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Book Bites: 10 January 2016

Liar LiarLiar Liar: A DI Helen Grace Thriller
MJ Arlidge (Penguin)
*****
This red-hot police procedural plunges Detective Helen Grace into a hellish inferno, with three fires ravaging Southampton in a single night. There’s a tense battle to bring the arsonist-cum-murderer to book before more attacks occur. The graphic descriptions and action-packed sequences testify to Arlidge’s experience as a screenwriter, while the detailed backstories on victims and suspects provide a cast of well-rounded characters. Convoluted plot twists keep one guessing until the end. For once, the label “unputdownable” is merited, as are the comparisons with Jo Nesbo. – Ayesha Kajee @ayeshakajee

Maggie SmithMaggie Smith: A Biography
Michael Coveney (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
****
Did you know that Maggie Smith’s mother told her she could never be an actress with “a face like that”? That she was deemed too comical for Shakespeare’s tragedies? In this revised edition of Michael Coveney’s bio on Dame Maggie, we come to see her through the eyes of British theatre critics, her family, contemporaries and friends. Dubbed by Dame Maggie as her “premature obituarist”, Coveney depicts her humble, strict upbringing, her resolute drive to act, her love for her craft and her disdain for the public eye (and interviews). Smith fans will love the in-depth descriptions of, I dare say, every revue, play, movie and television show she ever made. – Annetjie van Wynegaard @Annetjievw

Fifteen DogsFifteen Dogs
André Alexis (Serpent’s Tale)
***
What would happen if dogs had human intelligence? André Alexis introduces us to a world in which 15 dogs have been given human consciousness by the gods Hermes and Apollo, who have a bet going to see if dogs will be happier when they die if they have human intelligence. The concept is novel and quirky, but the writing lacks soul and fails to answer the premise. Quite unfortunate, as there was potential to make this an Animal Farm-like classic. — Kgebetli Moele

Summer SecretsSummer Secrets
Jane Green (Macmillan)
****
You can’t do better than Jane Green’s latest offering for a summer read. Catherine “Cat” Coombs is a lifelong alcoholic who has slipped in and out of recovery since her late 20s. Her periods of drinking have all but laid waste to her life, destroying her marriage and damaging her relationship with her daughter. As part of the ninth step of her recovery she has to make restitution to the people she has hurt, and the most challenging of these are the two half-sisters she left behind on Nantucket Island when she was 29. You’ll be tempted to polish it off in one sitting. – Fiona Snyckers @FionaSnyckers

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