Edited by Kathleen Jamie

(Canongate, £10.99)

Compiled by the award-winning essayist and poet, this collection of essays, poetry and photographs is intended to redefine contemporary Scottish nature writing. From Chris Powicki’s meditation on wind farms, which opens the book, to Amy Liptrot’s closing piece about cold-water swimming, its 23 contributors attempt to approach the reality of the Scottish landscape without romanticising or idealising it, acknowledging that very little of it is truly wild and untouched by man. As well as celebrating the terrain, flora and fauna of the country’s more remote corners, their contributions encompass suburbia, back gardens, urban pigeons, even an overgrown derelict heritage centre, and all are written with the awareness of climate change and its consequences hanging over them (as a when rather than an if). Tossing aside the shortbread-tin view of the Scottish countryside, Antlers of Water’s varied voices point to the exciting possibilities of a multiplicity of diverse relationships with nature.



Paul McQuade

(Confingo, £9.99)

For two people to truly know each other, do they have to be native speakers of the same language? How inextricably language is entwined with identity and intimacy is a question that clearly preoccupies Paul McQuade, and surfaces several times in his arresting, exploratory debut collection of short stories, along with other recurring motifs: radical surgery as a means of bringing people closer; the meanings invested in objects we leave behind after we’re gone. In McQuade’s hands, metaphors can spring to visceral life in the form of tongue transplants, a Frankenstein child, foxes taking on predatory human forms. But just as often they inhabit quieter, more naturalistic stories dealing with grief, separation, impending death and the tattered dreams of a perfect life. Sharing themes and a distinctive, unifying voice, they can cut surprisingly deep, evoking unexpected emotional responses. Equally at home with the weird and the everyday, McQuade is a singular talent worth seeking out.



Helen Sedgwick

(Point Blank, £12.99)

Continuing the folk-horror themes of When the Dead Come Calling, this sequel finds DI Georgie Strachan still in the insular community of Burrowhead, where remains found at an archaeological dig hint at the village’s dark history. More recent bodies, an old lady’s belated report of witnessing a murder in the 1970s and a horse found ritually slaughtered on an altar suggest that these disturbing traditions are continuing into the present day. Strachan is still considered an outsider by the locals, a situation not helped by her being a woman of colour, and her attempts to find out more about these sinister rituals are met with a wall of silence. Helen Sedgwick, based in the Highlands, has a science background, but sustains a suspenseful atmosphere of psychological and supernatural unease that will have you glancing nervously over your shoulder while her heroine tries to put all the pieces of the mystery together.