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Book Bites: 9 September

Published in the Sunday Times

The Killing HabitThe Killing Habit
****
Mark Billingham, Little Brown, R300

If you are hurrying through an airport bookshop looking for something to read on a flight, you can pick up the latest Mark Billingham and know he will deliver. Especially if it is one of the DI Tom Thorne series. In this, Thorne is assigned to solving a series of cat killings. At first he is incredulous – he is a homicide detective after all – but agrees with the received wisdom that often the careers of serial killers begin with torturing animals. If this person can be stopped at this stage it will prevent murders. He and colleague DI Nicola Tanner find themselves stumbling into a labyrinth that spreads far beyond the dead animals. Expertly plotted and satisfyingly twisting, it’s interesting to note that the book is inspired by the real-life case of the Croydon Cat Killer, who is still at large. Michele Magwood @michelemagwood

Watching You
Watching You
***
Lisa Jewell, Century, R290

Joey returns to the UK from Ibiza with new husband, Alfie, after a rave-fuelled work stint that ended in a whirlwind wedding. Now they’re back in a small town in Bristol, living with Joey’s brother and pregnant sister-in-law. Joey’s life takes on meaning when she develops a crush on her neighbour, Tom, principal of the local school. But she’s not the only one; his pupils are also gaga over him. There are voyeurs aplenty in this book. Tom’s teenage son watches girls through binoculars from his bedroom window. Then there’s the delusional mother of one of Tom’s pupils who spends nights in the bushes watching his house. Amid all this there’s a murder, a stabbing, and dark family secrets. Not the most convincing read, although the final twist is a shocking surprise. Gabriella Bekes @Gabrikwa

A Station on the Path to Somewhere BetterA Station on the Path to Somewhere Better
*****
Benjamin Wood, Simon & Schuster, R275

Benjamin Wood is one of the hottest young British novelists. His gripping third book is about a father-and-son road trip – a week of aching unease that climaxes in horror. Daniel Hardesty, 12, lives with his mother; his parents have split up. His father, Francis, takes him on a jaunt to visit a TV studio. Francis is a masterly creation; mercurial, charming – and a monster poised on a knife edge. We see him through the boy’s eyes, and know something bad is going to happen. When it does, it’s worse than anything we expected. The tale unfolds over the next 20 years, as the sins of the father are visited on his damaged son. Tom Learmont

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