Douglas Skelton (Polygon, £8.99)

In Inverness, reporter Rebecca Connolly is covering a protest against the rehousing of a sex offender in a council flat, whose most vocal members are a family with a reputation for criminal behaviour and the leader of a far-right movement whose “all fags and pints and jolly banter” persona fronts dangerously extremist views. But far bigger news comes in the form of a body found on the Culloden battle site clad in 18th Century Highland dress and killed with a claymore. Later, a second body turns up, dressed as a redcoat. Such bizarre murders are irresistible to a journalist, but as Connolly gets more deeply drawn in she also gets more than she bargained for. Incorporating concerns about the spread of populism and the downsizing of news reporting, Skelton’s intriguing premise keeps you reading avidly to see how he’s going to tie it all together and make it work. As always, his real-life experience as an investigator really helps it along.


Michael Farris Smith (No Exit, £12.99)

By 1976, Red Bluff, Missouri is a boarded-up town of broken dreams which looks set to be swallowed up by the mass of kudzu vines encircling it. Sculptor Colburn Evans is lured back to his old hometown by rent-free studio space, years after being driven away by his father’s suicide and his guilt for not preventing it. But others have come too, a family of drifters described only as the man, the woman and the boy, who scavenge from garbage while living in a broken-down car. As the kudzu weed tightens its malevolent embrace on the town, Evans sees something of himself in the boy, who is now trying to evade his murderous father. And with death, mysterious disappearances and premonitions hanging in the air, two damaged men and a feral child face the ghosts of the past lurking at the edge of town. Smith whips up a truly eerie atmosphere for this bleak but enthralling slab of Southern gothic.


Mariëtte Boon & Liesbeth van Rossum (Quercus, £16.99)

The purpose of Boon and van Rossum’s book is not so much to advise readers how to lose weight (although it might help them do that) but to enlighten them about what fat actually is. Far from being a passive layer of insulation and stored energy, they regard it as an organ in its own right, and explain the varied processes in which it plays a part. Communicating directly with the brain, fat produces around 600 substances, and the authors explain how they interact with insulin, neuropeptides, leptin, cortisol, thyroid hormone, oestrogen and testosterone, to name just a handful. They all play their parts in a complex network of fat cells, hormones and the brain, which varies from person to person, meaning that no diet will suit everyone. It’s an eye-opening book which casts a tired subject in a new light, and has more potential to help people live in harmony with their fat than any number of unsubstantiated diets.