Forthcoming and recent releases

(p) paperback (l) hardback/large paperback depending on availability

Each month, we provide our Hotlist of titles. Some are entirely new, others are moving into small paperback format for the first time or being reissued, sometimes after a long time out of print. All are due for publication on various dates that month, or early in the next one. The Hotlist helps local readers to plan and budget for book ordering.


JANUARY 2020

In her latest novel, A Long Petal Of The Sea (l), the much-lauded South American author Isabel Allende draws on the history of Spaniards fleeing to the Americas during and after Spain’s civil war. The central characters are a young, army doctor, Victor Dalmau, and pianist Roser Bruguera, the pregnant widow of Victor’s brother. In 1939, they sail with nearly 2,000 other Spanish Republicans to Chile aboard the SS Winnipeg, a ship chartered by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, to find a new home in the promised ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’. With reluctance, Victor and Roser marry each other through necessity. They endure continual disruption throughout their lives on a continent which is no stranger to political and economic upheaval, and as struggles between freedom and repression sweep the world. They always hope to return to Spain, but the sense of belonging shifts as the years roll by.

Allende herself is no stranger to the theme of exile. Born in Peru, she spent most of her childhood in Chile, from where she was forced to flee upon receiving death threats following the 1973 coup by the dictator General Augusto Pinochet. Her reflections on how this and her moving around on the diplomatic trail affected her as a person and a writer are contained in her 2004 memoir, My Invented Country.

A Long Petal Of The Sea leads off this month’s Hotlist of titles, some entirely new, others moving into small paperback format for the first time or being reissued, sometimes after years out of print. All are due for publication on dates in January, with availability in print this month or in early February. The Hotlist helps readers to plan and budget for book ordering.

To literary scholars, one of the great mysteries in the history of English literature is why Cassandra Austen burned a treasure trove of letters written by her sister, the much loved novelist Jane Austen (1775 – 1817). Gill Hornby’s novel, Miss Austen (l), is based on this puzzle. In 1840, 23 years after Jane’s death, Cassandra returns to the family home and discovers the letters containing secrets that she believes should never be revealed. Should she let the letters colour the memory of her celebrated sister, or protect Jane’s reputation? The novel also skilfully imagines what the sisters’ relationship could have been like.

Now here is something different at the start of a new year and decade, and from a debut author: Djinn Patrol On The Purple Line (l), by Deepa Anappara. Djinns are not real; but if they were, they would only steal children. Jai, 9, is addicted to reality police shows. When a boy at his school goes missing, Jai applies the detective skills he has ‘learned’ from episodes of Police Patrol, enlisting the help of his friends Pari and Faiz, to pick up the missing boy’s trail, even when it leads into dangerous neighbourhoods, and even to the railway station at the end of the Purple Line. But children are still going missing...

Nobel laureate and Booker Prize winner JM Coetzee follows previous works – The Childhood of Jesus, and The Schooldays of Jesus – to complete this trilogy with The Death Of Jesus (l). David is now a tall 10-year-old, great at football. His father, Simon, and Bolivar the dog often watch David play in the local streets until Julio, director of an orphanage, invites David and his friends to form a proper team. Everything changes. David tells Simon and Ines that he is in fact an orphan, and leaves them to live with Julio. They are heartbroken, particularly when they hear that David has a mysterious illness.

Other general fiction titles worth a look include: Big Sky (l), by Kate Atkinson; Diary Of A Somebody (p), by Brian Bilston; Outside Looking In (p), by TC Boyle; The Weight Of A Piano (p), by Chris Cander; Highfire (l), by Ireland’s Eoin Colfer; Shelf Life (p), by Livia Franchini; Nightingale Point (p), by Luan Goldie; Liar (p), by Avelet Gundar-Goshen; The Doll Factory (p), by Elizabeth Macneal; It Started With A Secret (l), by Jill Mansell; The 24-Hour Café (l), by Libby Page; Daisy Jones & The Six (p), by Taylor Jenkins Reid; Bone Silence (l), a sci-fi tour de force by Alastair Reynolds; 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World (p), by Elis Shafak; The House By The Loch (p), by Kirsty Wark; and, Frankissstein (l), by Jeanette Winterson.

