A Time Of Birds

Helen Moat

Saraband, £9.99

To keep her feelings of depression and aimlessness at bay, Helen Moat set out with her 18-year-old son, Jamie, to cycle across Europe to Istanbul, and her book about the experience isn’t just a blur of fleeting images. Her chosen mode of transport allows her to soak up the surroundings and capture vivid impressions of the people she meets along the way. The journey has a healing effect, bringing back memories of growing up outdoors in Northern Ireland and encouraging her to come to terms with conflicted feelings about her father. But as she approaches Turkey, less pleasant memories crowd her thoughts, of the Troubles and a childhood trauma that’s left a permanent scar. Like the best travelogues, it’s a personal as well as geographical journey. At a time when there are restrictions over even leaving our homes, Moat’s book doesn’t just provide escape, it does so at the slower and easier pace that many of us are currently learning to appreciate.

From The Wreck

Jane Rawson

Picador, £8.99

Already traumatised after being pulled from the wreck of the steamship Admella in the year 1859, George Hills is further haunted by memories of the woman who kept him warm in the wreckage before he was rescued, a woman who disappeared shortly afterwards. Her presence has remained with him ever since, and it turns out to be a lonely alien shape-shifter marooned in an unfamiliar world. Attaching itself to George’s son, Henry, it starts using the boy to seek out others of its kind. Inspired by a real shipwreck and the great-great-grandfather who survived it, Rawson imbues the historical novel with horror and science fiction, and an atmosphere of the uncanny and fabulous, to spellbinding effect. From The Wreck is both unconventional and unforgettable, a tale of compassion and loneliness told increasingly from the perspective of the creature, who is trying to find a place for itself in this world – something that she and George, in their different ways, have in common.

Making Wolf

Tade Thompson

Constable, £8.99

Years after fleeing his West African homeland of Alcacia as it descended into civil war, Weston Kogi leaves London to return for his aunt’s funeral. But telling relatives that he’s a Metropolitan Police detective, when he is in fact a supermarket security guard, has unforeseen consequences. Weston’s former school bully drugs and kidnaps him on behalf of the Liberation Front of Alcacia, and he is forced to investigate the murder of beloved political figure Papa Busi. To complicate things further, the opposing faction wants him to do the same for them. Hopelessly out of his depth, Weston has little choice but to continue with his deception and mount an investigation he hasn’t got the experience to conduct. Alcacia may be fictional, but Thompson knows its land, culture and politics intimately, and brings a palpable sense of threat to this spare, engaging thriller.

Alastair Mabbott