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The Best Paperback Fiction This Autumn

Posted on 4th October 2019 by Mark Skinner

As we move from beach reads to fireside comforts, we profile the finest fictional offerings autumn has to offer. From immersive historical mysteries to intricately crafted science fiction, and from blackly comic thrillers to treats in translation, this is our pick of the novels to snuggle up with over the coming months.

Fiction

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Following The Essex Serpent was always going to be a tall order but Sarah Perry succeeds gloriously with this bold and eerie recasting of Charles Maturin's gothic classic, Melmoth the Wanderer. As a silent, lonely figure with bleeding feet stalks the guilty and conscience-racked, Melmoth provides a chilling portrait of life poised between absolution and the darkness that calls.
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Strikingly evoking the heartland of seventeenth-century industrial Lancashire, Stacey Halls’ accomplished debut is a haunting novel of two women struggling to fight against the expectation and superstition of their age.
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The epic new novel from Haruki Murakami, the internationally acclaimed and best-selling author of 1Q84. A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art - as well as a loving homage to The Great Gatsby - Killing Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers.
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Told in staccato bursts and combining expertly researched real events with precisely imagined detail, Vuillard’s Prix Goncourt-winning novel provides a unique and disconcerting perspective on Germany’s grim descent into war.
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A Kafka-esque allegory from the masterful McEwan which speaks urgently to the current febrile political climate, The Cockroach details an anthropomorphic metamorphosis which threatens the very fabric of democracy. Scabrously funny and bitingly satirical, this superlative novella will endure as long as its eponymous insect.
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The brooding, pervasive aura of the Suffolk fens permeates every nook and cranny of Michelle Paver’s grippingly gothic historic tale of madness, witchcraft and family enmity. Paver proves herself adept in drawing out both the enthralling beauty and the dangerous potential of an uncanny landscape, using it to tease out the fear and malevolence in the lives of those it touches.
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A classic of Black literature and an uncompromising mirror held up to the twentieth-century African American experience, Gayl Jones’ blistering novel centres on blues singer Ursa and the demons of both her past and present. Written in starkly realistic prose, this rediscovered masterpiece is pivotal to any understanding of race and gender in modern society.
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Aching with adolescent longing and the sensuous tang of desire, Philippe Besson’s award-winning novel is one of the year’s most talked about works of fiction. Exquisitely translated by the actor and writer Molly Ringwald, Lie With Me will linger in the memory for years to come.
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From the author of the wonderfully escapist Seven Sisters saga comes a tale of lost love and explosive secrets. Forced to sell her beloved but crumbling country pile, the septuagenarian Posy Montague is unexpectedly reunited with a long lost lover who cruelly rejected her. But exactly what are Freddie’s motives and what dark secrets does he have to hide?
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The eagerly awaited sequel to The Triumph of the Sun, this sweeping historical saga is rich in exactly the kind of vivid geographical description and period detail that Wilbur Smith excels in. Teeming with memorable characterisation, dramatic plotting and exotic wildlife, King of Kings is another sure-fire winner from a master storyteller.
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Deftly written and nimbly translated, Kawaguchi’s life-affirming tale of café-based time travel and symbolic hot beverages has all the hallmarks of a beloved cult classic.
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Past and present collide in Harriet Evan’s intriguing new novel, which moves between narratives set at either end of the twentieth century. There’s much pleasure to be had in the contrasts between lives connected by a home and family history, but divided by the passage of time. There are secrets lurking every corner of this well-told story of love, obsession and the consequences of transgression.
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Full of warmth, compassion and generosity of spirit, The Number One Chinese Restaurant is a bittersweet investigation of family life and how tension and frustration can simmer when your siblings are also your business colleagues. Poignant without being trite and rich in wit and wisdom, Li’s heart-warming novel is a mouth-watering literary feast.
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Destined to become one of the great novels about The Great War, Mason’s delicate, thoughtful book is every bit the equal of his classic The Piano Tuner. A story of love, loyalty and atonement played out in Vienna and the Eastern Front, The Winter Soldier is hauntingly beautiful piece of work.
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A father steps out into the night to search for his son. As the hours turn into days, this man will learn many things. He will learn about sacrifice and the nature of love - and he will be forced to act. Claire Adam's electrifying first novel reckons with the secrets of the human heart.
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Crime and Thrillers

