REPRIEVE by James Han Mattson (Bloomsbury £16.99, 416 pp)


by James Han Mattson (Bloomsbury £16.99, 416 pp)

I raced through this beautifully written literary thriller. Four contestants compete to win a big cash prize by completing all task levels at an escape room in haunted Quigley House, Lincoln, Nebraska. They make it to the final cell — where someone is murdered.

The story is mostly told by Kendra, a black teenager who has recently been uprooted to this very white place from cosmopolitan Washington DC. Horror fan Kendra lives with her college student cousin Bryan, one of the competitors, and is thrilled when she gets a job at the house.

The slow burn of suspense is filled with an examination of racism, LGBT politics, the American dream and obsession with horror from multiple points of view. A fascinating exploration of privilege and power within a tight framework of plot points heading towards an uneasy denouement.


by Sophie Kinsella (Bantam £20, 336 pp)

I’m a big fan of Kinsella, best known for her Shopaholic series, and this latest stand-alone is as humorous, heart-warming and compulsively readable as the others.

Our appealing protagonist, Effie Talbot, is in her mid-20s and not dealing well with her parents’ recent divorce or the fact that her beloved father has moved on so quickly with a much younger, sex- and Instagram-obsessed woman. She’s no longer talking to him and refuses to attend the ‘house cooling’ party he and his girlfriend are throwing to say goodbye to Greenoaks — the family home they’ve sold.

There’s one thing there that Effie cannot leave behind, so she decides to sneak in, retrieve the item, and leave quickly. Of course, it’s not that simple and she learns a lot during her secret mission. I rooted for her the whole way.

WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM by Christine Pride & Jo Piazza (HQ £14.99, 400 pp)


by Christine Pride & Jo Piazza (HQ £14.99, 400 pp)

I loved this unique collaboration between a black and a white author to bring their different experiences to the same powerful story about race, compassion, friendship and justice.

They describe a richly layered friendship between a black and a white woman who have loved each other since they were little girls. Jen is finally pregnant after a long infertility journey and Riley’s career as a TV news presenter is flourishing. Their bond is put to the test when a devastating racial incident involving them both puts them on opposite sides of the opinion faultline.

Race is now unavoidably front and centre for the first time in their relationship. What ensues is a turbulent ride on an emotional roller coaster, and it is unclear if they will survive — but it’s a challenging and important read.

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