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The reason for the move is that I am a pensioner on a very low income and as I make no money from Books Monthly, paying for it to be hosted by (who have been absolutely brilliant, I should add) has come out of my own pocket for the last twenty years and I can no longer afford it, so the equally nice people at have kindly given me free webspace and hosting for Books Monthly so I can continue to review the very best books... The new site is already up and running with a few more new titles than here - feel free to take a look and please do let me know what you think. And bookmark the wordpress site, because from the very next issue, 1st December 2018, that's where you'll find the Books Monthly book blog! Thanks, you've been absolutely brilliant!


Books Monthly is moving to

You can find the full version of this month's issue at the above address, and this will be the last time you'll find it here at this address... see you there guys!

Welcome to the November 2018 Blog from Books Monthly - time to start thinking about book gifts for Christmas, with a stunning Lord of the Rings book from Harper Collins and a beautiful reminder of the girls and women who've appeared with the thirteen doctors from BBC Books... Do please let me know what you think by email at

John Howe: A Middle-Earth Traveller

  Published by Harper Collins 4th October 2018

Let acclaimed Tolkien artist John Howe take you on an unforgettable journey across Middle-earth, from Bag End to Mordor, in this richly illustrated sketchbook fully of previously unseen artwork, anecdotes and meditations on Middle-earth. Middle-earth has been mapped, Bilbo’s and Frodo’s journeys plotted and measured, but it remains a wilderland for all that. The roads as yet untravelled far outnumber those down which J.R.R. Tolkien led us in his writings. A Middle-earth Traveller presents a walking tour of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, visiting not only places central to his stories, but also those just over the hill or beyond the horizon. Events from Tolkien’s books are explored – battles of the different ages that are almost legend by the time of The Lord of the Rings; lost kingdoms and ancient myths, as well as those places only hinted at: kingdoms of the far North and lands beyond the seas. Sketches that have an ‘on-the-spot’ feel to them are interwoven with the artist’s observations gleaned from Tolkien’s books as he paints pictures with his words as well as his pencil. He also recollects his time spent working alongside Peter Jackson on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies. Combining concept work produced for films, existing Middle-earth art and dozens of new paintings and sketches exclusive to this book, A Middle-earth Traveller will take the reader on a unique and unforgettable journey across Tolkien’s magical landscape.

In case anyone might have forgotten that the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies is the greatest ever cinematic achievement (so far), this beautiful collection of sketches and paintings by the best ever Middle Earth artist, John Howe, is a timely and suitable reminder. You will be in awe of the sheer brilliance of the illustrations contained in this superb book from Tolkien publisher Harper Collins, as Howe transports you through the delights, the horrors, and the characters contained in the three volumes of the Lord of the Rings, which remains the greatest of all fantasy adventure stories. The three Hobbit movies were celebrated by Harper Collins in stunning style with six landscape volumes containing an amazing wealth of material, including sketches by, among others, John Howe and Alan Lee. The three Lord of the Rings movies were not, and this is the publisher's attempt to redress the balance - it works in spectacular style. This is a sumptuous celebration of the artist's craft and the amazing subject matter contained in Middle Earth - it is a gift book, but it is a book also that has to be read as you allow the master artist to guide you through Middle Earth. Absolutely fantastic!

Christel Dee & Simon Guerrier: The Women Who Lived

 Published by BBC Books 27th September 2018

Meet the women who run the Whoniverse. From Sarah Jane Smith to Bill Potts, from Susan Foreman to the Thirteenth Doctor, women are the beating heart of Doctor Who. Whether they’re facing down Daleks or thwarting a Nestene invasion, these women don’t hang around waiting to be rescued – they roll their sleeves up and get stuck in. Scientists and soldiers, queens and canteen workers, they don’t let anything hold them back. Featuring historical women such as Agatha Christie and Queen Victoria alongside fan favourites like Rose Tyler and Missy, The Women Who Lived tells the stories of women throughout space and time. Beautifully illustrated by a team of all-female artists, this collection of inspirational tales celebrates the power of women to change the universe.