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Not just an inventive take on the serial-murder thriller, Braithwaite's blistering debut is also a tender examination of sibling relationships in an oppressively patriarchal society and a story that turns the tables on the woman-as-victim trope.
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Bringing all of the appeal of an Agatha Christie-style house-party whodunit to a thoroughly modern thriller, Lucy Foley’s impressive thriller casts her readers to the lonely outreaches of the Scottish wilderness. There’s a sharp cleverness to the way Foley explores the long-held grudges of a close-knit cohort, drawing out – with real menace – the poison that lies within.
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This brilliant Swedish debut - impressively translated by Ebba Segerberg - transports some of the atmosphere of Nordic Noir to 18th-century Stockholm as a wounded veteran and a consumptive lawyer pair up on the trail of a monstrous murderer. From well-rounded characters to viscerally intense atmosphere, there’s much to admire in this gritty, filth-caked and gloriously gory thriller.
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Vividly imagining 16th-century England, Sansom’s peerless Shardlake series continues with a captivating mystery that threatens not only court and country, but those Matthew himself holds most dear. Another magnificent addition to one of the most accomplished crime series’ out there.
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The last novel from author Philip Kerr, who sadly died in 2018, Metropolis is a fitting swansong for his iconic anti-hero Bernie Gunther, taking the detective back to his origins. Set in the dying hours of the Weimar Republic, this is Gunther amidst the bubbling underbelly of Babylon Berlin, pitted against a force determined to cleanse the city whilst Hitler’s ascendancy waits in the wings.
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A new direction for author Tana French that’s already got reviewers abuzz - Stephen King calls is an ‘extraordinary… meditation on luck - the good, the bad and the extremely ugly’ - The Wych Elm is a standalone treat that’s full of the unexpected. Following one man’s descent from breezy, untroubled ease to the midst of paranoid mystery, it’s an inventive thriller that grips to the final page.
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An erotic and daring story - with electrically clear writing - this masterclass in wire-taut literary terror from the author of the chilling Lullaby will captivate readers with its exploration of addiction, sexuality, and one woman's quest to feel alive.
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Adele Parks’ latest offering puts a seemingly perfect marriage under the spotlight as relationships implode and secrets are dragged screaming into the light. Perfectly paced and scarily credible, Lies Lies Lies cements Adele Parks’ reputation as a thriller writer without peer.
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Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

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Katherine Arden’s hugely popular fantasy series reaches its third and final instalment. Continuing the winning blend of folk and fairy tale influences with a refreshing depiction of female independence, Arden moves her story from political intrigue of Moscow in revolt to the magical dominion of Baba Yaga’s Midnight, drawing her story to a richly satisfying conclusion.
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Masterly space opera from the author of the bestselling Mistborn series, Skyward pits a tenacious young would-be pilot with a point to prove against the might of the Krell, a sinister alien race intent on conquest. Impeccable world-building and nuanced characterisation mark Sanderson’s latest out as truly interstellar storytelling.
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Displaying as sure a touch with the fantasy genre as she does in her masterly science fiction, Anne Leckie crafts a mesmerising world of regal hubris, bold usurpers and courtly intrigue. The first part of a major new fantasy series, The Raven Tower is quite superbly realised.
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The troubled odyssey of a wandering outlaw beneath a bloated and diseased sun forms the basis of this expertly crafted science fiction epic from the author of the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning Children of Time. Intense, lyrical and profound, Cage of Souls commands attention from first page to last.
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The latest entry in the intoxicating Alex Verus series highlights Jacka’s command of his magical urban setting. An enchanting version of London plays host to a thrilling saga of life mages, Light Councils and livewire prose.
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Winter solstice brings mist and madness to a close-knit community in this crepuscular tale of the uncanny. As murky and darkly beguiling as the shrouds of fog it describes, Soon is a stunningly realised chiller that bears comparison with the genre’s established greats.
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Taking his cue from Bram Stoker’s own notes, Dacre Stoker spins a web of gothic intrigue and monstrous terror as the fictionalised creator of Dracula faces an unimaginable horror of his own. Both a fascinating account of Bram Stoker’s early life and a heart-stoppingly terrifying tale of the uncanny, Dracul is one of the horror novels of the year.
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