Peace Adzo Medie

Oneworld, £8.99

Since her father’s death, Ghanaian teenager Afi and her mother have been forced to live off the generosity of others. But now the revered Aunty has invited Afi to marry into her family, the Ganyos, which will bring them status and security. After an extravagant wedding, which the groom, Elikem, does not attend, Afi realises the true purpose of the marriage: the Ganyos want her to oust the Liberian woman who lives in Elikem’s house and has been turning him against his family. To her surprise, when Elikem deigns to turn up, he’s handsome, generous and the kind of man she could actually fall in love with. This modern-day Cinderella story doesn’t sugar-coat the reality of poverty, family obligations and arranged marriages, but Medie depicts it with a light touch, her likeable heroine negotiating her way through her predicament with intelligence and pragmatism, balancing her own desires with the options open to her.



Jane Jesmond

Verve, £9.99

For Jen Shaw, drugs are a poor substitute for the adrenaline rush she gets from free climbing. They also blot out memories of the tragic accident that marred her last reckless climb. Summoned from rehab by her brother Kit, Jen checks into a hotel near their Cornish home. The next thing she knows, she is hanging from the viewing platform of a lighthouse, with no idea how she got there. As children, she and Kit were close, their parents letting them roam free. Now the family is charged with tension, and she doesn’t know who she can trust as she tries to piece together the truth behind her blackout. While never less than intriguing, Jesmond’s debut only really picks up speed towards the end, in time for a denouement that bodes well for future books in the series, and the landscape of Cornwall, with its history of smuggling, makes a suitably mysterious backdrop.



Syd Moore

Point Blank, £6.99

The author of the Essex Witch Museum mysteries (she and her colleagues successfully campaigned to get the term “Essex Girl” removed from the OED), Syd Moore has twice been shortlisted for the CWA Dagger Award for best short story, and she presents here 12 (plus an unlucky 13th) tales for those dark, cold winter nights. Starting off strongly with her own irresistible take on the Seven Dwarfs, they’re a varied bunch of stories, ranging from retellings of classic fairy tales to murder mysteries and what the four housewives of the apocalypse get up to when we’re asleep in bed, all featuring some element of the macabre or paranormal and infused with a robust sense of humour. Not all of them are specifically Christmas-themed, but they definitely suit the long, shadowy winter evenings, and it’s a fun collection if you like to get a little spooked but not entirely grossed-out.