Scotched Nation

Andrew Scott

Twa Corbies, £8.99

Five months have passed since the Independence referendum in the second of Andrew Scott’s political conspiracy thrillers featuring journalist Willie Morton, and Morton’s uncanny resemblance to a man let off a drunk-driving charge on Home Office orders unlocks the door to a secret plot. A group run by members of MI5 and the old school tie network of the British State appears to have been funding relocations to Scotland of English voters hostile to Independence to influence the referendum result. But Morton’s struggle to get the story into his paper is far from the end of his ordeals. Scott has no qualms about wearing his politics on his sleeve in some unashamedly polemical passages, but who really reads thrillers for their impartiality? And if the mistaken identity conceit, the convenient acquisition of a folder marked “agenda” and a gratuitous chloroforming aren’t the most sophisticated ways of moving the plot along, move along it does, enjoyably and at a brisk pace.

Time To Go

Guy Kennaway

Mensch, £9.99

Guy Kennaway has a tricky relationship with his mother. As this autobiographical book begins, 88-year-old Susie fears becoming frail and incapable and asks Guy if he can get some heroin so that she and her husband can end their lives together. It speaks volumes about their mother-son relationship that Guy suspects this may be a ploy to get him busted. Even after the idea of killing herself has palled, the incident persuades Guy that she’d be a great person to write about. The resulting book is a portrait of a formidable, cantankerous woman combined with a heartfelt plea for people to be allowed to die at a time and in a manner of their choosing. It’s irreverent and funny, and some might find Kennaway’s frivolous tone out of step with the serious subject of assisted suicide, but there’s genuine affection here, and it’s hard to imagine another way of capturing the force of nature that is Susie.

For The Good Times

David Keenan

Faber, £8.99

A confident stride on from his debut, This is Memorial Device, Keenan’s second novel is narrated by Sammy, who recalls his 1970s heyday in the Ardoyne area of Belfast as part of a four-man IRA gang who idolised Perry Como and carried out their bombings and kidnappings fastidiously sharply dressed. As Sammy, serving a sentence in the Maze prison, relates his exploits to an unseen audience, he conveys all the thrilling allure of being associated with the IRA and the opportunities for violence it brought, always undercut with dark humour. The Troubles didn’t happen in a cultural vacuum, and Keenan, an authority on weird and obscure music, brings a hallucinogenic edge to the pulpy, high-octane brew, churning up religious and occult imagery with pop culture as he explores violence, power and fanaticism in a surreal Belfast landscape. It’s a highly original novel, confirming that the award-winning This is Memorial Device was no fluke, but the beginning of a long and exciting trip.