An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena (Bantam Press, £12.99, published July 26)

There are echoes of classic Agatha Christie as a group of strangers arrive at the idyllic Mitchell's Inn, nestled deep in the Catskill Mountains, each seeking its remote solitude for different reasons: to reconnect with a loved one, get away from work or simply enjoy the secluded, wild winter beauty.

The tranquillity is shattered when a scream rings out through the hotel. One of the guests is found dead at the bottom of the grand staircase. With an ice storm raging outside and all the roads blocked, they find themselves trapped – no one is getting out.

As the body count rises, the group band together in a desperate bid for survival while trying to comprehend the chilling reality: a killer may be in their midst.

Be sure to clear your diary. You will want to devour this in a single, uninterrupted sitting.

The Tall Man by Phoebe Locke (Wildfire, £12.99)

Probably not one to read if you're easily spooked, home alone or prone to checking for monsters under the bed.

This spine-tingling debut thriller draws inspiration from the recent cult of the Slender Man, an urban legend that, in 2014, was the catalyst for two 12-year-old girls luring a classmate to the woods and repeatedly stabbing her in a bid to appease the shadowy figure they claimed stalked their lives.

The Tall Man is a story that Sadie and Helen hear about from a group of older girls in the summer of 1990. Ten years later a young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter. In the present day, a teenage girl is charged with murder.

Told through a mix of perspectives and timelines, it cleverly veers between that which is real and imagined, leaving the reader to make their own mind up as to who – or what – is really behind this creepy tale of psychological suspense.

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh (Orion, £7.99)

A serial killer sits in a packed courtroom, the sickening evidence of his heinous crimes laid before him. Yet he's not standing trial: the murderer is hiding in plain sight on the jury.

That's the tantalising hook for this fast-paced and absorbing thriller. Hollywood star Robert Solomon has been charged with the brutal deaths of his wife and their bodyguard. The gossip hounds are salivating over rumours that the actor killed them in a jealous rage – or to cover a bigger secret.

All signs point to a cut-and-dried case, although Solomon continues to protest his innocence. Defence lawyer Eddie Flynn has a hunch that he might just be telling the truth. But little do they know that, as the trial unfolds, the real killer is watching and waiting.

Prepare to buckle up as a smattering of seemingly isolated events spiral into a twist-laden read that challenges the very essence of the American dream.

The Herald:


The Language of Kindness: A Nurse's Story by Christie Watson (Chatto & Windus, £14.99)

There is a moment in The Language of Kindness where Christie Watson is describing the first time she watched a baby being born. "I was warned that the umbilical cord is blue and the baby's head will be the shape of an ice-cream cone. But the violence of the pushing shocks me."

During her 20 years as a nurse, Watson spent time working in A&E, psychiatric and maternity wards, paediatric intensive care units and resuscitation, her bleeping pager sending her scuttling to all corners of the hospital.

This behind-the-scenes tour is nothing like glossy TV medical dramas. Its unflinching and jarring imagery lingers in the mind's eye long after you have closed the pages: a baby born with her spine pushed outside her body; the child who turns purple, then black, losing digits, arms or legs.

READ MORE: 15 things to do in Scotland when the sun shines

The anecdotes pack a punch as Watson recounts helping the teenage recipient of a life-saving heart-lung transplant draft a letter to the mother of a boy who died and donated his organs. "Did your son like strawberry ice cream?" he wonders. I defy anyone not to shed a tear or two.

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (Doubleday, £12.99)

Tina Hopgood and her friend Bella vowed they would travel to Denmark to see the Tollund Man, a mummified corpse found in a Jutland peat bog that had fascinated them since they were children. But something – usually excuses of waiting for the right moment – always got in the way.

Now Bella is gone. Grieving the death of her lifelong friend, Tina writes a letter of regret to a man she has never met. When lonely museum curator Anders Larsen replies, so begins a correspondence that will irrevocably alter the course of both their lives.

In Anne Youngson's novel, the words that leap off the page are the soul-searching musings of two humans who have found themselves caught in a rut and aspire to find new meaning. A sweet friendship blossoms as they lay bare their pain, joy and fledgling journeys of self-discovery.


Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (Portobello Books, £12.99, published July 5)

Throughout her life Keiko Furukura has known that people found her odd. She finds it difficult to make sense of most human behaviour, not least the rigid constraints of societal norms. Her job at a newly opened convenience store in a Tokyo business district brings a sense of peace and purpose.

The years pass and the faces change (she's now on manager number eight), yet Keiko is so finely attuned to the daily rhythms of Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart – the ebb and flow of customers, stock turnover and special offers – that woman and store hum in perfect synchronicity.

As the pressure to conform mounts – an unmarried, 36-year-old woman working in a convenience store is deemed unacceptable by her family and social circle – Keiko sees her carefully constructed sanctuary begin to topple faster than a badly stacked display of ramen noodles.

READ MORE: A-Z of Scottish Gardens – our guide on where to go and what to grow

Poignant, darkly comic and wonderfully uplifting, this novel will resonate with anyone who has ever felt out of kilter with the world around them.

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans (Doubleday, £14.99)

The phrase "well-behaved women seldom make history" could have been coined to describe Mattie Simpkin, our fearless protagonist who in the opening pages we witness attempting to apprehend a bag thief by using a well-aimed miniature bottle of whisky.

Set in 1928, when the Equal Franchise Act extended the vote to women over 21, it is a bittersweet watershed for former militant suffragette Mattie – who was jailed five times and heckled Winston Churchill – as she searches to fill the looming chasm of middle age.

A refreshing take on an enduring question: once you've changed the world, what do you do next? Old Baggage is a tender, warm and witty comic novel.

The Herald:


Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys (Doubleday, £16.99, published July 26)

Eve Forrester is like a wilted bloom, starved of affection and excitement. Trapped in a cold, loveless marriage and regularly brow-beaten by her domineering mother, she is struggling to adjust to the soul-sapping mundanities of life after the Second World War.

When a solicitor's letter arrives stating that a wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance, Eve is stirred from her apathy. She must travel immediately to the south of France where all will be revealed.

Set against the backdrop of the French Riviera in 1948, Fatal Inheritance bears all the hallmarks of a golden age mystery as Eve is swept into a glittering world that sees her rubbing shoulders with Hollywood film stars and famous authors.

READ MORE: 15 things to do in Scotland when the sun shines

Yet there are darker undercurrents at play. Beneath the glitz, war has left fissures of scar tissue. Not everyone is happy to see Eve and when events threaten to take a deadly turn, she must race against the clock to uncover the truth behind her enigmatic benefactor.

Bad by Chloe Esposito (Michael Joseph, £12.99, published July 26)

If you loved Chloe Esposito's hit read Mad (out now in paperback, £7.99) then you'll be desperate to know how that jaw-dropping cliff-hanger panned out.

This second book in Esposito's Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know trilogy begins with the incorrigible Alvina Knightly holed up in a suite at the Ritz, having fled Sicily for London.

She has stolen her dead twin sister's identity only to swiftly find the tables turned when her handsome hitman lover hotfoots it into the sunset with their newly acquired fortune. But if there is one thing Alvie thrives on, it's laughing in the face of adversity.

Packed with glamour, murder, sex and oodles of humour, a jet-setting game of cat and mouse ensues as she sets off in pursuit of her traitorous boyfriend.

Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton (Raven Books, £12.99)

Louise is an aspiring writer juggling a succession of poorly paid jobs while living in a grotty sublet apartment in a run-down area. Lavinia is a beautiful socialite with a plush pad and the parent-funded means to throw cash around like confetti.

When Lavinia swoops in to take Louise under her wing, opening her wallet, wardrobe and wall-to-wall party invitations to her new best friend, the pair become inseparable. Louise knows things can't last forever, but how far will she go to keep this charmed life?

READ MORE: A-Z of Scottish Gardens – our guide on where to go and what to grow

Social Creature is a millennial update on the well-trodden rags-to-riches fable – think Cinderella and The Great Gatsby meets the Kardashians – where pout-filled posts on Facebook and Uber rides are as much woven into its fabric as the iconic Manhattan skyline.


Eat, Drink, Run by Bryony Gordon (Headline, £16.99)

Bryony Gordon reels off a long list of things she is (loafer, dawdler, drinker, smoker, binge watcher of box sets) and that which she is not (runner). "Someone once told me I treated my body like an amusement park," she writes.

