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LITERARY FICTION

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SPIES IN CANAAN by David Park (Bloomsbury £16.99, 208pp)

SPIES IN CANAAN by David Park (Bloomsbury £16.99, 208pp)

SPIES IN CANAAN

by David Park (Bloomsbury £16.99, 208pp)

Park has a knack for distilling heavy themes into pint-sized fiction, with a particular fondness for stories of male guilt in times of political turmoil (as in The Truth Commissioner, his best-known work, about the process of peace in his native Northern Ireland). ).

Her latest novel, another compact marvel, is a typically intimate study of complicity and self-esteem. It’s told by Michael, a retired American intelligence agent who once did dirty work for a high-ranking officer who went rogue while serving in Saigon during the difficult days of the Vietnam War.

His memory flood is sparked by a mysterious tip-off, decades later, that his former boss is now caught up in the Mexican border crisis.

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As Park ambitiously bridges past and present American disasters, the stakes become electrifying.

This is a meditative novel that, while investing heavily in patient atmosphere building, never forgets the need to put your foot on the accelerator.

THE PERFECT GOLDEN CIRCLE by Benjamin Myers (Bloomsbury £16.99, 256pp)

THE PERFECT GOLDEN CIRCLE by Benjamin Myers (Bloomsbury £16.99, 256pp)

THE PERFECT GOLDEN CIRCLE

by Benjamin Myers (Bloomsbury £16.99, 256pp)

It’s the sweltering summer of 1989, and we’re in the South of England countryside with Calvert, a Falklands veteran, and Redbone, a former punk guitarist, who meet at night to cut crop circles in Wiltshire wheat.

As their increasingly ambitious designs spark wonder and panic among bewildered audiences at home and abroad, the two longtime friends chew the grease on war, music, agriculture and the state of the nation after ten years of Margaret Thatcher’s rule.

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It’s a thoroughly lovable novel that nonetheless feels like an elongated short story. There’s not much drama except an encounter with a bloated young aristocrat, and the chatter of characters rarely feels like anything more than an author’s think tank.

But what sticks it all together is the crisp formulation of Myers’ oratorical style, which may be haphazard, yes, but booming, it’s a joy.

WHEN I CLOSED MY EYES by Jemma Wayne (Legend Press £8.99, 288pp)

WHEN I CLOSED MY EYES by Jemma Wayne (Legend Press £8.99, 288pp)

WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES

by Jemma Wayne (Legend Press £8.99, 288pp)

Wayne, previously nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, returns with this thorny psychodrama about a troubled Hollywood screenwriter haunted by her upbringing in small town England.

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Lilith is living the high life in Los Angeles when an ex-boyfriend from her teenage years turns up unexpectedly to upset her hard-earned balance by stirring up memories of repressed trauma.

Told in a hard-hitting, thriller style, the novel’s tantalizing glimpses into Lilith’s story leave us wondering why she can’t sleep unless she’s alone with her bedroom door securely locked.

Wayne generates tension, sure, but the reader can’t help but feel unfairly played along the way, and the messy events by which the story hurtles to a climax, involving memory loss and a missing child, may seem exaggerated. when you look too closely.

Yet despite the odd duff moment, this uneven tale ultimately dominates as a chilling, piquant portrait of predatory mind games.

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