Agustina Bazterrica (Pushkin Press, £8.99)

It’s an irresistible premise: a virus has turned animal flesh poisonous to humans, and society has reshaped itself around this basic fact, normalising cannibalism. Marcos runs a processing plant that turns humans into food, overseeing everything from insemination to slaughter. He’s been dehumanised by his work, but when he gets a delivery of “special meat”, a young woman of the highest quality, and has to decide what to do with her, he’s haunted by her gaze, even though he knows that any attempt to help might get him turned into livestock too. Tender is the Flesh presents one of the most nightmarish dystopias imaginable, a critique of factory farming, visceral satire of capitalism and indictment of man’s inhumanity to man rolled into one. A spiritual descendant of Soylent Green, it emerges into an even more receptive market, our experience of the global impact of a virus making it hard to dismiss.


Garry Disher (Viper, £8.99)

Award-winning Australian crime veteran Disher introduced Constable Paul Hirschhausen in Bitter Wash Road, seven years ago, and has finally got round to a sequel. An honest, likeable cop exiled to a rural town after run-ins with corrupt colleagues, he’s been in Tiverton for a year by this point, and is becoming accepted by the locals, playing Santa Claus and judging the Christmas lights. But then a season of petty, minor crime is disrupted by the massacre of a herd of miniature ponies, and when Hirsch is asked by Sydney police to check on a family living in the outskirts, the grim scene he discovers attracts a team of police from out of town. In prose baked as hard as the sun-scorched outback, Disher summons up the muggy oppressiveness of a small town with years of buried secrets, a veteran crime writer who knows how to expertly tie together the disparate threads of his narrative.


Benjamin Markovits (Faber, £8.99)

The Essingers, the family Markovits introduced in 2018’s A Weekend in New York, have gathered for Christmas at their parents’ house in Austin, Texas. Son Paul has broken up with Dana, the mother of their child, but his mother, Liesel, has invited them for Christmas too, in an attempt to get them back together. Paul isn’t the only one with issues to confront. Sister Susie intends to move to Oxford for the sake of her husband’s career, Nathan is considering becoming a federal judge and Jean is seeing her former boss, who left his family to be with her. We follow the extended family over the course of the week, and if the story is short on plot it’s rich in character, Markovits shifting between the points of view of his ambitiously large cast to establish a complex and nuanced family dynamic, balancing the tensions between them with a warm sense of togetherness.