Jodie Whitaker has made millions of people want to watch Dr Who again - me and my family among them. The last time I watched the series regularly was when Tom Baker was playing the doctor. I saw a few of the David Tennant episodes, but the series had gone off the boil for me. It has taken a female doctor to regenerate my interest. I was always interested in the doctor's female companions, of course, my all-time favourite being the wonderful Sarah Jane Smith played by the fantastic actress Elizabeth Sladen, now, sadly, no longer with us. She would have loved the concept of a female doctor. This celebration of the females in the "whoniverse" is all paintings, not photos from the show. I have to say that one artist in particular, Sophie Cowdrey, stands out as the most spectacularly outstanding of all of the various artists that contributed to this volume, while a fair few would be described, by me, as primitive and not that impressive. For the most part, the paintings look like who they're meant to be. Personally, I would have preferred Sophie to do the lot! Having said that, this is a brilliant concept and a handsome companion to the new series.

David Solomons: Doctor Who - The Secret in Vault 13

 Published by Puffin Books 1st November 2018

sinister school where graduation means death . . . A monstrous mystery lurking below a quiet London street . . . A desperate plea for help delivered by . . . hang on. A potted plant? The Doctor has been summoned. The galaxy is in terrible danger, and only a Time Lord can save it. But to do so, she must break in to an ancient vault on a remote and frozen world - from which nobody has ever returned alive . . . Can the Doctor and her friends Yaz, Ryan and Graham uncover the shocking secret in Vault 13? A thrilling, hilarious and scary adventure for the Thirteenth Doctor, as portrayed by Jodie Whittaker. Perfect for younger readers, this will be a must-have for fans, and an ideal introduction to Doctor Who and the brilliant new series airing in autumn 2018.

David Solomons has certainly managed to capture the essence of the character of the new Doctor in this hilarious Red Dwarf-style adventure, crammed with humour and edge of seat terror as the Doctor and her companions investigate a terrifying threat to not just the galaxy but to the whole of existence. This book is aimed at 7+ year olds, but I devoured it in a couple of sittings (I'm 72) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. If this is the standard of the new era of Dr Who novels, then I'm suitably impressed and can't wait for the next one! Superbly funny and engaging!

Marvel Studios Visual Dictionary

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 13th September 2018

Join Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, and the Guardians of the Galaxy on a stunning journey through the Marvel Cinematic Universe! DK is bringing its expertise in creating beautiful illustrated non-fiction to this modern pop culture phenomenon; Marvel Studios: The Visual Dictionaryshows the world of the Avengers as it has never been seen before. Iron Man's armour, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s helicarriers, the soaring towers of Asgard, Hawkeye's bow, Thor's hammer, mighty Thanos and the Infinity Stones, Star-Lord's quad blasters - each subject is shown using beautiful movie stills and stunning prop photography, accompanied by engaging text explaining their key features and role in the Marvel saga. A unique and captivating showcase of the first ten years of Marvel Studios, this is the book that every Marvel movie fan has been waiting for!

I never paid much attention to the world of Marvel movies until I caught some of Iron Man. I'm a huge fan of Robert Downey Jr, but I wasn't terribly impressed with the Thor series of movies, or Dr Strange... Then came Guardians of the Galaxy, parts 1 and 2, which blew me away, and after that came Avengers Infinity War, and that was it, I was hooked. I didn't know the backgrounds to hardly any of these marvellous characters, and so I welcomed with open arms this superb guide from DK to the worlds of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There isn't enough material on the Guardians of the Galaxy for my liking, they look almost like they were added as an afterthought, after huge entries for Iron Man and Thor, for example, but what there is is great, and it's something that can be addressed in a second edition, maybe. If you follow Guardians and the Avengers, this book is a gigantic, hugely enjoyable treat! 

Justice League The ultimate Guide

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 27th December 2017

Enter the world of the Justice League(TM) and discover the heroes, villains, and adventures. This comprehensive guide celebrates the exciting world of the iconic Justice League Super Heroes, a roster that includes SUPERMAN(TM), BATMAN(TM), WONDER WOMAN(TM), GREEN LANTERN(TM), THE FLASH(TM), AQUAMAN(TM), and CYBORG(TM). A must-have for fans, this book showcases major in-world events in the Justice League's pulsating story, spanning nearly 60 years of comic book history, and is packed with info on the team's allies, enemies, bases, origins, and more. Includes artwork from the first Justice League comic book in March 1960 to the crucial Rebirth issues and beyond. The stunning design contains lots of in-world information, including in-depth profiles of characters, key comic book issues, and special features on the Justice League's greatest adventures.

There were once only two players in the superhero comics market, DC and Marvel. My childhood was filled with DC comics, I don't remember seeing a Marvel comic until I was grown up and they started publishing the adventures of Conan the Barbarian. This magnificent book about the JLA was published a year ago but has just found its way to me and is a strong contender for going on your christmas gift list of books. DK is the only publisher that could bring off this kind of publication, the illustrations are simply mind-blowing and literally out of this world, and the text will grab you as soon as you open the book. Outstanding!

Flora - Inside the Secret World of Plants

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 4th October 2018

Discover the extraordinary diversity of the plant world - and how plants work - with this photographic celebration of the trees, flowers, and foliage plants that share our planet. From tiny mosses and delicate ferns to vibrant blooms and stately palms, Flora invites you to explore the plant kingdom from the ground up, and from root to leaf tip. DK's elegant introduction to botany is packed with sumptuous photos and crystal-clear artworks that explain the mechanics of photosynthesis, why leaves change colour, how cacti store water, and how seeds know when to grow. Filled with fascinating stories of how plant roots and leaves communicate with their neighbours and how flowers use colour and scent to interact with - and manipulate - the creatures around them, Flora is a fresh and engaging introduction to the mysterious inner workings of the plant world.

Biology was never terribly interesting when I was in my first year at grammar school back in 1957, and it was the first subject I dropped at the end of year one. I wasn't interested in flowers and plants, really, the only plant I actually remember from my childhood is one my Mum planted in the back garden - Golden Rod. Now I look out for wildflowers every time I take my dog for a walk, marvelling at their beauty and complexity, and when we're walking in the woods, I am in awe at the structure and he majesty of the huge variety of trees... This stupendous new book on every aspect of flora from DK is so unusual, no novel, it is breathtaking in its beauty. 

Stephen King: Elevation

 Published by Hodder & Stoughton 31st October 2018

Castle Rock is a small town, where word gets around quickly. That's why Scott Carey wants to confide only in his friend Doctor Bob Ellis about his strange condition: he's losing weight, without getting thinner, and the scales register the same when he is in his clothes or out of them, however heavy they are. Scott also has new neighbours, who have opened a 'fine dining experience' in town, although it's an experience being shunned by the locals; Deidre McComb and her wife Missy Donaldson don't exactly fit in with the community's expectations. And now Scott seems trapped in a feud with the couple over their dogs dropping their business on his lawn. Missy may be friendly, but Deidre is cold as ice. As the town prepares for its annual Thanksgiving 12k run, Scott starts to understand the prejudices his neighbours face and he tries to help. Unlikely alliances form and the mystery of Scott's affliction brings out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others. From master storyteller Stephen King, our 'most precious renewable resource, like Shakespeare in the malleability of his work' (Guardian), comes this timely, upbeat tale about finding common ground despite deep-rooted differences. Compelling and eerie, Elevation is as gloriously joyful (with a twinge of deep sadness) as 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

This is the third Stephen King book this year. We have never been so spoiled! Elevation is a novella, a read-in-one-sitting job that will raise your spirits and leave you feeling thoroughly uplifted. It's a fairy tale, of course - nothing in Stephen King's universe is ever just simply real, but it's a brief snapshot of American small town culture and attitudes, it's a triumph of tolerance over intolerance, and to make it better, there isn't an explanation for what happened to Scott Carey. Stephen King has tackled the subject of weight loss before, the creepy horror story THINNER, but Elevation is different. There's sadness, but there is redemption and resolution as well. Quirky, but then that's what we love about the King!

Sophie Plowden: Jack Dash and the Great Custard Cake-Off

 Published by Catnip September 2018

If you had a magic quill pen that made drawings real what would you draw? Jack s mum is taking part in the local Cake-Off Competition and is now battling against the unbeaten champion, Dr Spleen. But something smells burnt . . . Of course Jack and Coco can t keep away from trouble, causing more chaos than they would have ever expected. And yes, this book also features a herd of hairy yaks . . .

