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The Family Next Door: A Novel by Sally Hepworth, St. Martin’s Press, US $26.99, Pp 336, March 2018, ISBN 978-1250120892

The Music Shop: A Novel by Rachel Joyce, Random House, US $27.00, Pp 320, January 2018, ISBN 978-0812996685

Death in the Stars:  A Kate Shackleton Mystery by Frances Brody,  Minotaur Books,  US $25.99, Pp 386, February 2018, ISBN 978-1250154798

Blood of the Four by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, Harper Voyager, US $24.99, Pp 464, March 2018, ISBN 978-0062641380

Essie is living a perfect life. She has a loving husband and a beautiful house in a good neighborhood. But she has a secret to hide which only a few friends know. It was a moment of maternal despair when she abandoned her newborn in a park, asleep in her carriage. The infant survived and Essie regained her health and had a second daughter. But she is unable to leave her past behind. Things started changing when a new woman moved to this small town and rented a house next to Essie. People wonder why is she still single when everyone else is married and why is she renting when everyone else owns the house. Nobody knows what she does for a living. But, curiously, the friendship between the two women continues to grow. People wonder why she is so fascinated with Essie. Essie’s friends are very unhappy with the new woman and disapprove of their friendship. It soon turns out that this new woman did not rent the house next to Essie by accident and her presence will soon reveal unpleasant secrets to the whole world. In The Family Next Door, Rachel Joyce explores the psychology of a distressed woman and comes up with a deeply disturbing portrait of a woman. Written in enchanting prose, it is one of those rare unputdownable novels that keep readers guessing right up to the ending.

Sally Hepworth is the bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives., which was also the highest selling debut Australian fiction of the year in 2015.  Sally is also the author of The Things We Keep, published in January 2016. Both of Sally’s novels have been published worldwide in English and have been translated into several foreign languages. Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children.

*****

The Music Shop is set in 1988. Brightly lit, jam-packed with records of all kinds, a music shop stands on a dead-end street. The music shop is like a beacon to the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift who throng the music shop. Shop’s owner Frank knows how to connect his customers with the right piece of music. One fine day, a beautiful woman named Ilse Brauchmann comes to the music shop. Ilse Brauchmann wants to learn about music from Frank. But Frank is terrified of real closeness. He turns and runs but he is drawn to the mysterious woman. Ilse Brauchmann threatens to reopen old wound of Frank. The past he thought he had left behind is suddenly haunting him. Why is Frank unable to connect to Ilse Brauchmann who can save him? The efforts of the two to overcome their emotional baggage depend on the power of music and love. It is a story of music helping you overcome your loss and regaining hope and love. Rachel Joyce’s not-so-subtle message is that music and love have healing effects on you. This is a romantic story that is full of suspense. It is a hugely entertaining story.

Rachel Joyce is the international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Perfect which was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Joyce was named the Specsavers National Book Awards “New Writer of the Year” in 2012. She is also the author of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, and the digital short story A Faraway Smell of Lemon and is the award-winning writer of more than thirty original afternoon plays. Rachel Joyce lives with her family in Gloucestershire.

*****

Death in the Stars is set in Yorkshire, England, in 1927 when solar eclipse gripped the nation. In those days solar or lunar eclipses used to be a real event and were associated with magical situations such as witchery. This is why when theatre star Selina Fellini asks her trusted friend and a sleuth, Kate Shackleton, to come along to a viewing party on the grounds of Giggleswick School Chapel, Kate becomes suspicious of the invite. The situation becomes complicated and suspenseful when Selina’s co-star Billy Moffatt is found dead in the chapel grounds. Kate soon learns that two other members of the theatre troupe were found dead in similarly mysterious circumstances the previous year. Along with Jim Sykes and Mrs. Sugden, Kate starts investigating the deaths. This is when Selina’s husband – a war veteran who suffers from mood swings — enters the scene. Kate believes something far deadlier is going to happen but cannot figure out who will be the next victim. Frances Brody paints the culture and language of 1920s England in this enthralling mystery. What makes this mystery extraordinarily mesmerizing is that Kate investigates the murders and the murderers’ motives without the modern technology while the situation in each murder is as complex as a modern-day murder. You will not be able to get Death in the Stars out of your mind for a long time to come.

Frances Brody started her writing life in radio, with many plays and short stories broadcast by the BBC. She has also written for television and theater. Before turning to crime, she wrote sagas, winning the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin award for most regionally evocative debut saga of the millennium. She lives in the North of England, where she was born and grew up.

*****

Quandis is a great kingdom in the fantasy world where every subject is a slave. Barring a few slaves to gods, they are actually slaves to one another. The Royals are blessed by the gods. Like royals in the real world, they also live in royal comforts and splendors. Their subjects have no problem with them as they perform their royal duties consciously. However, some of the subjects chafe at them. Princess Phela is a young woman of stunning beauty and ambition. She wants to win the throne at all costs. But her mother and brother, the heir apparent, stand in her way. She has decided not to allow any obstacle between her and her dream. At the lowest rung of social stratification are the Bajuman – the poor and oppressed members of the kingdom. They have to serve the priesthood or die. The royals and Bajumans have lived in an uneasy peace. Princess Phela has decided to claim the ultimate power and glory for herself. Her desire will shatter the peace in the kingdom. She will set into motion a process that will end only with her becoming a goddess in her own right. But the goddess’s ambitions will destroy Quandis and all its subjects. Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon are a formidable pair of writers of fantasy stories. They have total control over their characters and the character arcs are finished perfectly. It is a real treat for all those who enjoy reading fantasy fiction.

Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling author of Of Saints and Shadows, The Myth Hunters, The Boys Are Back in Town, and Snowblind. Tim Lebbon has written over forty horror, dark fantasy and tie-in novels, including The Silence, Relics, Coldbrook, The Cabin in the Woods, and several books with Christopher Golden, including The Map of Moments and The Secret Journeys of Jack London.

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