THE book selection this week provides material for a range of literary tastes, although the first two books do have a common link. There is also something for fans of Ripley’s Believe it or Not and a bit of crime fiction to round off.

Let’s begin with Joy by Jonathan Lee (Windmill Books paperback £7.99 published on 6 June). This is a strange book, but strange in a good way, as we go through the last hours of a high flying female lawyer who now lies in a coma and also listen in to her work colleagues talking to a psychiatrist or counsellor called in to let them open up and release their feelings

The first person view from Joy, is split into parts of the day leading up to her ending up on the marble floor 40 feet beneath her office window. Did she fall or was she pushed? These moments are interspersed with the counselling sessions for her husband and workmates. In this way we get Joy’s view of what happened and also the views of others, but when it comes down to it who is telling the truth?

The book itself is a delight to read as Lee is a craftsman when it comes to prose. His narrative twists and turns but, like a river, keeps flowing to the inexorable end.


A shift in space and time as we take a peek at The Eighties - One Day, One Decade by Dylan Jones (Preface hardback £25 published on 6 June ).

If you had to pick one moment on one day in the eighties (on the basis you can remember them) it would have to be Bob Geldof standing onstage at Wembley with his voice being broadcast across the world and telling that world: “Give us your ******* money!”

They did and Geldof (now an honorary Sir Bob) has gone down in rock legend - even if his Boomtown Rats have faded into oblivion. On that day - Saturday, 13 July 1985 - nearly two billion people woke with a single purpose. That purpose was to watch, listen to or attend Live Aid. The day might be defined by Bob Geldof and the movement he had created to help the starving people of Ethiopia, but the decade needed a different voice to tell its tale and that is where Dylan Jones, magazine editor, musical connoisseur and polymath in general comes in because he not only went to Wembley but he was where it was and saw how it was throughout the 80s and able to draw on his own reminiscences and views on music, the media, fashion, politics and pop culture to show how the decade worked around that mid-decade massive concert in Wembley that beamed out a message across the world - we have to help.

This is THE book to define a decade.


Back to mystery now and this is murder mystery with a vengeance in When the Devil Drives by Chris Brookmyre (Abacus paperback, £7.99 published on 6 June)

We all know what happens when the devil drives - needs must. But whose needs and who says they must be met or that the ends justify the means when those needs are satisfied?

The author is renowned for his humour which works well with his excellent awareness of criminals and crime so necessary to a crime writer. Especially a crime writer with a string of works behind him. This is the second in a series of which I have not yet read the first, but Brookmyre skilfully fills in the necessary blanks without weighing you down with chapter upon chapter of backstory.

Jasmine Sharp, a would-be actress working as a private investigator (the wording implying the acting term ‘resting’) is seeking a missing woman, also an actress, who vanished 30 years before. Her investigations are gradually leading her to a Scottish castle where Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod, is investigating a shooting at a post-performance photo call.

Brookmyre has written these two as third person representation from an author’s view but there is a third main character who is not the author’s voice and who we do not see but we know from his first person commentary that he is the killer. The author must be credited with a deep knowledge of the theatrical world as well as of Scotland in general. He uses subtle touches and expert knowledge to have some fun  with a few gentle pokes at the Scottish arts and media world and the upper end of Scottish society.

A cracking murder mystery with plenty of red herrings.


The last choice this month  is The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce (Penguin Ireland  £14.99, published on 6 June).

This debut novel is set in 1930s Ireland - the wrong place for an unmarried woman to be pregnant as abortion was illegal and the alternati8ve too dangerous.

Emily lives in a dull, lifeless town - dull and lifeless that is until the herbalist arrives and sets up his stall in the market place. Teenaged Emily is immediately smitten by this glamorous outsider. She has competition, however, as he also attracts all the women of the town, from the ladies in the big houses, to the serving girls in the shops. Even the girls of easier virtue and their more pious sisters believe he can perform miracles.

It takes a summer’s length for Emily to discover his darker side and then her world is tossed around again and she has a decision to make - to betray her love or betray her sisterhood.

Niamh Boyce tells her story through the lives of just four women but she has peopled the town for us with the images and sketches of others. Women who are sexually oppressed and denied even the power to control their own bodies and their own desires.

Emily, the major voice - is a dreamer, yet she also has a strong sense of right and wrong. Not the right and wrong of a Catholic priest but a right and wrong passed down the generations of womanhood for millennia. There is so much hidden in the shadows of Irish life in the 1930s, the snobbery as the ‘lady’ looks down on the housewife and the ladies maid looks down on the shopgirl; yet there is the equality of women at all levels in fear of sex and its consequences; in fear of breaking the social taboos; and in the end the bravery of those who cast the taboos aside and stand up for their rights.

You can read more about these books, and other new releases from a variety of publishers at

Enjoy your reading
Robin Vyrnwy-Pierce