THE WILD LAUGHTER

Caoilinn Hughes

(Oneworld, £8.99)

Part of a growing body of literature reflecting the impact the post-Celtic Tiger recession has had on Ireland, The Wild Laughter is told from the point of view of 25-year-old Hart Black, the younger son of potato farmer Manus, aka “the Chief”. Hart’s elder brother, Cormac, had the benefit of a university education and started up successful businesses in Dublin while Hart was left behind to work on the Chief’s Roscommon farm with his mother, Nora, a former nun. By 2014, a rash property investment has left the Chief half a million in debt, forcing him to remortgage the farm. He’s also dying, and he persuades his sons to assist him in ending his life, thus attracting the attentions of the police. Hart isn’t overly likeable, and his narration is spiked with animosity towards his brother, but the language – rich, expressive and often very funny – is the kind it’s easy to lose oneself in.

HeraldScotland:

A MELANCHOLY EVENT

Dan Glaister

(Unbound, £9.99)

Since her father walked out on his family, and her mother and brother have shut her out of their affections, Stephanie has grown up to be an intense, unsettling teenager. When she finds a document from 1807 recounting a fatal duel which took place near her home, she becomes obsessed with re-enacting it, roping in her bookish brother and various adults in the village to help. At first, it’s merely puzzling how Stephanie can so easily persuade the grown-ups to assist in her potentially dangerous plan, but as the mood darkens further the question becomes whether they are caving before Stephanie’s iron will or whether history itself is demanding to be repeated, like a Sapphire and Steel story in which the titular duo fail to show up. With strong overtones of folk-horror, this novella-length book has the singular focus of a short story, Glaister deftly evoking a chilling atmosphere heavy with foreboding.

 

HeraldScotland:

THE HUNTING SEASON

Tom Benjamin

(Constable, £8.99)

Benjamin launched the adventures of Daniel Leicester, an English detective based in Bologna, last year with A Quiet Death in Italy. His second instalment is set during truffle season, with the famed Boscuri White the ultimate prize. Ryan Lee, a top truffle-taster from the United States, disappears and Leicester’s search for the missing man takes him on a whistle-stop tour through the gastronomic culture of Bologna, in the course of which he finds himself under suspicion for the kidnapping. Benjamin knows his audience, and doesn’t mind putting the plot on hold for some local colour or a diversion into the history, culture and cuisine of his adopted city, his love for which shines out of every page. In sharp contrast to the surfeit of grim and gritty crime thrillers, this is part agreeable detective story and part travelogue, ideal holiday reading for those pining for the tastes and smells of the Mediterranean.

ALASTAIR MABBOTT