Friday, December 1, 2023

Top of the TBR Pile

It’s the time of year when family commitments begin to ramp up, AND a huge number of books are published, just in time for the gift-giving season. How will this affect your reading? What’s on your To Be Read pile at the moment?



Good morning!


Hard to believe we’re already into December. All my wonderful plans for 2023, all the great tasks I’d hoped to accomplish, all the books I’d hoped to write, pretty much all lie discarded at the side of the road, ditched, displaced by all the mundane things which needed to be done, just to pay the bills and look after the family. Still, I’m sure next year will be different. Next year I will accomplish all my goals, all of them, including the ones I’ve been putting off since 1997.


As we approach the Christmas holidays (I’m not a Christian, but I’ll be damned if I’m calling them the winter holidays. Everyone is free to call it what they like, but I grew up calling it Christmas, we put up a tree, give presents, have Christmas dinner – not turkey, because being of Indian origin, I have standards when it comes to cuisine and I’m not eating anything that dry or bland, even if it is in honour of your Lord and Saviour.) In short, I find nothing wrong in calling it Christmas and I will always call it Christmas.


But I digress. As we approach the winter holidays, I’m in mind to take stock of what’s been achieved during the year. I’ve finally finished my stand-alone thriller, HUNTED, which has taken the best part of three years to write. Initial reviews from the likes of Lee Child, Mick Herron and Ruth Ware have been wonderful, and I’m excited for you all to read it. 

I’ve made good progress on the next Wyndham and Banerjee novel (number six in the series). I’m currently 55 thousand words into the first draft and, with a fair wind (nothing to do with the Christmas sprouts), should have another 10 or 15 thousand by the time I stop for the holidays. For the first time in a long time, I feel I’m back on course with my writing. I’m still way behind though, but it’s the thought that counts.


As for reading, I’m hoping Christmas gives me a chance to read more. Last Christmas our house was basically a hotel. We had guests from all over the world staying with us through December and January, with a good fifteen people on Christmas Day. This year, quite rightly, my wife has threatened to divorce me if we do something similar, so we have pared it down to a small family Christmas - just the four of us on Christmas Day and no guests. And just as well, because my To Be Read pile is massive right now.


Loads and loads and loads of books.


Here are some of them, a mix of writers new to me and those whom I admire.


Already tipped as one of the books of next year, ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK by Chris Whittaker is being praised by so many people I know and trust. It’s described as “A missing persons mystery, a serial killer thriller, and an epic love story - with a unique twist on each...” 

I’m a bit in awe of Chris. What he does so well is mix tension and emotion, and this is being touted as his best work to date.


Anna Mazzola is the queen of Gothic historical fiction. Her last book, THE HOUSE OF WHISPERS, was one of my favourite books of 2023. I’m hoping THE BOOK OF SECRETS is just as good. “Months after the plague has ravaged Rome, men are still dying in unnatural numbers, and rumour has it that their corpses do not decay as they should. The Papal authorities commission prosecutor Stefano Bracchi to investigate, telling him he will need considerable mettle to reach the truth.” If you like gothic mysteries, you should be reading her work.


THE LAST MURDER AT THE END OF THE WORLD is the new mind-bending mystery from Stu Turton (author of THE SEVEN (and a half) DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE). Basically. You have to “solve the murder to save what’s left of the world”. I can’t decide if Stu is mad or an actual bona fide genius. It could be both.


If there’s one thing I don’t understand, it’s how a writer as brilliant and accomplished as Imran Mahmood is not better known or more widely read. FINDING SOPHIE is a domestic suspense thriller about the disappearance of Sophie King and its impact on her parents, Harry and Zara. . Early reviews have left people in tears at its eloquence and its insight. I think this one is going to make me cry.


And last but by no means least. A new author for me, Natalie Marlow and her new book, THE RED HOLLOW. Set in 1934, “Deep in a hamlet in the Warwickshire countryside, Red Hollow Hall is a male-only sanitorium run by the charismatic psychiatrist Dr Moon. However, all is not well, and Dr Moon's patients are leaving Red Hollow in droves.” I didn’t get a chance to read Natalie’s breakout debut, NEEDLESS ALLEY, but it got rave reviews from the press and from authors who are the best in the business. So I’m looking forward to this one. 


So that’s it. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever had five books of such high calibre waiting to be read in such a short period of time. If 2024 has more such books in store, then it’s going to be a vintage year.


Happy reading.


No comments: