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The Best Books to Look Out for in September 2018

Posted on 7th September 2018 by Martha Greengrass

Autumn. The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, of flame-coloured leaves, apple harvests, wellington boots, things inexplicably flavoured with pumpkin and - best of all - a glorious crop of freshly-pressed new reading. September is when the year’s biggest books start to arrive on our shelves, and to celebrate we’ve the first of our bumper autumn round-ups, packed with the season’s finest.

History, Politics & Science

We begin with a book that’s making waves around the world. Since his co-authored Pulitzer-winning All the President’s Men chronicled the Watergate scandal that toppled Nixon’s presidency, Bob Woodward’s name has become synonymous with indisputable integrity and probity. As he unleashes Fear into the world - taking aim at Trump's embattled presidency - interested parties across the political divide will be watching the fallout. Nixon famously said ‘the Press is the enemy’ but, as Alan Rusbridger’s insightful new book Breaking News examines, it’s now a force under fire like never before. Drawing on his twenty years of experience as editor of the Guardian, this is a book that considers journalism’s past, present and its threatened future, arguing that in a post-truth age, good journalism is more necessary than ever. Nixon’s legacy also looms large in Max Hasting’s exhaustive new history of the Vietnam War.  As in his Second World War opus All Hell Let Loose, Vietnam brings the real voices of the war to the fore, presenting a bold and revisionist narrative of a costly campaign with valuable lessons for twenty-first century conflict.

From Vietnam we move to the Cold War and Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and the Traitor, a book described by John le Carré as ‘the best true spy story I have ever read’. Like Macintyre’s bestselling books Operation Mincemeat and Agent ZigZag, it has all the compulsive, page-turning quality of the finest spy-fiction, blended with meticulous research. A spymaster, fixer, politician and monarchic agent, Thomas Cromwell remains not only one of history’s most famous figures but also one of its most enigmatic. Providing the most comprehensive biography of Cromwell to date, Diarmaid MacCullough’s immersive Thomas Cromwell: A Life demystifies a man who stood at the very centre of sixteenth-century British power. If history has traditionally been dominated by the lives of great men, Jenni Murray’s latest collection aims to redress the balance with A History of the World in 21 Women. Like last year’s bestselling A History of Britain in 21 Women, this new collection is a personal selection that celebrates famous names like Marie Curie and Frida Kahlo alongside some less well-recognised figures, each of whom played a crucial role in shaping the world.

From the figures who made history, to the icons that changed it. Following on from the celebrated British Museum exhibition and the popular BBC Radio 4 series, Living with the Gods is an unprecedented overview of peoples, objects and beliefs over 40,000 years of world history. Offering fascinating details that lend new perspective on how faith has changed humankind, it’s an unmissable macro-history. The connection between people and objects is also at the heart of Erebus, Michael Palin’s evocative new account of the epic voyages of discovery of the early nineteenth-century, told through the history of one of the greatest sailing vessels of all time. Told with the combined insight of a born storyteller and a keen explorer, it’s a book that brings history to life. It’s also a volume that’s nicely matched with Neil Oliver’s brilliant new title The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places. Oliver is a master of grounding history in its physical space (and this book is no exception), but it is at its finest when it reminds us of how recently our country resolved into relative peace, and how much of our past has left its mark on our present.

In popular science, the two authors behind Radio 4’s popular series The Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry offer their own takes on what it means to be human. Packed with weird and wonderful facts and featuring illustrations by Alice Roberts, Adam Rutherford’s The Book of Humans takes an axe to the comforting assumptions of human primacy. By looking at how human behaviours compare with those of other species, he reveals that characteristics we assume to be uniquely human are, in fact, nothing of the kind. Already proving popular with Waterstones readers, Hannah Fry’s Hello World takes a leap forward in human behaviour, looking at how are lives are affected by algorithms. Readable, humorous and full of fascinating examples, it’s a book that brings home the way our everyday lives are reliant on technology and mathematics. 

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The definitive insight into Trump's White House from Bob Woodward. With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump's White House. Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president's first years in office.

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How do we know any more what is true and what isn't? We are living through the greatest communication revolution since Gutenberg in which falsehood regularly seems to overwhelm truth. In Breaking News Alan Rusbridger offers an urgent and agenda-setting examination of the past, present and future of the press, and the forces menacing its freedom.

