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Highlights in the Charts

Under the Bridge – Jack Byrne

Review by Emma Ferguson

Available from 18 February, Jack Byrne’s debut novel is definitely one to watch out for in the charts in the upcoming months. Split between early 2000s and mid-1950s Liverpool, Under the Bridge is a crime thriller that highlights issues of Irish identity and diaspora.

In the present, investigative journalist, Anne, is determined to uncover the truth after unidentified remains are dug up on a construction site. Her friend Vinny is a history student researching deeply personal issues of Irish heritage that have manifested over the previous fifty years. Together, they begin to unearth more than a single murder, discovering much deeper conflicts involving smuggling and police corruption that have been intentionally covered up. This story gradually intertwines with the past narrative that follows Michael and Paddy – two Irish immigrants who take drastically different paths to integrate into their new Liverpudlian society.

The way the two narratives connect and converge is effortlessly done, satisfyingly tying the story together in the concluding chapters. There is a raw humanity to this novel, exploring the deeply personal realities of post-war Irish immigrants. A highlight for me was the way in which the character of Vinny was written – a truly complex and flawed character who is tackling a crisis of identity. Byrne unveils an openness and a vulnerability here that really makes him stand out. The location is also successfully captured, painting a vivid picture for the reader.

This novel is only the start, with Under the Bridge being the first of a four-part series – there is plenty more to come from Northern writer Jack Byrne.

The Glass House – Eve Chase

Review by Robyn Hewson

Eve Chase’s latest bestseller draws the reader into a world of mysterious forests, dysfunctional families and deeply buried secrets. A glass house is the perfect symbol for this story, in which the fragile world of the Harrington’s threatens to shatter into a thousand pieces.

Over the course of the novel, Chase carefully unravels the mystery – never giving the reader too many details at once. The narration of The Glass House is split between three characters: Hera, Rita and Sylvie, and the narrative weaves between the 1970s and the modern day.

The story begins with the Harrington family, and the sudden loss of their youngest child. Following this tragedy and a fire at their London home, they relocate to their neglected country house on the outskirts of a foreboding forest. The children’s nanny, Rita, accompanies them and finds herself dragged into their messy secrets and scandals.

In the alternative timeframe, Chase brings us into the modern day where Rita is in a coma following a horrific accident. Her daughter, Sylvie, is desperately awaiting news on her mother’s condition.

There is an interesting contrast between Sylvie and Hera narrating in first person and Rita’s chapters, which are narrated in third person. This clever detail emphasises Rita’s detachment from the story, reflecting both her current state in a coma and her reluctance to revisit the long-buried secrets.

As each chapter draws to a close, a small portion of the mystery is disclosed before the narration swaps to another character, and usually another timeframe. This ensures the reader is constantly yearning for more and makes for a compelling novel that’s impossible to put down. This captivating mystery will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Insatiable – Daisy Buchanan

Review by Alex Haywood

Meet Violet. She’s broke, lonely and stuck in a rut. Her twenties were meant to be the time of her life, but so far it’s all unfulfilled dreams, a lack-lustre job and mounting rent. Enter Lottie and Simon, totally glamorous – with that seductive je ne sais quoi of success and the risqué sex life to match. It’s inevitable that Violet follows where they lead, but the satisfaction she seeks is still just out of reach.

Made unmistakable by its bright orange cover, Daisy Buchanan’s Insatiable delivers a delightfully sordid, sexy and hopeful novel about what it means to grow into womanhood with unmet expectations. This is a story about searching for belonging when your own expectations become your biggest saboteur. Stuffed to the brim with desire, misunderstanding and, yes, lots of sex, Buchanan’s debut will strike a chord with anyone who has ever felt they haven’t quite got there yet.

Dubbed “a love story for greedy girls,” Insatiable is about always wanting more. A refreshing, real vision of female desire, Buchanan delivers comedy and sensuality in buckets, with a very real talent for balancing the tenderness of vulnerable moments with very physical, raunchy sex and unrelenting hope. Violet represents a part of all of us, striving for something just out of reach, who you will utterly root for throughout. You’ll finish with a smile and maybe a new recommendation for your closest friends.

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