Ensuring you’ve packed the right holiday reading material is just as vital to a successful break as powerful air-conditioning, ample sun bed choice and a stunning mosquito spray

 

Fiction

The Force

by Don Winslow.
HarperCollins, £8.99

If you like your police dramas with the grit left in, The Force has enough to de-ice the M25. We’re in New York, where to avoid separate drug, gun and gang units bumping into each other, a special team – The Force – has been set up. Detective Denny Malone leads operations on the streets, except he’s also shot a drug kingpin, nicked his millions and has the stolen coke stashed away as a pension. How might this unusual policing strategy play out, officer?

Since We Fell

by Dennis Lehane. Abacus, £8.99

“On a Tuesday in May in her 37th year, Rachel shot her husband dead” – and that’s just the first sentence. Case closed, right? Wrong. Lehane takes his sweet time getting to the details of the shooting, preferring to tell us about Rachel, her awful mother, a search for her father that involves a private detective, and then a meltdown on TV as a reporter. Stuck at home with agoraphobia, the detective pops up again – where’s this husband going to come from? And why on earth is she going to kill him?

The Party

By Elizabeth Day. 4th Estate, £8.99

“Are you invited?” asks the cover, although you can probably guess the answer, given that it is a wealthy aristo sending out the save-the-dates. Everyone is welcome to gawp at these dreadful people though, as they inch toward revealing just what has happened at the country house champagne-a-thon to cause a lifelong friend of the host to be helping the police with their enquiries. Is it because the posh folk have decided he’s not one of their own?

Sunburn

by Laura Lippman, Faber £7.99

Polly is on holiday with her husband and small daughter. One morning, she’s feeling the sun a bit, so grabs her bag and heads off, and that’s the end of that marriage. Polly – if that’s who she really is – is a bit of a wild one, and finds herself a job as a waitress in a dead-end town, where she meets a guy who’s not who he says he is either. When two people who are so casual with the truth collide in a book, you know lots of crime and wild sex aren’t far behind.

The Woman in the Window

by AJ Finn. HarperCollins, £12.99

When Harlem agorophobe Dr Anna Fox, who spends her time closely observing/spying on her neighbours, hears a spectacular scream and witnesses a murder taking place in their house, the police aren’t having any of it. She’s been mixing her alcohols with her meds and she’s a chronic depressive – stop wasting the police department’s time, lady! Perhaps I really did imagine it, thinks Dr Anna. Hmm…

The Favourite Sister

by Jessica Knoll. Macmillan, £12.99

Goal Diggers is a fictional reality show that traipses around New York behind five enormously successful women, including the fanatically competitive Courtney sisters. Outwardly, they are air-kissingly supportive of each other, but the show also demands they compete for their story lines to continue, and so they work diligently on their back-stabbing too. Indeed, so focussed are they that one of them has been killed. Ratings bonanza!


Non-Fiction

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

by Michelle McNamara.
Faber, £12.99

The late crime journalist Michelle McNamara became obsessed with a series of violent sexual assaults and murders committed in California in the 70s and 80s and which were never solved. Returning to the evidence and witnesses three decades later, and leaving no detail unexamined, she was able to crack the case that led to the arrest of the so-called Golden State Killer. Heartbreakingly, she was no longer around to see her efforts vindicated.

Ma’am Darling

by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, £7.99

A biography of Princess Margaret “in 99 glimpses”, this is the latest addition to a growing body of work that reveals the royal family as one of the strangest groups of people our planet has yet to produce. The glimpses show her among family, among the great artists and bohemians of the day, performing her “royal duties”, such as opening something, and being waited upon – almost all of which she handles with a brand of rudeness entirely her own.

The Trauma Cleaner

by Jennifer Krasnostein. Text, £12.99

Trauma cleaning is a specialised niche in the home improvement world, one that requires dealing with the damage caused to buildings by decomposing bodies, the effects of hoarding, years of neglect and so on. Even more powerful than the chemicals though, are the warmth and compassion that the cleaner – Sandra Pankhurst – has for the damaged individuals still resident, while her own story is as compelling a biography as you’ll hear all year.

Factfulness

Hans Rosling. Sceptre, £12.99

How can you ignore a book that starts off with the author’s description of how he taught himself sword swallowing? And follows it up with a clear demonstration of how our knowledge of global trends is spectacularly wrong? Rosling, a globe-trotting international health professor who died last year, cheerfully mixes field experience with clever data to show how the world is in much better shape than its seven billion pessimists generally believe.

Leonardo da Vinci

Walter Isaacson.
Simon & Schuster, £30

This is so hefty you might find your hand baggage getting put in the hold, but if you’re ready for a pacy bio of one of history’s biggest brains, it’s worth the inconvenience. For one whose legacy is so vast, the flamboyant Da Vinci was a terrible procrastinator, leaving countless projects unfinished because his attention had been caught by the next shiny idea. A very likeable book about a very likeable person.

The Language of Kindness

by Christie Watson.
Chatto & Windus £14.99

Given that every other programme on the television most days is set in a hospital, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s little anyone could add to your knowledge of the subject. Yet Christie Watson’s account of what is demanded of nurses and what they provide in return is so intense and moving it will moisten even the most drought-stricken of tear ducts.