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From Max Hastings, the best-selling author of All Hell Let Loose comes a masterful chronicle of one of the most devastating international conflicts of the 20th century and how its people were affected. `This is a comprehensive, spellbinding, surprisingly intimate, and altogether magnificent historical narrative.' Tim O'Brien

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A panoramic exploration of peoples, objects and beliefs over 40,000 years from the celebrated author of A History of the World in 100 Objects and Germany, following the new BBC Radio 4 documentary and British Museum exhibition.
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On a July evening in 1985, a man stood on a pavement in the heart of Moscow, holding a plastic carrier bag. The bag was mildly conspicuous, printed with the red logo of Safeway, the British supermarket. The man was a spy for MI6. The Safeway bag was a signal: to activate his escape plan to get out of Soviet Russia. So began one of the most extraordinary episodes in the history of espionage.

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Diarmaid MacCulloch's biography is much the most complete and persuasive life ever written of this elusive figure, a masterclass in historical detective work, making connections not previously seen. MacCulloch's biography for the first time reveals Thomas Cromwell's true place in the making of modern England and Ireland, for good and ill.

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In September 2014 the wreck of a sailing vessel was discovered at the bottom of the sea in the frozen wastes of the Canadian arctic. Its whereabouts had been a mystery for over a century and a half. Its name was HMS Erebus. Now Michael Palin - former Monty Python stalwart and much-loved television globetrotter - brings this extraordinary ship back to life.

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Jenni Murray gives the lie to Thomas Carlyle's infamous declaration that `the history of the world is but the biography of great men.' Women have played just as great a role in the story of humankind, only for their own tales to be marginalised, censored and forgotten. Their names should be shouted from the rooftops.
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The Book of Humans tells the story of how we became the creatures we are today, bestowed with the unique ability to investigate what makes us who we are. Illuminated by the latest scientific discoveries, it is a thrilling compendium of what unequivocally fixes us as animals, and reveals how we are extraordinary among them.
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Welcome to the age of the algorithm, the story of a not-too-distant future where machines rule supreme. So how much should we rely on them? Dr Hannah Fry takes us on a tour of the algorithms that surround us, lifting the lid on their inner workings, demonstrates their power, exposes their limitations, and examines whether they really are an improvement on the humans they are replacing.

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Art, Nature and Travel

In an age increasingly dominated by technology, it’s easy to overlook the impact and importance of art in our everyday lives. In response, writer Neil Gaiman and artist, writer and former Waterstones Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell have teamed up to produce Art Matters. A pocket-sized manifesto for the value of the arts in shaping hearts and minds and changing the world, it makes for defiant, rousing and hopeful reading. 

There’s certainly artistic inspiration to be found in Robin A. Crawford’s beautifully written new book Into the Peatlands: A Journey through the Moorland Year. Told with a keen eye for what makes this landscape so unique - and its continuing importance in sustaining a community - it’s a book that rings with the author’s love for the Outer Hebrides; its wildlife, its folklore and its people. Meanwhile, we defy any reader not to fall a little bit in love with Sally Coulthard’s The Hedgehog Handbook. Packed with facts, quotes and trivia and woven through with stories, verse and folk tales inspired by this shy little prickler, it’s a love-letter to one of Britain’s best-loved creatures.

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Be bold. Be rebellious. Choose art. It matters. A creative call to arms from the mind of Neil Gaiman, combining his extraordinary words with striking illustrations by Chris Riddell. Art Matters will inspire its readers to seize the day in the name of art.
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Robin A. Crawford explores the peatlands over the course of the year. In describing the seasonal processes of cutting, drying, stacking, storing and burning he reveals one of the key rhythms of island life, but his study goes well beyond this to include many other aspects, including the wildlife and folklore associated with these lonely, watery places.
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Fun, sweet and warm hearted, The Hedgehog Handbook is a month by month celebration of one of the countryside's best-loved creatures. Packed with inspirational quotes, entertaining facts, folklore and literary references, it's the perfect gift for anyone with a penchant for prickles.

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Biography

An award-winning historian and travel writer, with more than 40 books under her belt, Jan Morris had never written a diary until - at the age of 91 - she decided to start. In My Mind’s Eye is the superlative result. Like Diana Athill’s Somewhere Towards the End, there are meditations on the close of life here, but Morris is mercurial. Her ability to dart between subjects and themes in this book provides ample food for thought on subjects as diverse as nationalism and her hatred of zoos. As the Evening Standard comments it is ‘a thing of wonder: a diary of daily musings with zero pretension. It is light yet profound, ecstatic yet melancholy, ethereal yet droll.’ It is a must. 