In a long list of new thrillers, we are drawn to A Silent Death (l), Peter May’s novel set on the contemporary Costa del Sol. When Scottish expatriate fugitive Jack Cleland sees his girlfriend gunned down in a chase involving officer Cristina Sanchez Pradell, he vows to destroy the Spanish policewoman. It so happens that the centre of Cristina’s world is her aunt Ana, who has been deaf and blind throughout adulthood due to the rare Usher Syndrome. John Mackenzie, a smart Glaswegian investigator is seconded to assist the Spanish authorities in their manhunt. Mackenzie is the only one who can silence Cleland before the criminal has the last and bloody word.

Other notable titles in the genre include: American Dirt (l), by Jeanine Cummins, a testimony to the courage of immigrants fleeing Mexico to the USA; Hunted (p), by Arne Dahl; Night Moves (p), by Jonathan Kellerman; Haven’t They Grown (l), by Sophie Hannah; Dark Matter (p), by Doug Johnstone; The Knock (l), by Jessie Keane; The Manifestations Of Sherlock Holmes (p), a collection of short stories by James Lovegrove; Three Hours (l), by Rosamund Lupton; All That’s Dead, by Stuart MacBride (p); The Knife (p), by Jo Nesbø; The Girl Without Skin (p), by Mads Peder Nordbo; Blindside (l) and Hush Hush (p), both by James Patterson; Blood & Sugar (p), by Laura Shepherd-Robinson; Absolution (l), by Yrsa Sigurdardottir; and, The Home (p), by Sarah Stovell.

DECEMBER 2019

The Assistant (l), by SK Tremayne, a pseudonym of author and journalist Sean Thomas, is a chilling and timely psychological thriller from the bestselling writer of The Ice Twins. This is a clever novel woven around security and privacy issues involved in the spread of digital technologies in everyday lives. For example, recent news stories have reported that devices have, without users realising it, allowed other people and malicious software to eavesdrop on the conversations between machine and owner.

In Tremayne’s novel, newly divorced Jo is relieved to be paying a small rent for the use of her best pal’s spare room in a trendy area of London, UK. The apartment is state-of-the-art when it comes to technology: the heating and lights are managed by a digital home assistant called Electra. Jo finds herself starting to talk to Electra for company until, one fateful night, Electra says: ‘I know what you did’. Jo is horrified because she once did something unforgiveable. The author also writes as Tom Knox (tomknoxwriter.com).

The Assistant will be published in late December. It leads off this month’s Hotlist of titles, some entirely new, others moving into small paperback format for the first time or being reissued, sometimes after years out of print. All are due for publication on dates in December, with availability in print this month or in early January. The Hotlist helps readers to plan and budget for book ordering.

Other thrillers worth a look include: For The Dead (p), by Lina Bengsdotter, Sweden’s latest queen of crime novels; A Nearly Normal Family (p), by another Swede, MT Edvardsson; Blood Oath (p), by Linda Fairstein; The Murderer’s Apprentice (p), by Ann Granger; Dead Eye (p) and Back Blast (p), both by Mark Greaney; Never Have I Ever (p), by Lucy Hay; The Cabin (p), by Jørn Lier Horst; The Night Window (p), by Dean Koontz; and, Lost (l) and The Chef (p), both by James Patterson.

In other genres, the picks of the bunch include: Radicalized (p), by Cory Doctorow; Blood Of Empire (p), the final part of the Gods Of Blood And Powder fantasy trilogy from Brian McClennan; Pirata (p), historical fiction by Simon Scarrow; Genuine Lies (p), by Nora Roberts; Spy (l) and Silent Night (p), both by Danielle Steel; and, Coming Home To Winter Island (p), by Jo Thomas.

In the cookbook Lose Weight & Get Fit (l), Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge draws on his personal experience of dieting to suggest that cooking good food is a first step on the road to both weight loss and better performance. Here, he shows how you can eat well, shed the kilos and kick-start a more active lifestyle.

The annual crop of vegetarian and vegan books seems to be hitting the book racks earlier than ever these days. A selection of those competing for the gift-buying euro are: Meat-Free One Pound Meals (p), by Miguel Barclay; Vegetarian Meals In 30 Minutes (p), by Anita Bean; 7-Day Vegan Challenge (l), by Bettina Campolucci Bordi; Bosh! Healthy Vegan (p), by Henry Firth; Vegan(ish) (p), by Jack Monroe; The Self-Care Cookbook (l), by Gemma Ogston; Meatless Monday Family Cookbook (p), by Jenn Sebestyen; and, Rebel Recipes, vegan delights from Niki Webster.