I believe the idea of drawings coming to life has been tackled before, but that doesn't matter a bit. This is an hilarious adventure centering on custard, that simply cannot be a bad thing! Hugely funny and totally enjoyable farce. Kids of all ages will love it!




Amy Ratcliffe: Star Wars Women of the Galaxy

 Published by Chronicle Books 30th October 2018

They are heroes and villains, Sith and Jedi, senators and scoundrels, mothers, mercenaries, artists, pilots. . . . The women of the Star Wars galaxy drive its stories and saga forward at every level. This beautifully illustrated, fully authorized book profiles 75 fascinating female characters from across films, fiction, comics, animation, and games. Featuring Leia Organa, Rey, Ahsoka Tano, Iden Versio, Jyn Erso, Rose Tico, Maz Kanata, and many more, each character is explored through key story beats, fresh insights, and behind-the-scenes details by author Amy Ratcliffe. Also showcasing more than 100 all-new illustrations by a dynamic range of female and non-binary artists, here is an inspiring celebration of the characters that help create a galaxy far, far away.

This is another book celebrating female characters in science fiction (and demonstrating the real power of women in a positive and enjoyable way) but once again, I have to say that I was a little disappointed by some of the drawings (paintings, as they're all in colour, as with the Dr Who book, above). I'm not a fan of primitive illustrations, if someone is going to paint a character from one of my favourite SF series, I want to be able to recognise that character. A proportion of the illustrations are reasonably like the people they are supposed to be portraying, but another, larger proportion are not. I think that on both occasions, with the Dr Who book and the Star Wars book, the publishers/editors would have been better served using stills from the films/TV series.

Lara Starr: Star Wars Cookbook - Han Sandwiches and Other Galactic Snacks

 Published by Chronicle Books 25th September 2018

Take your sandwich game to the next level with Star Wars–shaped sandwich cutters! From sandwiches to sides and desserts, these easy-to-make, irresistible recipes feature iconic scenes from across the saga. Photographs featuring Star Wars figurines re-creating epic moments from the films provide an extra helping of humor.


This edition of this best-selling Star Wars book comes complete with two cookie cutters - the Millennium Falcon and a Wookie! Excellent stuff, just right for getting children interested in baking whilst at the same time celebrating the majesty of Star Wars.

Gerald Seymour: Battle Sight Zero

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 10th January 2019

The Kalashnikov AK47. A weapon with a unique image. A symbol of freedom fighters and terrorists across the globe. Undercover officer Andy Knight has infiltrated an extremist group intent on bringing the rifle to Britain - something MI5 have been struggling for years to prevent. He befriends Zeinab, the young Muslim student from Yorkshire who is at the centre of the plot. All Zeinab needs to do is travel to the impoverished high-rise estates of Marseilles and bring one rifle home on a test run. Then many more will follow - and with them would come killing on an horrendous scale. Zeinab is both passionate and attractive, and though Andy knows that the golden rule of undercover work is not to get emotionally attached to the target, sometimes rules are impossible to follow. Supremely suspenseful, Battle Sight Zero follows Andy and Zeinab to the lethal badlands of the French port city, simultaneously tracking the extraordinary life journey of the blood-soaked weapon they are destined to be handed there.

I'm not a huge fan of thrillers set in the modern world of terrorism and brutality, but I have to say that if I'm going to read about that kind of thing, Gerald Seymour is the one writer I would trust to guide me through its complexities. Spooks without the dryness of Le Carré...

Axel Scheffler etal: Drawing Europe Together

Published by Pan Macmillan 1st November 2018

Are we still 'United in Diversity'? Forty-five artists from across Europe share their powerful illustrations of the European Union's shared past and our unsure future. From Brexit bees to wall-jumping bulls, Drawing Europe Together is a unique collection portraying the European community . . . with or without Britain. This is a passionate and heartfelt exploration of Europe and what it means to many of the people who live and work within its borders. The book brings together forty-five renowned illustrators who, through their drawings and accompanying words, share their vision of Europe in this beautiful and timely collection, with a foreword by the British Book Awards Illustrator of the Year 2018, Axel Scheffler. Inspired by the Drawing (for) Europe exhibition which took place at the Institut Français in London in 2018, Drawing Europe Together showcases the original artwork from the exhibition as well as never-before-seen illustrations from additional leading artists. With contributions from many of the world’s best book illustrators including Quentin Blake, Claude Dubois, Jim Field, Emily Gravett, Judith Kerr, Oliver Jeffers, Sarah McIntyre, Lydia Monks, Thomas Müller and Chris Riddell.