Elsewhere there’s fresh light cast upon the much-mythologised life of the poet Sylvia Plath, as the anticipated second volume of her letters finally appears in print. Covering the years from 1956 to her death in 1963, Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume II illuminates some of the most creatively fertile and privately harrowing years of Plath’s life, including the composition and publication of The Bell Jar and her separation from her husband, the poet Ted Hughes.

Following 2017’s Adventures of a Young Naturalist, David Attenborough’s latest volume of autobiography, Journeys to the Other Side of the World, chronicles his journeys from Madagascar and New Guinea to the Pacific Islands and the Northern Territory of Australia in the 1950’s. Told with warmth, wit and tremendous insight, it’s a chance to see the world through Attenborough’s eyes. 

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Following the success of the original Zoo Quest expeditions, in the late 1950s onwards the young David Attenborough embarked on further travels in a very different part of the world. Written with David Attenborough's characteristic charm, humour and warmth, Journeys to the Other Side of the World is an inimitable adventure among people, places and the wildest of wildlife.

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"I have never before in my life kept a diary of my thoughts, and here at the start of my ninth decade, having for the moment nothing much else to write, I am having a go at it. Good luck to me." So begins this extraordinary book, a collection of diary pieces that Jan Morris wrote for the Financial Times. From cats to cars, travel to home, it's a cornucopia of delights from a unique literary figure
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In this remarkable second volume of the iconic poet and writer’s collected letters, the full range of Plath’s perspective is made visible through her own powerful words. Covering the period including the early years of her marriage to Ted Hughes to the final days leading to her suicide in 1963, these letters - many previously not seen - cast fresh light on Plath's life and work.

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Lifestyle and Culture

Thankfully for anyone feeling blue as the nights draw in, September has plenty of books to make readers crack a smile. Peter Crouch has earned a reputation as the undisputed funnyman of football and it’s a reputation borne out by How to Be a Footballer, a laugh-aloud, irreverent and unmissable guide to life in the beautiful game. Meanwhile, hit podcast presenter Deborah Frances-White brings all the panache and snort-inducing humour of The Guilty Feminist to print with her trademark deadpan views on the trials and tribulations of being a twenty-first century woman.

Ease is the name of the game in cookery, as we present two different takes on simple suppers. First-up, the man behind the Lean in 15 fitness sensation, Joe Wicks, returns with Joe’s 30-Minute Meals, serving 100 quick, nutritious dishes for every day. Then celebrated chef Yotam Ottolenghi gives his take on what makes cooking SIMPLE. There’s no compromise on flavour or invention here, but each of these 140 new recipes have been designed to make cooking at home stress-free and time-effective, and the result is his most accessible cookbook to date.

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You become a footballer because you love football. And then you are a footballer, and you're suddenly in the strangest, most baffling world of all. There will be some very bad music and some very bad decisions. I am Peter Crouch. This is How To Be A Footballer. Shall we?

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A funny, joyful, frank and inspiring book about embracing both feminism and our imperfections, from the creator of the hit comedy podcast, Deborah Frances-White. From inclusion to the secret power of rom-coms, from effective activism to what poker can tell us about gender, Deborah Frances-White explores what it means to be a 21st-century feminist and encourages us to make the world better for all.

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Yotam Ottolenghi's award-winning recipes are always a celebration: an unforgettable combination of abundance, taste and surprise. Ottolenghi SIMPLE is no different, with 140 brand-new dishes that contain all the inventive elements and flavour combinations that Ottolenghi is loved for, but with minimal hassle for maximum joy. Bursting with colour...
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Bestselling author Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, presents this gorgeous book featuring more than a hundred nutritious recipes that are perfect for sharing. Proving once again that you don't need loads of time to cook great food, Joe's 30-Minute Meals is packed with everyday healthy dishes that you'll want to make, time and time again.
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Crime & Thrillers

Readers left on tenterhooks by the finale of Career of Evil will welcome the arrival of the fourth instalment of Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White. Moving from a secret cabal at the heart of Westminster to the depths of the countryside, it’s a mystery that pushes Strike and Ellacott’s working and private relationship to its limit. And there are more welcome series returns too. Ann Cleeves delivers a blistering parting short in her Shetland series finale, Wild Fire, whilst Andrea Camilleri’s short story collection, Death at Sea, brings together previously unpublished tales that have inspired the hit television series, Inspector Montalbano. 