Taking a wider view of health and wellbeing, Dr Rangan Chatterjee suggests how to Feel Better In 5 (p), a daily plan to supercharge health. His prescription is: ‘Ditch the pills, beat the sleepless nights and banish the yo-yo diets’, and all within your current routine. Top tips include: gut-boosting foods that lift the brain fog; creative activities to feel more energised; and, strength workouts you can do anywhere. Drawing on physician Chatterjee’s 20 years of experience and real-life case studies from his general practice, this easy-to-follow book shows how small changes can make a big difference.

Lucy Wyndham-Read offers a 7-Minute Body Plan (l), workouts to shape up and feel good. It comes with supporting recipes for even greater impact. She says that no equipment is needed, the exercises are easy and effective whatever your body shape and fitness level, and that you really do only need seven minutes a day.

Some scientific studies now confirm what traditional practitioners have known for centuries - that breathing mindfully can help to achieve wellbeing. In the book Breathwork (p), Nathalia Westmacott-Brown offers 50 simple, step-by-step breath practices and visualizations you can do at home. The claims is that this can help to balance body and mind, access inner wisdom, overcome anxiety, anger or insomnia, alleviate pain and depression, nurture self-esteem and more. The UK-based author is the founder of an organisation that runs sessions, workshops, and training programs on all aspects of breathwork.

There was a time when the Yule buying season was marked by publishers churning out a wide choice of premium-priced, hardback, celebrity memoirs and biographies. Times have changed, but looking beyond the few that are still being offered this year, we find the inspirational Women Of Science (l), by John S Croucher.

Here are the stories of 100 women who have played important roles in scientific discovery, though at times their participation has been a challenging and unrecognised one. Their scholarly research and discoveries have provided a rich tapestry to add to the scientific endeavours of the world. Croucher argues that it is important that these scientists be viewed through the lens of their times, placing their achievements in context throughout the past few centuries. Their scientific fields of excellence include astronomy, biology, engineering, geology, mathematics, medicine, meteorology, physics and zoology, along with their various subcategories.

NOVEMBER 2019

James Patterson is in the vanguard of novelists with pre-Christmas blockbusters hitting the bookstands. Criss Cross (l) finds Alex Cross witnessing the execution of Michael Edgerton, a man he helped convict of several murders. Then a body turns up with a note signed by ‘M’, and Alex knows that the nightmare is far from over. Accused by Edgerton’s family of framing him for murder, Cross fights to clear his name as the case against him builds. As more notes, and more bodies, start appearing, Cross is determined to put an end to this case once and for all.

Criss Cross leads off this month’s Hotlist of titles, some entirely new, others moving into small paperback format for the first time or being reissued, sometimes after years out of print. All are due for publication on dates in November, with availability in print this month or in early December. The Hotlist helps readers to plan and budget for book ordering.

Other thrillers worth a look include: Not Saying Goodbye (l), by Boris Akunin; A Minute To Midnight (l), by David Baldacci; Nothing Important Happened Today (p), by Will Carver; The Whisperer (p), by Karin Fossum; The Accomplice (l), by Joseph Kanon; The Siberian Dilemma (l), by Martin Cruz Smith; Final Option (l) by Clive Cussler; Under Occupation (l), by Alan Furst; and, Into the Dark (l), by Karen Rose.

In the true crime genre, Murder Knows No Borders (p), by Nerja resident Marie Kusters-McCarthy chronicles 26 stories from around the world. This self-published collection includes murder by loved ones, family members and best friends, and for a variety of motives. They include, among others, a story about the Texan millionaire who loved and married a naive Welsh girl, and the tale of the mail-order brides in search of a better life. Irish-born Kusters-McCarthy took to writing after retiring from her work at the War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, at the Hague, Netherlands. She  says: “What makes people able to kill another human being fascinates me, and there really is no definitive answer to that question.”

In the general fiction lists, guitar great Pete Townshend, of The Who, debuts as a fiction writer with The Age Of Anxiety (l), which happens to be a great rock novel, but that is not the most important aspect of it. The cultured, witty (and unreliable) narrator of the novel captures the craziness of the music business in a tale that shows Townshend’s sly sense of humour and sharp ear for dialogue. First conceived as an opera, The Age of Anxiety deals with mythic and operatic themes including a maze, divine madness and long-lost children.

Grandmothers (l), by Salley Vickers, is the story of three very different women and their relationship with the younger generation: fiercely independent Nan, who leads a secret life as an award-winning poet when she is not teaching her grandson Billy how to lie; glamorous Blanche, deprived of the company of her beloved granddaughter Kitty by her hostile daughter-in-law, who finds solace in rebelliously taking to drink and shop lifting; and shy, bookish Minna who in the safety of a shepherd’s hut shares with her surrogate granddaughter Rose her passion for reading. Through their encounters with each other they discover that the past is always with us.