Gordon talks frankly about the debilitating conditions – OCD and bulimia – that have blighted much of her life and how people commented on her body when she gained weight after the birth of her daughter ("fat enough to p*** off Katie Hopkins, who once wrote a column about my size").

Taking up running wasn't about how Gordon looked; it was about how she hoped it would make her feel ("The drugs weren't working anymore – not even the prescribed ones"). Gordon had an inkling that exercise-induced endorphins could become her medicine.

This whip-smart and funny memoir charts her journey, from pulling on an old Star Wars T-shirt and threadbare leopard-print Converse trainers for a first lung-busting run on a cold January morning to taming the beast that is the London Marathon.

The Herald:

Butterfly by Yusra Mardini (Bluebird, £18.99)

Yusra Mardini could swim before she walked. Growing up near the Syrian capital of Damascus, her childhood memories revolve around being in the water. Her father, who had competed for the national team until called up for military service, channelled thwarted ambitions through his offspring.

Mardini never chose to be a swimmer. She recounts watching US star Michael Phelps win gold in the 100m butterfly final at the 2004 Olympic Games, scrutinising his face and pondering whether it was worth it, "all that pain and sacrifice just for one instant of glory".

Swimming would become her saviour. In 2015, Mardini and her elder sister fled Syria after a rocket-propelled grenade landed in the pool as she trained. They boarded an overloaded dinghy bound for the Greek island of Lesbos – only 15 minutes later it began to sink.

READ MORE: 15 things to do in Scotland when the sun shines

The sisters helped save the lives of those on board. Surviving this perilous crossing of the Aegean Sea was only the beginning of a remarkable journey, one that would take Mardini all the way to Rio de Janeiro as part of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team.


Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom (Bantam Press, £16.99)

Research would suggest that the average adult is pretty rubbish at being alone. Modern life and all its distractions – sending texts, scrolling through social media, online shopping and a multitude of smartphone apps – doesn't help either.

Stephanie Rosenbloom decided to fly solo through four cities – Paris, Istanbul, Florence and New York – using it as an opportunity to reconnect with her surroundings without fretting over diminishing phone batteries or bickering with travel buddies.

This book is a sublime sensory experience from start to finish: the translucent, rain-soaked petals of a red ivy geranium; soft, whispered conversations drifting through the night air; a salt-dusted, toasted almond on her tongue.

Nor does seeking solitude mean being lonely as a raft of transient companions – bakers, street musicians, restaurant owners, shopkeepers – all enrich the smorgasbord along the way.

Bearskin by James A McLaughlin (Ecco, £20, published July 12)

Rice Moore arrives in a remote forest preserve in Virginia with the goal of keeping his head down and staying out of trouble. A role as caretaker on Turk Mountain tracking wildlife and refurbishing cabins is a far cry from his former vocation as a runner for a Mexican drug cartel.

But when Rice finds a bear killed and bizarrely mutilated, he becomes obsessed with catching the poachers. He faces hostility from the locals who aren't much taken with the wealthy outsiders that employ Rice, viewing preservation ethics as "nonsensical and elitist".

James A McLaughlin's novel is a breathtaking read that observes nature in the raw. When the past threatens to catch up with Rice and tensions run high, the lines between hunter and prey become increasingly blurred, events galloping towards a thrilling climax.

The Herald:

Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine (Hodder & Stoughton, £20.99, published July 26)

Legends are passed down from one generation to the next, yet with each retelling what crucial details are lost, eroded or conveniently erased?

Set in the rugged and sea-lashed west coast of Scotland, this mesmerising historical novel weaves together the stories of Ulla, Ellen and Libby, three women with starkly contrasting lives that span the centuries from 800AD to the present day.

READ MORE: A-Z of Scottish Gardens – our guide on where to go and what to grow

Archaeologist Libby has arrived in Ullaness, a place she first heard mystical tales about from her grandmother as a child in Newfoundland.

She is determined to separate fact from folklore, but when an excavation turns up the not-so-ancient body of a murder victim, Libby soon has more questions than answers.


From the Corner of the Oval Office by Beck Dorey-Stein (Bantam Press, £14.99, published July 12)

When Beck Dorey-Stein answered a job ad on Craigslist she never expected it would take her all the way to the White House. A vague post about a stenographer position at a law firm turned out to be a role working for President Barack Obama. And with that Dorey-Stein tumbled down the rabbit hole.