Meanwhile, an old hand gets a new case as Lawrence Osborne wheels Raymond Chandler’s wise-cracking gumshoe Philip Marlowe out of retirement for one last twilight adventure in Only to Sleep. The Times’ Andrew Holgate is persuaded. ‘A convincing Marlowe and a seedily satisfying thriller’, he concludes. ‘I wouldn’t say no to a return.’ It’s a far cry from the table-turning plot of Frederick Forsyth’s new book, The Fox. Imagining what might happen if the power to unseat governments and unleash power lay in the hands of a seventeen-year old boy; it’s a book that proves why Forsyth is still one of the best thriller writers in the game. From a fox to The Piranhas, the latest novel from Gomorrah’s author Roberto Saviano. Delving into the heart of Naples’ gangland culture, The Piranhas is a novel that offers both light and heat, as one gang leader watches as the power he wields spirals dangerously out of control.

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When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to private eye Cormoran Strike's office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant is more fraught than it ever has been - Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business, but their personal relationship is much, much more tricky than that.
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A collection of eight ingenious short stories following Inspector Montalbano's investigations into Sicily's murky underworld, all served with Camilleri's razor-sharp wit, and Montalbano's trademark appetite. Featuring stories adapted for BBC4's Inspector Montalbano, this is the perfect place to start reading Sicily's favourite crime author.
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From award-winning and Sunday Times top five bestseller Ann Cleeves comes the captivating eighth, and final, novel in the Shetland Series featuring DI Jimmy Perez. As Perez is forced to return to the islands for a knotty and unforgiving case, he must also face his own demons and a reckoning that will test him more than he can know, in his most personal case to date.

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Wealthy dead American. Beautiful young widow. This case has PI Philip Marlowe's name written all over it. Is it enough to bring him back for one last adventure? .Set between the border and badlands of Mexico and California, Lawrence Osborne's resurrection of the iconic Marlowe is an unforgettable addition to the Raymond Chandler canon.

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In Naples, a new kind of gang rules the streets. Roberto Saviano's eye-opening novel The Piranhas tells the story of the rise of one such gang and its leader, Nicolas - known to his friends and enemies as the `Maharajah'. But Nicolas's ambitions reach far beyond doing other men's bidding: he wants to be the one giving orders, calling the shots, and ruling the city.
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The master storyteller is back with a classic thriller with a modern edge. The Fox is a race-against-time thriller across continents to find and capture, or protect and save, an asset with the means to change the balance of world power. Whatever happens he must not fall into the wrong hands. Because what follows after that is unthinkable.

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Fiction

The threads of love and time run through the autumn’s fiction line-up. Fast becoming the most talked-about novel of 2018 - and this year’s Man Booker Prize hottest tip - Sally Rooney’s very modern, will-they-won’t-they coming-of-age romance Normal People delivers everything her debut Conversations with Friends surely promised. The Express is unequivocal: ‘Rooney… has undoubtedly delivered one of the best novels of the year’. 

Paris proves an irresistible draw for both Sebastian Faulks and William Boyd as they find stories in the city’s tumultuous past. Echoing the masterpiece wartime sequence he began with Birdsong, Paris Echo returns Faulks returns to his heartland, offering a very different view of Paris from the picture-postcard idyll. Playfully interjecting snippets of the past and strains of Victor Hugo’s epic Les Misérables, it’s a moving, subtle novel about how - as individuals and societies - we learn to make sense of our history. 

In Boyd’s Love is Blind, Paris of La Belle Époque provides the starting point for a story of passion and revenge that’s on a par with his tour-de-force novel Any Human Heart. As the Guardian says, it’s ‘hugely readable, entirely engaging and frequently funny… Boyd is back on a form few of his contemporaries can match.’ The Guardian also comes out in favour of Kate Atkinson’s inventive and thought-provoking new novel Transcription; a spy novel that gives way to a slippery story about the nature of truth and lies. ‘An unapologetic novel of ideas, which is also wise, funny and paced like a spy thriller’, writes the paper’s Stephanie Merritt. ‘It asks us to consider again our recent history and the price of our individual and collective choices. It could hardly be more timely.’

