Blushing Is For Sinners

Tracy Patrick

Clochoderick, £8.99

Jean McParland is a Paisley mill worker in 1962, married to the dependable Tommy and mother to five-year-old Ava. However, her old boyfriend Billy, a wild lad with a criminal past, is out of prison and has re-entered her life, promising her a better future. Half a century later, Ava is a Canadian citizen, having been taken there by her aunt Cissy when Jean and Tommy died in a fire. Following Cissy’s funeral, her solicitor gives Ava a letter from Jean dated after her supposed death. The story about the fire had been a lie all along, and Ava has to come to terms with that family secret while dealing with her own rebellious son and an environmental scandal tainting her husband’s business. This is a very accomplished, page-turning debut, switching confidently between the corporate environment surrounding Ava in present-day Canada and the parochial, conformist Paisley her mother knew, keeping readers in eager suspense over where their separate stories will go.

En Canot And The Accidental Artist

William Nicoll

Grosvenor House, £10

In a townhouse in Glasgow’s West End, left to him by parents who realised his meagre artistic talents would never lead to a career, lives unsuccessful amateur painter Ranald Milngavie. A cousin to the landowning Munro-Fordyce family, he is invited to a shooting and fishing weekend which gets out of control when Ranald discovers that a Cubist painting brought by a Russian guest as a gift to the host is actually a lost work looted by the Nazis. When Ranald, on a mischievous whim, decides to start messing around with it, the situation escalates, and before long Russian smugglers and a well-armed Chinese oligarch are circling for the kill. Once the plot gets up and running and Ranald realises what he’s set in motion, Nicoll’s style – chatty, peppered with exclamation marks and describing women in terms like “slim, sassy brunette” – is less of a distraction and this light and humorous romantic thriller starts to build up some tension and excitement.

A Spark of Light

Jodi Picoult

Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99

Jodi Picoult has tackled controversial issues, such as school shootings and teenage suicide, many times, and in her 23rd novel she takes on the particularly divisive abortion debate, with a gunman invading a clinic in Mississippi and taking doctors and clients hostage. One of them, Wren, who has gone there for contraceptive advice, is the daughter of the police negotiator trying to bring the siege to a peaceful conclusion. But one woman has already been shot. As Picoult takes us back an hour in time with every chapter, we learn how each of the hostages came to be there. With extensive research as her guide, she tries to be scrupulously even-handed in using her characters to represent different facets of the debate; but as much as she tries to humanise them, including the shooter, her attempts to stop them collapsing into cyphers is clearly a struggle, and the prolific bestselling author feels less sure-footed here than usual.