Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace

Olga Wojtas

Contraband, £8.99

If you were to try to imagine a spin-off from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything resembling Olga Wojtas’s quirky take. Its heroine is middle-aged Morningside librarian Shona McMonagle, who hates the way her old school, Marcia Blaine’s School for Girls, was portrayed in Muriel Spark’s novel. As well as knowing her way around a library, Shona has acquired skills in martial arts, music and linguistics, making her the perfect choice for Marcia Blaine herself to send on a delicate mission. And as if Wojtas hasn’t already taken enough liberties with her source material, Shona has to time-travel to carry it out. Relocated to the French village of Sans-Soleil in 1900, she finds strange goings-on. Are the corpses littering the countryside the victims of wild animals, or are vampires on the loose? It’s an audacious genre mash-up that’s witty and fun, and shows equal measures of fondness and irreverence for the original novel.

The Patient Assassin

Anita Anand

Simon & Schuster, £9.99

The Amritsar Massacre of 1919, when troops fired on a crowd of unarmed civilians, was one of the worst atrocities in the history of the British Empire and marked a turning point in Anglo-Indian relations. Anand recounts it here, along with its aftermath and unexpected coda. In 1940, Udham Singh shot dead the man he considered responsible for the massacre, Sir Michael O’Dwyer, at a meeting in Caxton Hall in Westminster, seriously wounding three more former Raj administrators. Anand traces the itinerant wanderings of this unlikely assassin over the two decades he claimed to have nursed his desire for revenge and recounts how, long after his execution, India’s attitude towards him had shifted so far that his body was eventually repatriated like that of a conquering hero. It’s remarkable how effectively the trial and execution of Udham Singh has been wiped from Britain’s collective memory, and this gripping, well-researched account is the first time it’s been told in any depth.

The Furies

Katie Lowe

HarperCollins, £8.99

Her father and sister have died in a car crash and her mother is almost catatonic with grief, so when Violet arrives at her new school, Elm Hollow Academy, she’s eager to make friends. She falls in with Robin, Grace and Alex, who are, like her, outsiders, and together they cultivate an interest in the occult, encouraged by a teacher who is well versed in local witchcraft history and regales them with tales of vengeful women. So when Violet is raped by an older student, the girls decide to draw on their new-found knowledge to take revenge on him. A novel which opens with the image of a dead girl sitting creepily upright on a swing is unlikely to end happily, and there are inevitably consequences. Lowe knits her themes together well (women’s place in society, outsiders, the toxicity of anger) and The Furies is charged with the heightened emotional intensity of adolescence, carrying the visceral kick of gothic melodrama.