The doyenne of correct punctuation writes a belting mystery

Brighton shots

A Shot In The Dark by Lynne Truss (Raven Books, £12.99; ebook £10.99) ****

LYNNE Truss wrote the best-selling punctuation guide Eats, Shoots and Leaves and is a prolific writer of fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, newspaper columns and radio dramas. A Shot In The Dark is based on Truss' Radio 4 comedy thriller, The Casebook Of Inspector Steine. Super-keen new boy Constable Twitten is sent to keep an eye on AS Crystal, a vitriolic theatre critic and Twitten ends up with a murder on his hands. Steine's deputy, the long-suffering Sergeant Brunswick, is soon pounding the streets of Brighton looking for suspects among the cast of colourful characters. Inspector Steine is a bit blinkered when it comes to crime and is not as clever as he thinks he is, while Mrs Groynes, the police station charlady who keeps everyone supplied with tea and cakes, is much cleverer than she appears. Set in 1950s Brighton, A Shot In The Dark is an intricately plotted murder mystery that's darkly humorous and beautifully written.

Sue Barraclough

You Were Made For This by Michelle Sacks ( HQ, £12.99; ebook £7.99) ****

MICHELLE Sacks found her story in the "almost impossibly idyllic" Swedish countryside. She drops Merry and Sam into this limpid pool: lovely picture-book house, perfect marriage, new young son. But shadows fill those clear depths: Why did they have to leave the US? Just what had Sam been up to with female students? And, crucially, does Merry truly love her new baby? Sacks then triangulates the emotional geometry when Frank arrives on holiday. She may be Merry's oldest girlfriend but their friendship rests on rotten pillars. Short, sparse chapters are devoted to each character, and the overlapping voices create a domestic thriller in which dreams unravel into nightmares. The staccato prose takes a while to settle, but once it does, the narrative impetus never slackens and events tumble towards a tragic resolution.

Julian Cole

The Restless Sea by Vanessa de Haan (Harper Collins, £14.99) ****

A WARTIME novel that is sure to stir compassion and passion, anger and affection and respect and admiration. Britain in the Second World War is not a particularly pleasant place to be as blitz child Jack, cosseted upper-class socialite Olivia and dashing Fleet Air Arm pilot Charlie find to their cost. But as their paths cross and re-cross you are given a true feeling of the very personal cost they must pay if they are to survive. Olivia is liberated by joining the Wrens; Charlie truly earns his wings and more in battle, while Jack’s Russian convoy service reveals both his courage and vulnerability. You can cry, laugh and rage within as their relationships progress and war takes an increasing toll on their growing affection for each other. After just a few pages, you are drawn into their lives and you have no wish to escape.

Steve Craggs

Ironopolis by Glen James Brown (Parthian Books £8.99) ***

THIS story of life on the run-down Burn council state on the outskirts of Ironopolis, aka Middlesbrough, is as tough and brutal as an unexpected punch in the face could be. This is an urban jungle which is short on hope and long on the dangers of deprivation, and Durham-born Glen’s characters reflect the anarchic and disturbing lifestyles of the likes of Corina, whose gambling addiction costs much more than money; of Alan, a victim of a terrifying who casts a savage shadow, and of the disturbing Peg Powler, a stalker with an insatiable appetite. You may have to steel yourself to carry on, but it's worth the journey.

Steve Craggs

History of the moth takes flight


Moth: An Evolution Story by Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egneus (Bloomsbury Children's Books, £12.99) *****

AS the opening of the book says: "This is a story of light and dark. Of change and adaptation, of survival and hope." It tells the story of how the peppered moth, with its speckled wings, evolves. The story starts with moths living in a rural setting with flying predators to avoid, saved by their camouflage, until factories begin to change the world by belching smoke and bringing dark pollution, and the very characteristics that protected the moths now make them vulnerable. Slowly the darker moths survive and their children and grandchildren become better and better protected. The bold graphics illustrate the story perfectly, and it ends with readers being urged to spot moths in the wild and engages them in a little more formal history of the moth. Perfect for nature-lovers to learn, without realising they are learning.

Bridie Pritchard


I Will Be Complete: A Memoir by Glen David Gold (Sceptre, £20; ebook £9.99) ***

GLEN David Gold's memoir I Will Be Complete reveals the author's fractured childhood in hippy-era California and his struggle to become a writer. Born into luxury in Southern California, divorce plunges him into the heart of the hippy scene in San Francisco and leads to him living by himself aged 12 - as he narrates, his mother abandons him as she heads to New York to help the latest in string of feckless boyfriends. His fractious relationship with his mother and her problems dominate the hefty first memoir by the author of Carter Beats The Devil and Sunnyside, which chronicles his time at school for gifted children and boarding in the desert, before turning to university and his series of relationships as he attempts to launch his writing career. A wry wit permeates the work which is imbued with the melancholy of a search for home and 'completeness'.

Laura Paterson



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