Those of us who voted to remain in the EU will welcome this collection of drawings celebrating the benefits of belonging to such a huge and powerful family, but once again I have to take issue with some of the illustrations being so primitive that they could have been done by three- and four-year-olds. I really don't appreciate modern illustration. especially that aimed at children...

Gerald Seymour: A Damned Serious Business

Published by Hodder & Stoughton 1st November 2018

There is a new cold war raging and its frontline warriors are Russian hackers - gang-members working freelance for the FSB, successor to the KGB. Massive thefts of personal information, electoral interference, catastrophic disruption of commercial and social services, banks, airlines, even whole countries disabled - this is happening now. Nicknamed 'Boot' because of his obsession with the Duke of Wellington and the battle of Waterloo, Edwin Coker is a case officer at the Vauxhall headquarters of MI6. When a young hacker falls into his hands and reveals details of a secret meeting, Boot conceives a daring plan to strike back - not with a computer virus of his own, but with a bomb that will seriously damage the Russian operation, spreading fear and distrust. Now Boot and his little team need a 'deniable' handler to deliver the explosives across the border from Estonia into Russia and bring the hacker back out. They turn to Merc, an ex-soldier fighting in Iraq, a gun-for-hire who knows how to get out of a tight spot. They hope. From the moment Merc sets out to cross the River Narva things do not go to plan and when the hacker's sister becomes involved, his mission turns from tough to near impossible. The scene is set for a classic story of pursuit and evasion and an epic battle for survival.

Another modern thriller from Gerald Seymour, this time centering on information technology and the incredible power it wields and the damage it can inflict when it gets into the wrong hands.

Natasha Carthew: Only The Ocean

Published by Bloomsbury 1st November 2018

Breath-takingly fierce, smart and tender, Only the Ocean is a story of survival, and courage in the midst of darkness that will thrill fans of Patrick Ness and Sarah Crossan. The two girls sat at opposite ends of the boat and Kel dug and stretched the oars into the ocean like her life depended upon it because it did. 'Just so you know,' said Rose, 'everything, and I mean everything, is your fault. 'Kel Crow lives in a dead-end swamp with her deadbeat family and a damaged heart. But she has a plan to escape. It's a one-two-three fortune story that goes: stow away on the ship, kidnap the girl, swap the girl to pay for passage to America and a life-saving operation. But the ocean is an untameable force, and wrecks ships and plans alike . Sweet, raw and uncompromising - this is the story of an unforgettable relationship forged on an epic journey.

An engaging near-future fantasy for children which explores the complexities of relationships between children in a subtle way. A book with a message, and a jolly good story at the same time.

S M Locke: A Stone Called Fred

Published by Matador 28th September 2018

A unique take on a children's fantasy book- the `hero' is a pebble called Fred. Although largely set in the present, the book transports readers to the early twentieth century. Ideal for children 12 years and over. Jack Watt is a teenager, rather given to over-quick conclusions. Finding what looks like an explosive device on his kitchen table one morning, Jack Watt alerts the rest of the house. The device turns out to be a mysterious object which leads him into all sorts of adventures and trouble. Joe, his downstairs neighbour, is more sceptical. Even more so, when "the bomb" is found to be nothing more than a harmless stone one might find on a beach or garden path. Jack knows otherwise, for later that day, he has some weird experiences with the strange visitor he names Fred. When Jack's journalist girlfriend, Fiona McDuff returns from an assignment, she is eventually impressed by the powers of the stone and convinces the others to spy on the Royal Family at a theatrical event, but the evening doesn't go according to plan... Through a turn of mysterious events, Jack and Fred travel in time to the early twentieth century. A Stone Called Fred is an ideal read for children 12 years and over, and fans of fantasy and adventure fiction.

