Tales of art and artifice

13 August 2018

This month brings a host of shady characters, a tear-jerker or two and a covetable work about books in paintings. By Rose Shepherd.

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson

In grey 1950s London, Juliet is working as a producer for the BBC when her past comes back to haunt her. In the war, aged 18, she worked for MI5, transcribing tapes recorded in a bugged flat used by fifth columnists. Now who wants revenge? And why does her double-agent ex-boss cut her dead? Trust no one, least of all this wily author; she has form. 

Available to buy online.


Retribution by Richard Anderson

Sweetapple is a decent guy and a cattle thief. Luke is a bogus eco warrior, a wild card. Carson is a babe and a scammer. Richard Anderson is an Australian farmer and a fine writer - no, really, he is! In lucid, unflashy prose, he relates how the theft of a priceless mare, retribution, results in a human pile-up for five utterly believable characters, good, bad and ugly. 

Available to buy online.


Learning to die by Thomas Maloney

Back in the UK, here are five more entirely plausible, variously flawed characters, and a horse of another colour - that pale horse whose rider is Death. Not all good writers efface themselves. Maloney bops about on the page, at one point barging in to tell us about electrons - well, why not? This is a richly funny novel, yet finally beautiful, tender, heart-wrenching. Have tissues to hand. 

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Resin by Ane Riel

Liv has known no other life than this one, with her father, Jens, her mother, Maria, and her invisible dead twin, Carl in their isolated island home. Maria is immured in her own fat. The filthy house is filled with junk as Jens sinks into madness. Despite flashes of sweetness, this is a harrowing tale by a gifted Danish writer. You might want to put it down, but like Liv, you'll be trapped. 

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The Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

Maurice Swift will stop at nothing, exploit and betray anyone, to win acclaim as a novelist. Boyne has had fun creating a charismatic psychopath bent on winning 'The Prize'. He co-opts Gore Vidal, adopts the first-, third- and tricky second-person narrative, as well as having some sly pokes at the literary world. It's engrossing and sexually explicit stuff. If you're in any way prudish, keep the smelling salts by you. 

Available to buy online.


King Con by Paul Willetts

There are echoes of John Boyne's Swift in Edgar Laplante, a showman and hustler who passed himself off as Chief White Elk, war hero, sportsman, civil rights champion and leader of Cherokee nation, in a trail of deception that led him to the heart of Mussolini's Italy. A fast-moving tale of an inveterate scammer, which is every bit as gripping as fiction. 

Available to buy online.


Books Do Furnish a Painting by Jamie Camplin and Maria Ranauro

The authors' pooled expertise in history, art and publishing inform this sweeping exploration of that treasured human possession the book, examining it's place in art across centuries, cultures and genres, from the early days of printing. A fascinating work, by it's very nature gorgeous - and every picture tells a story. 

Available to buy online.


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