Voyage of the Damned
Frances White
Michael Joseph, £18.99, out Thursday

“You are invited to a gay magical murder mystery cruise.” That’s the pitch for Frances White’s debut novel, or, as its author puts it: “Agatha Christie with glitter magic.”

And I have to tell you, I’m totally here for it. Listen, I’m maybe not the best judge when it comes to contemporary fantasy fiction. I haven’t read much of it since my teenage days reading Robert E Howard’s Conan the Barbarian stories and Michael Moorcock’s Elric novels. But the truth is I hoovered up White’s chunky novel in a day.

It probably helps that, along with all the fantasy elements to be found here, it’s a satisfying murder mystery too. It’s set aboard a 12-day voyage during which 12 guests, all (or nearly all) with magical powers, have to face up to the fact that one of them is a murderer. Well, 11 actually. As one of them has been murdered. Obviously. And there will be more deaths as the voyage goes on. All of which threatens a thousand-year peace amongst the provinces of Concordia.

Our hero Ganymedes Piscero is hugely flawed, funny and, it would appear, far from heroic. He is also carrying a huge secret. The question is, will he survive the voyage? The joy of Voyage of the Damned comes in the way White never loses sight of the characters at the heart of her novel in the middle of her (rather deft) world-building. It also helps that the book is both funny and flirty as it deals with issues of class, snobbery and sexuality amongst all the magic and murder. The result is hugely entertaining.

Life’s Work
David Milch
Picador, £10.99, out now

When he won the Humanitas Prize for the first script he ever wrote – an episode of Hill Street Blues – David Milch, now best known as the writer of acclaimed TV dramas Deadwood and NYPD Blue, spent the money straight away.

“I took the check – a considerable amount of money, fifteen grand, tax-free – and went out to the racing office at the racetrack and bought a horse,” he writes in Life’s Work.

Milch was betting on horses and stealing booze from the age of eight. He found huge success writing for TV only to then lose a fortune gambling. This is his story, a book written under the shadow of Alzheimer’s. Maybe that explains its sense of urgency.

The Herald: Author Fern BradyAuthor Fern Brady (Image: PA)

Strong Female Character
Fern Brady
Brazen, £10.99, out now

Now coming out in paperback, Brady’s memoir is a ruthlessly candid, at times harrowing and yet also very funny account of her journey to stand-up success. She writes about her autism, her childhood in Bathgate, working in a strip club while being a student at Edinburgh University and her beginnings in comedy. It’s painfully honest at times. Quite often you worry about the situations she puts herself in. But ultimately you emerge with a greater understanding of Brady, main image, and the condition that has shaped so much of her life.

Wild Houses
Colin Barrett
Jonathan Cape, £16.99, January 25

Small town Ireland, feuds and violence. Imagine the current BBC drama The Tourist. But if it was, you know, actually any good. Barrett, below, established himself as one of the writers to watch with his peerless first collection of short stories Young Skins a decade ago. This is his debut novel and it promises the same queasy energy and tarnished poetry.

The Herald: Louise WelshLouise Welsh (Image: free)

To the Dogs
Louise Welsh
Canongate Books, £16.99, Thursday

Louise Welsh, below, explores Glaswegian masculinity and whether we can change who we are in this sharp, pungent story about a high-flying university employee who finds himself drawn into a world more familiar to his gangster father. Can we truly put the past behind us and move on? Welsh’s answers are not totally encouraging in this page-turner of a book.

Ava Anna
Ada Ali Millar
White Rabbit Books, £18.99, Thursday

Ali Millar made a splash last year with her debut book The Last Days, a memoir about growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness in the Scottish Borders. Now she returns with her first novel, a “cli-fi” story set in the near future where the world is heating up. Love, lust, violence and climate change are at the heart of what author Wendy Erskine has described as “a work of exquisite strangeness”, while Ian Rankin has drawn comparisons to early Iain Banks and Ian McEwan. All of which might give you some notion of what to expect and maybe what to brace yourself for.

Murder on Lake Garda
Tom Hindle
Century, £16.99, Thursday

Whether or not he is the “new heir to Agatha Christie” (and that’s quite a label to be hung around your neck), there’s no doubt that Hindle has quickly established himself as a reliable purveyor of old-fashioned crime fiction thrills with his first two books, A Fatal Crossing and last year’s The Murder Game. His latest, set on a private island in Italy, brings together murder and marriage as a sumptuous wedding is spoiled by the discovery of a body. And so the wedding guests are trapped together waiting for the police to arrive knowing that there is a murderer in their midst.

The Herald: Bettany HughesBettany Hughes

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Bettany Hughes W&N, £25, Thursday

Historian Bettany Hughes, left, is back with another exploration of the ancient past. You can’t say she is not prolific. She is also hugely engaging, whether on TV or on the page. This latest book explores the seven wonders of the ancient world. How many of them can you name off the top of your head? No Googling, now.

Kubrick: An Odyssey
Robert P Kolker and Nathan Adams
Faber, £30, Thursday

“The most comprehensive biography of the creator of 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange” is the sales pitch for this chunky biography of the film director, the first for more than 20 years.

Teddy Boys
Max Decharne
Profile Books, £25, January 25

Subtitled “Post-War Britain and the First Youth Revolution”, Decharne’s cultural history offers a fresh take on one of the most maligned youth cultures in 20th-century British history. Taking in everything from the birth of rock ’n’ roll to the Notting Hill riots, it takes us back to an era when working-class teenagers first began to assert themselves in the UK. The question is, do you have enough hair left to style it into a DA?

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