The Pirate (p), is the latest self-published historical/romantic fiction in local author Joan Fallon’s City Of Dreams trilogy. It is set in 11th century Al-Andalus, when the Mediterranean, then known as the Middle Sea, lapped against the fortified walls of Málaga’s alcazaba. When the pirate captain al-Awar raids Málaga and kidnaps master shipbuilder Bakr, the captive’s wife refuses to listen to those who say he will never be found alive. She enlists her family and friends to search for Bakr despite the vastness of the Mediterranean lands. The love between them drives her on.

Traitors Of Rome (l), by Simon Scarrow, finds Tribune Cato and Centurion Macro. battle-hardened veterans of the Roman army, garrisoned at the eastern border, aware that their movements are constantly monitored by spies from dangerous, mysterious Parthia. But there is a traitor in the ranks. Cato and Macro race against time to expose the truth, while the powerful enemy over the border waits to exploit any weaknesses in the Legion. The traitor must die

FC Barcelona (l), published by Thames & Hudson, is the official (and expensive) book of FC Barcelona on the occasion of its 120th anniversary. 120 years of passions and emotions are splendidly illustrated in the pages of this fine commemorative volume for the millions of supporters of the club that want to know the complete history of the club in greater depth. From past experience, first print runs of this kind of book can sell out quickly; so, early ordering is advised, particularly if you have it in mind for a gift in December.

If you are looking for special food and drink titles for gifts, how about The Official Downton Abbey Cocktail Book (l) or The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook (l), both by Annie Gray. Both are reasonably priced, but well-illustrated with still photographs from across the television series and up to the feature film. They are published in official partnership with Downton Abbey. In a lavish toast to the world of the Crawleys, the drinks book presents a curated selection of 70 delicious cocktail recipes spanning the world of Downton. They range from drawing-room party drinks to downstairs hangover cures and more. In addition to classic concoctions such as Mint Julep, Prince of Wales Punch and Ginger Beer, the collection features character-specific twists such as Downton Heir, Turkish Attaché, The Valet and The Chauffeur. The cookbook presents more than 100 recipes that were popular between 1912 and 1926 in British high society in a period of culinary development. They showcase the cookery of the Crawley household; from upstairs dinner party centrepieces to downstairs puddings and pies. Whether adapted from original recipes of the period, replicated as seen or alluded to on screen, or typical of the time, all the recipes reflect the influences found on the Downton Abbey tables. With these and more historic recipes, you can savour the rich traditions and flavours of Downton Abbey.

Recent Spain-related titles...

OCTOBER 2019

German-born Gerta Pohorylle (1910–1937), whose professional name was Gerda Taro, was the first woman photojournalist to report from, and die on, the battlefield. She learned from the celebrated Hungarian lensman who went under the name Robert Capa. He was her partner in life as well as the camera. The couple went to Spain to support and report on the Republican war effort in the civil war. She died in an accident during the Battle of Brunete in 1937. Robert Capa was originally an alias under which Taro and Capa, real name Endre Friedmann, promoted their work jointly. A substantial proportion of their work in 1936–37 was actually by Taro. Calle de Gerda Taro, a street in Madrid, is named after her. Taro is the central character in The Girl With The Leica (p), a novel by Helena Janeczek, an Italian author. It explores Taro’s story within the context of 1930s’ economic depression, the ascent of Nazism, anti-refugee sentiment in France, ideological warfare, and the rising status of photography. Under its Italian name, La Ragazza Con La Leica, the book won Italy’s premier literary award, the Strega Prize, in 2018. It is now available in English translation in paperback.

SEPTEMBER 2019

The scandal of Spain’s stolen babies has inspired a few novels, and not just in Spanish. Blood Song (p), by French-born Johana Gustawsson, is the latest. It begins in Spain, 1938, as Valencia falls to Franco’s forces. There, Republican supporter Thérèse witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison in Madrid, Thérèse gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her. The story fast forwards to Falkenberg, south-west Sweden, in 2016, where a rich family is savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Investigators Emily Roy and Alexis Castells unravel a case that takes them from Franco’s Spain to corrupt fertility clinics in Sweden, as the pair hunt for a prolific killer.

