Backstop Land

Glenn Patterson

Head of Zeus, £13.99

Until the term “backstop” entered our vocabulary, and the DUP suddenly held the balance of power at Westminster, few in the rest of the UK knew or cared much about the politics of Northern Ireland. Brexit has cruelly exposed their ignorance, so Glenn Patterson has stepped up to enlighten outsiders. As well as co-writing the Belfast punk biopic Good Vibrations, he wrote a marvellous novel, Gull, based on the saga of the DeLorean factory in Belfast, and Backstop Land is a worthy successor, informative and entertaining in equal measures. A Protestant Unionist married to a Catholic from the Republic, he’s wickedly and wittily hard on both sides as he charts the ups and downs of the dominant parties and how the balance has shifted under Brexit. It’s a tragicomic story that Patterson negotiates with care, poking fun at the Byzantine absurdities of the Northern Irish political culture without ever allowing his treatment of the terrible death toll to seem flippant.

Fade to Grey

John Lincoln

No Exit, £8.99

Gethin Grey specialises in lost causes. He leads a legal team in Cardiff which investigates miscarriages of justice, but a gambling problem has left him with little money to pay his staff and his marriage is on the rocks as well. What he could really do with right now is a high-profile client, and one turns up in the shape of film star Amelia Laverne, who wants to finance Gethin to prove the innocence of Izma M. Serving a long sentence for murder, Izma has written a bestseller in prison and is now a cult hero and cause celebre. But he proves to be an awkward customer, and looking into his case opens up a dangerous can of worms, at home and abroad. The first in a possible series, Fade to Grey makes a feature of its Cardiff setting and flawed, conflicted protagonist in an effective opening novel shrouded in darkness and booby-trapped with twists and red herrings.

Nuking the Moon

Vince Houghton

Profile, £9.99

Vince Houghton is curator of Washington DC’s International Spy Museum, so he’s heard a lot of crazy things, and detonating an atomic bomb on the Moon to assert America’s dominance in the space race is the tip of the iceberg. Here, he’s collected some of the undercover schemes which were never implemented, for being too logistically difficult, too dangerous or too completely bonkers. Such as the CIA successfully implanting listening devices inside cats before remembering how notoriously difficult cats are to train. Or equipping bats with bombs, which not only burned down the test target but the US airbase beside it. Some aren’t so funny, like the proposals to commit terrorist acts on American soil and blame them on Cuba. And one plan, to divert hurricanes by detonating nuclear bombs inside them, was actually refloated by Donald Trump this year. Funny, but frightening, Nuking the Moon makes you wonder just what schemes the secret services might be concocting right now.