Tales of Muffled Oars, by Magnus Mills (Quoqs Publishing, 2020)

Two friends join an ongoing discussion of England’s history: a series of pub talks ensue. Superficially similar to Mills‘s The Forensic Records Society, this is another examination of men, entropy, and understated menace. Perhaps not for newbies, but those who’ve enjoyed Mills’s work before will find this brisk novel full of familiar pleasures. Recommended.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Unfortunate Ends: On Murder and Misadventure in Medieval England, by Soren Lily (Unbound, 2022)

Eleven (well, ten really, and not the twelve promised on the back cover blurb) unusual medieval deaths are discussed. From the fun (albeit seemingly defunct) Twitter bot account tweeting summaries of medieval death rolls. However, the book version is slight in the extreme: a concept that hadn’t been stress-tested for book-length content. A bit of a disappointment, really.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

A Bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner, by Chris Atkins (Atlantic Books, 2020)

The prison diaries of a fraudster, focusing on an initial nine months in HMP Wandsworth. A privileged perspective as the author notes (a middle-class documentarian), but a vivid account nevertheless, evidencing the UK penal system as chronically underfunded, dysfunctional, and counter-productive towards rehabilitation. Darkly funny throughout, though more focus on the regime mechanics would have been interesting.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Takeaway: Stories From a Childhood Behind the Counter, by Angela Hui (Trapeze Books, 2022)

An autobiography, focusing on childhood and adolescence as the daughter of Chinese takeaway owners in 00s South Wales. An engaging account, addressing stressful family relationships, the mechanics of independent fast food, being an outsider in an insular community, experiencing racism, and reconciling multiple identities. Plus recipes, both family and commercial. Plenty to appreciate and to think on, basically.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Heat 2, by Michael Mann & Meg Gardiner (Harper Collins, 2022)

The lives of two career criminals and a robbery/homicide detective intertwine over a long decade. This follow-on novel to Michael Mann’s 1995 heist movie epic Heat is undeniably contrived, but equally undeniably thrilling: bags of detail, tonnes of cool under pressure, with prose that does an admirable job of replicating Mann’s cinematic storytelling. For fans, naturally, but that’s a broad church: the congregation will leave feeling redeemed.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Hothouse Earth: An Inhabitant’s Guide, by Bill McGuire (Hot Science/Icon Books, 2022)

An overview of climate change, its consequences, and a call for urgent meaningful action to be taken. A swift, accessible, though comprehensive account of the damage being done to the planet, and of the problems that this is already causing. The message is clear: the window for taking corrective action is closing fast. Recommended.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Stephen King & Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties: A Graphic Novel, Vol. 2, by Rio Youers, Alison Sampson & Triona Farrell (IDW Publishing, 2022)

The sleeping sickness now established, matters come to a head in Dooling. A strong counterpart to Volume 1, completing an excellent graphic novelisation (is that even a phrase?) of the King father and son collaboration. Perhaps works better if you’re familiar with the source novel, but enjoyable in its own right too.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Original Sins, by Jamie Delano, John Ridgway, Alfredo Alcala, Rick Veitch, Tom Mandrake and others (Vertigo/DC Comics, 2011)

The continuing adventures of a working class British magician, working to balance warring supernatural forces and their own flaws. Still-splendid blend of social realism, state-of-the-world anger, and horror comic thrills. Both of its time (Thatcher’s late 80s) and of this moment: the same wars are still being fought. This first collection brings together issues 1-9, plus issues 77 and 78 of Swamp Thing, Constantine’s origin title.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.