David Park (Bloomsbury, £8.99)

Just before Christmas, in treacherously snowy conditions, middle-aged photographer Tom sets off from Belfast to drive all the way to Sunderland to pick up his son Luke from Uni and bring him home. The trying journey turns into a symbolic one for him as he turns over in his mind his doubts about whether he’s a good husband and father. Bringing Luke home, he reasons, will be a kind of redemption for his past failings. But there’s a secret he’s kept from his wife for years, and his eagerness to reach his destination is tempered by a horror of something waiting for him at the top of a flight of stairs. Furthermore, his thoughts are haunted by boy called Daniel, whose identity, as the story progresses, isn’t hard to guess. It’s a short, intimate book with a big story to tell, and despite the delicacy of Park’s low-key, measured prose, there’s never any doubt about the scale of the stakes.


Rita Indiana (And Other Stories, £8.99)

We’re in the Dominican Republic some years after a biological weapons accident has killed off almost all life under the sea. The salvation of the oceans somehow depends on the otherworldly Acilde, a young woman who takes a powerful drug to become a young man, and has a foot in two worlds in other respects as well. Can he be the Olokun of prophecy, destined to return life to the sea? Acilde’s story is told in tandem with that of Argenis, a trained artist who discovers that all his expertise in perspective and proportion means little if he has nothing to say. Given a place on an artistic project by family friend Giorgio intended to introduce him to thinking conceptually, Argenis is instead overwhelmed by visions of long-dead buccaneers. Tentacle is a bracingly distinctive novel, a concentrated dose of weirdness that blends psychic time travel, fluid identities, Santeria, drugs and Goya into a work of mind-bending literary sci-fi.


Amy Stewart (Scribe, £8.99)

This is the fourth, and hopefully not the last, of Amy Stewart’s very agreeable novels based on the life of Constance Kopp, who became a sheriff’s deputy in Bergen County, New Jersey more than 100 years ago. Matters are coming to a head as Constance’s loyal boss and mentor Sheriff Heath has decided to run for Congress, and neither of the two applicants for his job is keen on having women in law enforcement. As would-be sheriff John Coulter attacks Constance’s competence and casts aspersions on her German surname, Constance is called to escort a madwoman to an asylum, but on meeting Anna Kayser finds her perfectly sane. Constance’s disapproval of the ease with which men can institutionalise their wives plays into Coulter’s hands, becoming more ammunition against her. Stewart generates real tension over whether our heroine will get to keep her job in this instalment, which is, as usual, highly engaging without sanitising the attitudes of the times.