent himself remains elusive, but these four well-researched mini-biographies are vibrant and never less than engaging.