It may sound like the whimsical plot of a West Wing-meets-The Devil Wears Prada-style rom-com, but this really happened to Dorey-Stein who, in 2012, went from scraping by on five part-time jobs to spending her days in the Oval Office and flying across the country on Air Force One.

Trusty microphone and recorder in hand (it's not all typing apparently), Dorey-Stein recounts her adventures as a young staffer navigating life in the Obama White House: learning the ropes, falling in love, making unlikely friendships – and trying not to tread on the wrong toes.

There's some riveting nuggets (the code for when the president goes to the bathroom is "secondary hold" and staffers wear special badges so that the Secret Service know at a glance they're part of the "bubble"). It's also a delightful hark back to the pre-Trump days, which is rather blissful.

The Incurable Romantic and Other Unsettling Revelations by Frank Tallis (Little, Brown, £18.99)

This fascinating memoir peers deep into the dark heart of love: infatuation, jealousy, heartbreak, trauma, inappropriate attachment and addiction.

Over the course of his career, psychologist Dr Frank Tallis has seen and heard it all: the American evangelist seeking a human sacrifice; a widow visited by the ghost of her dead husband; an academic besotted with his own reflection; the entrepreneur who had wooed more than 3,000 prostitutes.

A married, middle-aged barristers' clerk was referred to Tallis after stalking her dentist. She became convinced they had fallen in love after a tooth extraction – despite strong evidence to the contrary.

READ MORE: 15 things to do in Scotland when the sun shines

At the end of each chapter, Tallis shares his diagnosis and gives expert insight into the biological and psychological mechanisms of what for centuries has been dubbed "lovesickness".

My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie by Todd Fisher (William Morrow, £20)

When Hollywood stars Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds died in December 2016, Todd Fisher lost his sister and mother within 24 hours. This memoir is a touching and revealing tribute to what he describes as "the two most pivotal, extraordinary women" in his life.

It's a hefty tome but then there is a lot to pack in: the juggernaut revs into gear when Todd is only a few weeks old as his father, the late singer Eddie Fisher, leaves his mother for Elizabeth Taylor.

There are happier anecdotes too, as Fisher writes about playing on the MGM back lot, walking in on Bette Davis sitting on the loo (she chatted about life through the open bathroom door) and buying up old film props to stage a bloody battle outside the family home, terrifying a busload of tourists.

Nor does he shirk from thornier subject matter, be it Carrie's struggles with alcoholism, drug abuse and bipolar disorder or Debbie's tumultuous troubles with men.


The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After Midlife by Jonathan Rauch (Green Tree, £18.99)

Why does happiness get harder in your 40s? Do you feel stuck in a slump even though you're successful? Is it normal to feel empty, unfilled and wrapped in a permanent fug of disappointment?

These are among the questions that Jonathan Rauch tackles as he turns the traditional notion of a midlife crisis on its head and argues that, far from something to be feared, it is a natural and essential stage of our existence.

READ MORE: A-Z of Scottish Gardens – our guide on where to go and what to grow

He suggests that happiness comes in a U-shaped curve that declines from the optimism of youth into a long, low trough in middle age, before starting to rise again in our 50s.

Using his own experiences alongside stories gathered from all walks of life – a steelworker, limo driver, telecoms executive and a philanthropist – Rauch demonstrates how we can each emerge from the malaise of midlife feeling revitalised.

Lifeshocks – and How to Love Them by Sophie Sabbage (Coronet, £17.99)

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Easier said than done when you have been blindsided by an unexpected turn of events.

Sophie Sabbage is on a mission to help us embrace such moments. Her previous bestseller, The Cancer Whisperer, told how she tried to learn from the disease and not fear it. There are similar echoes in this latest book.

It is Sabbage's belief that "lifeshocks" – an onset of illness, divorce, redundancy, bereavement – can, in fact, help us live better, more authentically and find our true path.

READ MORE: 15 things to do in Scotland when the sun shines

Her method is rooted in the practices of her long-time mentor, the psychologist and spiritual philosopher Dr K Bradford Brown, and drawn from sources such as the writings of Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl and the therapeutic school of Carl Gustav Jung.