Not sure about the blurb telling me I'm being transported to the early twentieth century from the present - that doesn't really make sense unless the book was written a long, long time ago, and I'm pretty sure it's new...

Brigid Kemmerer: A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Published by Bloomsbury 19th January 2019

Fall in love, break the curse. Break the curse, save the kingdom. Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall, is cursed. Forced to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he can only be freed by love. But at the end of each autumn he is transformed into a beast hell-bent on destruction, and after so many failed attempts, his kingdom and its people are barely holding on. Harper's life has never been easy, but she's learned to be tough enough to survive. She won't let anything hold her back, not her cerebral palsy or her mother's deteriorating health. But when she is sucked into Rhen's world, nothing is as it seems. Powerful forces are standing against Emberfalll ... and it will take more than a broken curse to save it from utter ruin.

This is published in the new year, but it came my way in the summer, and I have to say that it is the very finest work of young adult fantasy I have ever read... If you miss it, you're mad!


Ulf Nilsson: Detective Gordon - A Case for Buffy

Published by Gecko Press 1st August 2018

The final story in this big-hearted series takes on the most important case ever investigated in Detective Gordon's forest - where is Buffy's mother? Gordon faces his old nemesis, the fox, in an investigation that leads to the edges of the forest.

A superb fantasy along the lines of Wind in the Willows, with animals playing the main parts. Totally captivating and beautifully illustrated!

Amy S Foster: The Rift Coda

Published by Harper Collins 18th November 2018

The exciting, action-packed finale to The Rift Uprising trilogy that rivals the thrills and action of The Hunger Games and Red Rising. Ryn Whittaker started an uprising. Now she has to end it. Not long ago, Ryn knew what her future would be – as a Citadel, it was her job to protect her version of Earth among an infinite number of other versions in the vast Multiverse at any cost. But when Ezra Massad arrived on Ryn’s Earth, her life changed in an instant, and he pushed her to start asking why she was turned into a Citadel in the first place. What began as merely an investigation into her origins ended up hurling Ryn, Ezra, and Ryn’s teammate Levi through the Multiverse and headlong into a conspiracy so vast and complex that Ryn can no longer merely be a soldier…she must now be a general. And in becoming a true leader, she must forge alliances with unpredictable species, make impossible decisions, and face deep sacrifices. She must lead not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of troops under her command and in doing so, leave any trace of her childhood behind.

Witches seem to be making a comeback in children's literature - this one's a complete blast!

Darryl Jones ed: Horror Stories - Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson

Published by OUP 25th October 2018

The modern horror story grew and developed across the nineteenth century, embracing categories as diverse as ghost stories, the supernatural and psychological horror, medical and scientific horror, colonial horror, and tales of the uncanny and precognition. This anthology brings together twenty-nine of the greatest horror stories of the period, from 1816 to 1912, from the British, Irish, American, and European traditions. It ranges widely across the sub-genres to encompass authors whose terror-inducing powers remain unsurpassed. The book includes stories by some of the best writers of the century ― Hoffmann, Poe, Balzac, Dickens, Hawthorne, Melville, and Zola ― as well as established genre classics from M. R. James, Arthur Machen, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and others. It includes rare and little-known pieces by writers such as William Maginn, Francis Marion Crawford, W. F. Harvey, and William Hope Hodgson, and shows the important role played by periodicals in popularizing the horror story. Wherever possible, stories are reprinted in their first published form, with background information about their authors and helpful, contextualizing annotation. Darryl Jones's lively introduction discusses horror's literary evolution and its articulation of cultural preoccupations and anxieties. These are stories guaranteed to freeze the blood, revolt the senses, and keep you awake at night: prepare to be terrified!

Another witch tale, this time translated from the original Italian. Great fun!

Mike Hodges: Bait, Grist and Security

Published by Unbound 29th November 2018

In Bait , a slippery PR man, Mark Miles, is unaware he's being manipulated and dangled as bait by an investigative reporter until he s swallowed by a sadistic mind-expanding cult from America. In Grist , the bestselling writer, Maxwell Grist, ruthlessly uses real people as fodder for his crime novels before finding himself living up to his name and becoming grist for his own murder. In Security , an American movie star, unhappy with the film he s working on, refuses to leave his hotel for the studios, while in the corridor outside his luxury suite mayhem and murder take over.