From the past’s echoes, to its lingering ghosts; in particular the presence of an Iron Age bog-girl whose discovery haunts the pages of Sarah Moss’s impressive - and impressively concise - novel Ghost Wall. Following a teenage girl, her mother and her abusive and controlling father on an experimental archaeology trip in the wilds of Northumberland, it’s a novel laced with tension and simmering violence that remains long in the imagination. As the Scotsman says, it’s a novel that delivers ‘a subtle and highly effective mixture of precision and ambiguity’.

Next we’ve two eagerly-anticipated series novels that blend historical fiction with something more supernatural. Carlos Ruiz Zafón first introduced the twisting mystery of his Cemetery of Lost Books series in his global bestseller The Shadow of the Wind. Now, eighteen years on, he returns to bring the final chapter to a close in The Labyrinth of the Spirits. A Chinese-box narrative of stories within stories, it’s a fittingly extraordinary end to an enviously ambitious project. Meanwhile Deborah Harkness returns readers to the much-loved world of her bestselling All Souls series for a brand new story of vampires, witches and daemons, Time's Convert. Coinciding with the debut of the new Sky adaptation of her first novel, A Discovery of Witches, it deserves to earn her a new raft of addicted readers.

There’s more time-slip mystery to discover too in Kate Morton’s sixth novel, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, set in the beguiling riverside manor of Birchwood. Intertwining two stories, separated by 150 years and connected by art, love and loss, it’s a novel to lose yourself in. If Birchwood is a place to give yourself over to dreams, then Oakgate Prison - the stage for Laura Purcell’s latest novel The Corset - is the home of those lost to nightmares. Like her addictively brilliant debut, The Silent Companions, The Corset is a deliciously chill-inducing slice of gothic that asks a reader to tread a line between delirium and devilry.

We end our September selection with a story that’s unlike any other. Four years into the Syrian conflict, a photograph of a 3-year-old boy lying dead on a Turkish beach brought the world to a standstill. It became the defining image of the conflict. The boy’s name was Alan Kurdi. Now Alan Kurdi’s life is celebrated and remembered in Sea Prayer, a new book by the celebrated Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini, with superb illustrations by Dan Williams. Written as a letter from a father to his sleeping son, on the eve of a perilous sea journey into the unknown, Sea Prayer is a hymn to a destroyed country and a life left behind. All the author’s proceeds from Sea Prayer will go to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help fund life-saving relief efforts to help refugees around the world.

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An exquisite love story about how a person can change another person's life - a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel, and it tells us about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege, confirming Sally Rooney as an accomplished observer of our contemporary life.

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A novel that raises urgent questions about empire, grievance and identity, Paris Echo shows readers a different side of Paris. Into this city come two strangers: American postdoctoral researcher Hannah and runaway Moroccan teenager Tariq. Bringing together their two very different lives, Faulks asks how much we really need to know if we are to live a valuable life.

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At once an intimate portrait of one man's life and an expansive exploration of the beginning of the twentieth century, Love is Blind is a masterly new novel from one of Britain's best loved storytellers. A tale of dizzying passion and brutal revenge; of artistic endeavour and the illusions it creates; of all the possibilities that life can offer, and how cruelly they can be snatched away.

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In 1940 Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever. Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past.

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A masterclass, from bestselling author Sarah Hall, in the art of the short, unnerving novel; a story of forbidden borders, haunted landscapes and bodies in danger. A chilling narrative of past secrets, violence and ritual, building to a harrowing climax.

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Told by multiple voices across time, Kate Morton's The Clockmaker's Daughter is a story of murder, mystery and thievery, of art, love and loss. And flowing through its pages like a river, is the voice of a woman who stands outside time, whose name has been forgotten by history, but who has watched it all unfold: Birdie Bell, the clockmaker's daughter.
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A new Victorian chiller from the author of The Silent Companions. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder. The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations - bitterness and betrayal, death and dresses - will shake Dorothea's belief in rationality, and the power of redemption. Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

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From the Sunday Times Number One bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches, soon to be a major Sky TV series, a novel about what it takes to become a vampire. Set in contemporary Paris and London, and the American colonies during the upheaval and unrest that exploded into the Revolutionary War, Time's Convert is a sweeping story that braids together the past and present.

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A heart-wrenching story from the international bestselling author of The Kite Runner, brought to life by Dan Williams's beautiful illustrations. On a moonlit beach a father cradles his sleeping son as they wait for dawn to break and a boat to arrive...
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