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Book Bites: four reads to look out for this week

Book Bites: 28 May 2017 – Published in the Sunday Times

American War
American War
Omar El Akkad (Picador)
Book buff
It is 2075, climate change has gripped the planet and the United States has declared war on itself. Sarat, with her twin sister, older brother and widowed mother are taken to a refugee camp where the young are groomed for the Southern resistance known as the Reds. In raw, matter-of-fact prose, readers are swept along the systematic downfall of an empire through the eyes of Sarat. During her lifetime she rises, falls and seeks her vengeance for unspeakable cruelty. American War is an epic read, answering the question: “How do you make a terrorist?” The most chilling aspect of the novel is realising that while the tale is set in the future, this story is happening now. – Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie
Rory Clements (Zaffre)
Book thrill
1936: Cambridge Professor Thomas Wilde is something of an expert in spy craft, although his speciality is the Elizabethan secret service: when his neighbour Lydia, poet and publisher, tells him about the so-called suicide of her friend Nancy, with whom she attended the Berlin Olympics, and the murders of others in their set, Wilde starts to investigate. Set against the background of the allegedly Nazi-loving King Edward VIII and his bid to have twice-divorced Wallis Simpson as his queen, and the rise of Fascism in England, Corpus encapsulates the events leading WW2; from Stalin’s Great Terror in Russia, the Spanish Civil War, the rise of European Fascism, to the conflicting ideologies of good men in England. Excellent! – Aubrey Paton
Syd Kitchen - Scars That ShineSyd Kitchen: Scars That Shine
Donvé Lee (Tracey McDonald Publishers)
Book real
Few people can truly be described as legends; Syd Kitchen was one of them. The Durban singer-songwriter was famously mad, bad and dangerous to know: a roaring alcoholic and druggie, he came from the wrong side of the tracks and stayed there, never quite earning the fame and success he deserved. In this biography Donvé Lee has done well by her old friend. She manages to capture the appeal of this skraal boy-man, his depression and demons, his constant self-sabotaging, but also his sheer brilliance. Acutely clever – he was awarded an Honours degree in Musicology cum laude – Kitchen was a great raconteur and mordant wit. Women loved him and so did other musicians. He sang and played guitar like a fallen angel, but died before the big break ever came. Splashy Fen would never be the same again. – Michele Magwood @michelemagwood
City of the LostCity of the Lost
Kelley Armstrong (Sphere)
Book thrill
Rockton is a small, off-the-grid town hidden in the wilds of Yukon. It’s a haven for hundreds of fundamentally decent people who are on the run from their pasts, in need of a place where they can disappear for a few years. Detective Casey Duncan is haunted by a violent incident during which she killed a man. Her best friend Diana is harried by an abusive ex. When given the chance to escape to Rockton, they embrace the opportunity. The town, however, is run by an autocratic sheriff with his own explosive secrets. When residents start being murdered, savage passions are unleashed. While the fundamental concept of City of the Lost may stretch credulity, Armstrong, a dexterous storyteller, carries it off with aplomb, fashioning a modern thriller with a dash of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies to it. – William Saunderson-Meyer @TheJaundicedEye

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