Examines in great detail the latest findings and sets you asking the question: why did they stop Time Team - this is fascinating stuff.



...and before you go, here's a reminder of some of last month's blockbusters that you may want to include on your Christmas list:

Bernard Cornwell: War of the Wolf

  Published by Harper Collins 4th October 2018

At the fortress of the eagles, three kings will fight… Uhtred of Bebbanburg has won back his ancestral home but, threatened from all sides by enemies both old and new, he doesn’t have long to enjoy the victory. In Mercia, rebellion is in the air as King Edward tries to seize control. In Wessex, rival parties scramble to settle on the identity of the next king. And across the country invading Norsemen continue their relentless incursion, ever hungry for land. Uhtred – a legendary warrior, admired and sought as an ally, feared as an adversary – finds himself once again torn between his two heritages: fighting on what he considers the wrong side, cursed by misfortune and tragedy and facing one of his most formidable enemies. Only the most astute cunning, the greatest loyalty and the most spectacular courage can save him. For decades, Uhtred has stood at the intersection between Pagan and Christian, between Saxon and Viking, between the old world he was born into and the new world being forged around him. But as the winds of change gather pace, the pressure on Uhtred as father, as politician and as warrior grows as never before.

This is the eleventh book in Bernard Cornwell's Lost Kingdom series, and in my opinion, it is utterly faultless. The characters have had their life breathed into them by an author whose skills at historical story-telling are second to none. Reading a story like this is equally as good as watching a blockbuster film, only in the comfort of your own sitting room. This is a work of fiction based on fact by a giant of 21st century historical fiction. Pure, savage enjoyment. This is what books were intended for.

Robert Galbraith: Lethal White

 Published by Sphere 18th September 2018

'I seen a kid killed . . . He strangled it, up by the horse.' 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. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts from his office in a panic. Trying to get to the bottom of Billy's story, Strike and Robin Ellacott - once his assistant, now a partner in the agency - set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside. And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike's own life is far from straightforward: his newfound fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. 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 . . . The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, LETHAL WHITE is both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.

This is the fourth of the Cormoran Strike novels, and it is a blockbuster in every sense of the word. It's certainly the longest in the series so far, the interplay between Strike and Robin is exquisitely painful, because every sense of you wants the to be together. The other main interplay, that between Robin and new husband Matthew Cunliffe is supreely enjoyable, and you want their relationship to get more and more strained as time goes on. In the midst of all this, there's a ministerial intrigue going on, and it's set during the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics. There are activists, and mysteries from long ago that seem to have suddenly caused the minister for culture to be blackmailed, and there are a series of superb characters to enjoy. This is a novel from an author at the top of their game, cramed with confidence and a string contender for crime novel of the year, if not the decade. For me, there's just Stuart MacBride standing in the way of that accolade, but it is enormous, and it is enormously enjoyable page by page. My copy arrived a couple of days ago, I shelved my re-read Stuart's Blood Road and I've read about 200 pages of the 650. I was hooked from page one, which carried on immediately after Career of Evil left off, at Robin and Matt's wedding. Superlative writing from a writer who can seemingly do nothing wrong.

Ann Cleeves: Wild Fire

 Published by Pan Macmillan 6th September 2018

Wild Fire is the eighth, and final book, in Ann Cleeves’ bestselling Shetland series – a major BBC One drama starring Douglas Henshall as Jimmy Perez.
Shetland: Welcoming. Wild. Remote. Drawn in by the reputation of the islands, an English family move to the area, eager to give their autistic son a better life. But when a young nanny’s body is found hanging in the barn of their home, rumours of her affair with the husband begin to spread like wild fire. With suspicion raining down on the family, DI Jimmy Perez is called in to investigate, knowing that it will mean the return to the islands of his on-off lover and boss Willow Reeves, who will run the case. Perez is facing the most disturbing investigation of his career. Is he ready for what is to come?

