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Book Bites: 9 October 2016

Published in the Sunday Times

Three Moments of ExplosionThree Moments of An Explosion: Stories
China Miéville (Picador)
Book fiend
****
The short-story collection starts with a bang and maintains that level of excitement and terror throughout. Die-hard Miéville fans might struggle with the new format at first (can’t he just write more Bas-Lag books, already?) but after the titular story you’ll be hooked and thirsting for more. Stand-out stories are “Säcken” – a research trip to the German countryside unleashes untold horrors – and “After the Festival” – a macabre depiction of mass fandom and addiction. Miéville not only experiments with the short story form, he reinvents it. It’s disturbing and brilliant. – Annetjie van Wynegaard @Annetjievw

Hot MilkHot Milk
Deborah Levy (Penguin Random House)
Book buff
****
Sofia has abandoned her anthropology doctorate to tend to her mother, who suffers from mysterious pain and paralysis. The two women enact a filial dance of control and co-dependence, love and resentment. When her mother limps, so does Sofia. “Her legs are my legs.” In desperation, they travel to Spain to consult a doctor. While her mother undergoes the doctor’s (possibly quack) ministrations, Sofia begins to overcome her own existential malaise – she steals a fish, frees a dog, and takes lovers (male and female). Hot Milk is meticulously crafted and vivid with myth and landscape. Levy moves gracefully between pathos, poetry, humour and intriguing internal imaginings. – Kate Sidley @KateSidley

Lily and the OctopusLily & The Octopus
Steven Rowley (Simon & Schuster)
Book hug
****
Ted’s unbreakable bond with his dachshund Lily is what keeps him going, giving his existence shape and meaning. Together, they’re an unbeatable team, a mutual adoration society. It’s the relationship that Ted can count on every day without fail, his one true friend. But when an evil “octopus” suddenly affixes itself to his beloved Lily’s head, threatening everything, he’s thrown into terrible turmoil. Hilarious, sardonic, imaginative and also incredibly sad, this is a must-read for anybody who has ever loved a pet. – Nikki Temkin @NikkiTemkin

The Couple Next DoorThe Couple Next Door
Shari Lapena (Bantam Press)
Book thrill
****
Remember the McCanns who left their daughter Madeleine alone while they had supper nearby? Anne and Marco Conti do the same thing: when the babysitter cancels at the last minute, they leave six-month-old Cora alone and dine with the neighbours. Like Madeleine, Cora is stolen; the police suspect the parents and more and more revelations point to them. A ransom is demanded and paid, but the baby is not returned and police fear the worst. The Couple Next Door is excellent, especially for a debut, with good, tight writing and a thrilling twister of a plot. – Aubrey Paton

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