Oisín Fagan

JM Originals, £12.99

It’s Ireland in 1348 – the year of the Plague – and callow nobleman Osprey de Flunkl is on the road with his small retinue, taking advantage of the devastation by plundering the title deeds to as much land as he can. Their next destination, if they can avoid bands of Gaels intent on reclaiming their old territory, is the village of Nobber, a rogues’ gallery of a settlement which has already suffered a “one-man invasion of evil” and is under a quarantine enforced by Colca, the naked blacksmith notorious for his bestial tendencies. A large weird crucifix covered with dead crows looms unnervingly over them all. Fagan imbues the book with a hallucinatory shimmer, an almost overpowering medieval viscerality beginning at the edge of madness and gleefully pushed ever further. It’s a wild ride, and one can’t help but suspect that Messrs Pemberton, Shearsmith and Gattis (and A Field in England director Ben Wheatley) already have copies at their bedsides.

A Proper Person To Be Detained

Catherine Czerkawska

Contraband, £9.99

Some years ago, author Catherine Czerkawska set out to research the case of her great-great-uncle, John Manley, murdered in Leeds on Christmas Day 1881. Aged 22, he was stabbed in the street by a man he had known for years. She records here the arrest and trial of the man responsible. “But it also turned out to be about so much more than that,” she writes. Researching a true-crime story involving her family opened up a seam of social history of the Irish immigrant experience. Czerkawska recounts the subsequent history of her family well into the 20th Century, but the most moving story here is that of Elizabeth, Manley’s sister, who witnessed his murder. In this enlightening but often painful book, she reconstructs her traumatised great-great-aunt’s troubled life and “untimely demise”, following Elizabeth’s trail to Glasgow, where she was swallowed up by a system that effectively persecuted unmarried working-class women, suffering Victorian attitudes towards mental illness.

Early Riser

Jasper Fforde

Hodder & Stoughton, £8.99

In his first novel for six years, Fforde explores an alternate Wales where more than 99 per cent of the population has adapted to the extreme winter cold by hibernating in giant dormitories designed to last 500 years. The rich also have access to a drug which enables them to conserve energy while dormant, though a tiny proportion of users will wake up as cannibalistic zombies. Ingenue Charlie Worthing gets a job as one of the Winter Consuls who look after the sleepers and, assigned to investigate an outbreak of viral dreams, works his way deeper into Sector 12, discovering secrets, hidden agendas and a variety of very unusual people. More subdued than his Thursday Next series, Early Riser is still an excellent showcase for Fforde’s hyperactive imagination, playful fascination with language and satirical whimsy. And if it doesn’t boast the inventive abandon of previous books, it will more than fill the bill until the next one comes along.