This is the last in Ann's Shetland series, sadly. There is some consolation in the knowledge that the BBC TV series will continue, with the superlative Douglas Henshall playing the part of Jimmy Perez; it's no problem for me that the timelines between the books and the TV series have become blurred - Jimmy's adopted daughter by his murdered wife is just reaching her teens, whilst in the TV series she has left home and gone to uni. Also that TV Jimmy doesn't resemble physically the Jimmy in the books. The fact is that this is one of the finest series of detective fiction written during this century. I'm not going to reveal what happens in the book, just to say that Ann is in scintillating top form and the book is hugely enjoyable and a fitting end to a gripping series.

Lynda La Plante: Murder Mile

 Published by Zaffre 23rd August 2018

Prime Suspect meets Ashes to Ashes as we see Jane Tennison starting out on her police career . . .

The fourth in the Sunday Times bestselling Jane Tennison thrillers, MURDER MILE is set at the height of the 'Winter of Discontent'. Can Jane Tennison uncover a serial killer? 

February, 1979, 'The Winter of Discontent'. Economic chaos has led to widespread strikes across Britain.

Jane Tennison, now a Detective Sergeant, has been posted to Peckham CID, one of London's toughest areas. As the rubbish on the streets begins to pile up, so does the murder count: two bodies in as many days.

There are no suspects and the manner of death is different in each case. The only link between the two victims is the location of the bodies, found within a short distance of each other near Rye Lane in Peckham. Three days later another murder occurs in the same area. Press headlines scream that a serial killer is loose on 'Murder Mile' and that police incompetence is hampering the investigation.

Jane is under immense pressure to catch the killer before they strike again.Working long hours with little sleep, what she uncovers leaves her doubting her own mind.

The fourth young Jane Tennison novel sees Jane growing in confidence but still fighting to make her way in a male-dominated world of police detectives. The plot is typical Lynda La Plante, that is to say that it is a complex and fascinating multiple murder enquiry that is ultimately solved by solid police work especially on the part of young Jane. Lynda's grip on reality never lessens, and the character pool is realistic and believable, with police procedural matters always at their most satisfying and entertaining. The denoument is especially gripping.

Joyce Lankester Brisley: Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories

 Published by Macmillan Children's Books 6th October 2018

The enchanting and classic adventures of a little country girl.

The Milly-Molly-Mandy stories are perfect for reading aloud. They have been loved and shared for over 80 years with their timeless sense of fun and beautiful detail. Milly-Molly-Mandy lives in a tiny village in the heart of the countryside. She is always busy doing things, and whether she is earning money to give a party, minding the village shop, having a picnic or going sledging, you're sure to have fun when Milly-Molly-Mandy's around! The adventures of this lively little girl and her chums little-friend-Susan and Billy Blunt first appeared over eighty years ago and they have been delighting children ever since. 'Simple, satisfying stories' - Shirley Hughes. Joyce Lankester Brisley (1896 - 1978) wrote and drew books from an early age; she had her first fairy story published in a children's paper at the age of thirteen. She studied at art school and, when she was twenty, had pictures hung in the Royal Academy. However, she enjoyed writing and illustrating stories best, and the Milly-Molly-Mandy series deservedly became her most well-loved and famous creation.

When I was at primary school back in 1951-2, we regularly had story time at the end of the school day, and I remember that for a while, the two choices were Rudyard Kipling's Just-so stories, or Milly-Molly-Mandy stories. Much as I liked the Just-so stories, I always put my hand up for Milly-Molly-Mandy stories because I could relate to them more readily - the Indian jungle was remote, far away, more of a fantasy, and at the time I was into things like Just William and Milly-Molly-Mandy. First published in 1928, this year marks the 90th anniversary of M-M-M and Macmillan have released this stunning celebratory edition of the first thirteen stories, lavishly illustrated by the author (whose sister Nina Brisley was the first person to illustrate the Chalet School Stories of Elinor Brent-Dyer). Knowing that I now have to hand the stories that helped to form my childhood and my perennial love of brilliant children's literature has produced an enormously pleasurable feeling. I loved the stories then, read by my favourite teacher, Miss Page, and I'm now loving them all over again.

See you all in December for another selection of great new books for Christmas!


The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its twentieth year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.