The Unreliable Death Of Lady Grange

Sue Lawrence

Contraband, £8.99

A fictionalised recreation of historical events, Sue Lawrence’s fourth novel unearths the 18th century story of how Lord Grange, a Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland, audaciously and cruelly kidnapped his wife, Rachel, and imprisoned her in a series of increasingly remote houses on Uist, St Kilda and Orkney. Told from multiple viewpoints, it follows the whirlwind romance and unhappy marriage of Rachel, from disgraced Edinburgh family the Chiesleys, to a cold and disagreeable husband who interprets her strong will, quick temper and fondness for claret as evidence that she has inherited her father’s madness. Worse still, she has uncovered incriminating documents proving his Jacobite allegiances, so he has her abducted, fakes her death and carries out a mock funeral. It’s a shocking story, and almost impossible to put down. Without actually pastiching 18th Century speech, Lawrence gives her prose just enough of an archaic quality to evoke the smell of Edinburgh streets and chill of thick stone-walled houses.


OK, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea

Patrick Freyne

Penguin, £12.99

Books should be about great people, Freyne’s friend tells him, not obscure nobodies like Patrick Freyne. But not everyone has journalist Freyne’s gift for an anecdote, nor have they belatedly realised that what made perfect sense at the time may actually be very odd. Like when his commando father took him on an innocent camping trip that turned out to have been a cover for monitoring IRA activity. Or the boys’ games that only later struck him as not only pointless but a tad sadistic. Fast forward a few years and we find him running naked through Bremen, dabbling in an anarcho-syndicalist pirate radio station and having misadventures in the music business. Freyne is not only funny, he’s flawed, vulnerable and open about his shortcomings, and although he gets more wistful and contemplative as the book goes on, the early sections dealing with his childhood and feckless twenties are terrific laugh-a-minute pieces of comic writing.


When We Fall

Carolyn Kirby

No Exit, £12.99

It’s 1943, and Vee Katchatourian, an Englishwoman of Armenian descent, is an auxiliary pilot delivering planes to airfields around the country when she is smitten by Stefan, a handsome Polish RAF airman. Meanwhile, in Poland, Ewa Hartman, the daughter of a guest-house owner, hopes her German background will be an effective cover for the Polish resistance activities she carries out under the noses of her German guests. She’s gradually coming to terms with the fact that her POW fiancé Stefan has been killed by his Soviet captors. So who, then, is that Polish pilot romancing Vee in England? Driven by two strong female characters, each of whom could sustain a novel on her own, connected by the more ambiguous figure of Stefan, When We Fall was inspired by the Katyn massacre of 1940 and explores the emotional toll of war and the indelible marks left on people’s lives by tragedy and human wickedness.