A Superior Spectre

Angela Meyer

Contraband, £8.99

In the near future, Jeff, a gravely-ill Australian, comes to Scotland to die. Jeff is hooked on an advanced drug that enables its users to inhabit people from the past, to feel what they felt and think what they thought. His unwitting host is Leonora, a 19th Century Highland girl who loves animals and wants nothing more than to live close to nature. Her father, though, wants Leonora to move up in the world and has other plans for her. While a dying and regretful Jeff hides out on an island with an illegal android for company, in his dreams he shares Leonora’s experiences as she learns bitter truths about the power men wield in her world. But the barrier between their minds is becoming porous and she is starting to have inexplicable visions. Taking an intriguing premise as its starting point, A Superior Spectre is a hugely impressive debut novel: imaginative and original, erotic and a little bit magical.


Madeline Stevens

Faber, £12.99

Ella, originally from Oregon but living in New York, and so broke she’s prepared to trade sexual favours for meals, can’t believe her luck when she gets a job nannying for wealthy Lonnie on the Upper East Side. Both women are 26, both grew up without their mothers and in other circumstances they might have been close friends. But Lonnie’s casual approach to maintaining boundaries between nanny and employer, even suggesting at one point that they swap identities for a lark, spells trouble. Ella, who had become quite smitten with Lonnie, begins to resent her. Having established early on that Lonnie disappears, Stevens keeps us reading to find out how and why, but our anticipation doesn’t really pay off in a novel that’s more of a slow burner than the Single White Female we might have been expecting. Still, Stevens’ seven years working as a nanny in New York has given her insight into the city’s social divides, grounding it in reality.

Johnny Ruin

Dan Dalton

Unbound, £8.99

This crowdfunded debut novel from the Margate-based writer takes us into the mind of Johnny, who is clinically depressed and has taken a turn for the worse since the death of a friend in a car accident and the break-up with his girlfriend Sophia, who he accused of cheating and drove away. Now, while lying on the floor of his flat, he takes a road trip through an America of the imagination with none other than Jon Bon Jovi as his spirit guide. As well as a parade of American archetypes, it’s also a very subjective tour through his own life, forcing him to face up to all his bad decisions if that’s what it takes to get him to move on. Told in short, fragmentary paragraphs (Dalton is a former Buzzfeed writer) and saturated with pop culture references, it’s a lot better and more self-aware than it sounds, a convincing and heartfelt study of depression and masculinity.