Published On: Sun, Jul 30th, 2017

Gripping yarns: The best new compulsive fiction reads

The Party by Elizabeth Day (4th Estate, £12.99)

Elizabeth Day’s fourth novel ventures into the heart of the aristocracy, deftly dissecting the cruelty and disloyalty that lurk beneath its glittering surface. Outsider Martin has been friends with dashing Ben since boarding school.

Dismissed by Ben’s posh pals as an arriviste, the acerbic and witty Martin obsessively clings on to their relationship until the evening of Ben’s blingy 40th birthday in his palatial country home, where old secrets, bitter enmities and jealous rivalries build to a dramatic denouement. 

A dark and deliciously entertaining novel.

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley (Bloomsbury Circus, £12.99)

The Bedlam Stacks is a magical, hugely imaginative novel set in 1859 that follows bored ex-opium smuggler Merrick from his rundown family estate in Cornwall into the heart of Peru as he searches for the malaria-curing cinchona tree.

Adventure and mystery abound as his expedition encounters moving statues, exploding trees, volcanic glass, floating cities and protective Incas, while dealing with altitude sickness, divided loyalties and otherworldly superstitions that turn out to be strangely real.

Shelter by Sarah Franklin (Zaffre, £12.99)

It’s 1944 and spirited Connie is working in the Women’s Timber Corps in the secluded Forest of Dean.

Hiding a secret, she is a mess of tangled emotions and impulses when she meets the equally distraught Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war who is haunted by memories of fighting for a cause he didn’t believe in.

Both are desperate for a home and a sense of belonging, and this beautifully crafted tale of survival and solace reveals that you can find it in the most unlikely places.

The Threat Level Remains Severe by Rowena Macdonald (Aardvark Bureau, £8.99)

Grace has been doing the same dull job for a decade, working as a secretary in the House of Commons, and she is not best pleased when brash Brett arrives.

What begins as a funny, observational comedy on the pitfalls of office life takes a darker turn when Grace starts receiving adoring emails from the enigmatic Reuben and has to enlist Brett’s help when the romantic shenanigans take a turn for the sinister.  

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Brown (Picador, £12.99)

Eleanor and Richard have stretched themselves to their financial limit to buy a Victorian terrace in London, dreaming of a happy family home.

They take in a lodger, the wayward Zoe, but it’s not long before a sense of eerie unease overtakes the female inhabitants of the house.

Bad energy, the strange atmosphere of the spare room and the scary childish scribbles on the wall suggest something supernatural, but is there another explanation for the disquiet in this creepy housing crisis chiller?

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