This is the third (after Block 46, and Keeper) in the Roy & Castells series, which has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards. The series is now published in 19 countries. A television adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production led by Banijay Studios with award-winning French actress Alexandra Lamy lined up to adapt the books for screen and to play Emily Roy.

Violencia (l) is billed as ‘a new history of Spain: past, present and the future of the west’ from best-selling Hispanophile and controversialist Jason Webster. As Catalans struggle for independence, new political parties move to the extremes, and the dead call out to the living, Webster asks if the country will follow the example of its history by resolving its problems once again through violence.

Two sumptuous cookery books showcasing the art and skills of Spanish chefs become available this month. One is Arzak + Arzak (l), in which Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak tell the story of a family and a cuisine. It looks at Juan Mari’s role as a cutting-edge chef and restaurateur, and as an inspiration for generations of young cooks. It commemorates the 40th anniversary of the birth of the so-called New Basque cuisine, of which Juan Mari was the leader. This movement was the kernel of the ongoing Spanish gastronomic revolution. It also details the most emblematic recipes of the last 10 years of his work, and of his career. See the restaurant’s great website at arzak.es to see what all the fuss is about.

Casa Cacao (l) is by Jordi Roca, one of three brothers behind the celebrated Michelin 3-starred El Celler de Can Roca (see cellercanroca.com), a free-style restaurant that serves up avant-garde gastronomy in Girona, Cataluña, Spain. It was named the best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine. Jordi, one of the most advanced chocolatiers, was proclaimed best pastry chef in the world in the 2014 Fifty Best Awards. This book shows his search for the origins of cocoa and his journey to discover how to master chocolate for the creation of new, totally revolutionary desserts. Who knows, with studies reportedly planned to see if cocoa could be cultivated in the Axarquía, his trips could end up being closer to home sometime in the future!

In Suddenly A Footballer (l), soccer midfielder Juan Mata from Burgos in Spain tells the inside story of life at Manchester United and recalls his childhood and his stardust years with Chelsea and his national team. This thoughtful footballer gives his views on the experiences and personalities that have helped to shape his career.

If the imminent arrival of blessedly (mildly) cooler weather has you thinking of an autumn city-break in Spain, Insight Pocket Guides have just updated these handy and highly affordable little books (p) for Barcelona and Madrid.

Plan your trips, perfect days, and discover how to get around with these quick-reference companions to finding fun and interesting things to do and see in Barcelona (La Rambla, La Sagrada Familia, Museu Picasso, Casa Batlló, the waterfront, Barri Gotic etc.; and, in Madrid (Plaza Mayor, Museo del Prado, Puerta del Sol, Plaza Santa Ana, Parque del Buen Retiro etc.). The second editions of the print versions of these guides also come with free eBooks.

AUGUST 2019

Two new history books commend attention this month. Carrie Gibson’s El Norte (l) is a sweeping saga of the Spanish history and influence in North America over five centuries. For reasons of language and history, the United States of America has prized its Anglo heritage above all others. However, and as Gibson explains with great depth and clarity, America has much older Spanish roots that have long been unacknowledged or marginalised. The Hispanic past of the USA predates the arrival of the Pilgrims from England by a century, and has been every bit as important in shaping the nation as it exists today. Ponce de Leon’s first landing in Florida was in 1513, Spain would later control the huge Louisiana territory and establish settlements up the California coast. Other notable events in this history include the Mexican-American War (1846), the recent tragedy of post-hurricane Puerto Rico, and the ongoing bitter US-Mexico dispute over cross-border immigration to the US. Interwoven in this stirring narrative of events and people are cultural issues that have been there from the start and remain unresolved: language, belonging, community, race and nationality. Seeing them play out over centuries provides vital perspective at a time when it is urgently needed.

Peruvian-born Marie Arana’s Silver's Sword & Stone (l) is a dramatic portrait of a continent, packed with colourful stories from 1,000 years of history and real lives. The silver was an obsession that burned brightly in pre-Columbian times, consumed Spain in its relentless conquest, drove a system of exploitation, and has transmogrified into Latin America’s hope for the future. The history of mining is illustrated through the life of Leonor González, a widowed mother-of-five living in La Rinconada, the highest human settlement in the world. The sword in the title evokes the culture of violence: from the Aztec and Inca empires through the bloody nineteenth-century wars of independence to state terrorism and today’s drug wars. The lens through which this is viewed in the life of Carlos Buergos, a Cuban drug dealer who sharpened up his skill with a knife in the Angolan wars, imported his saviness to America, then became a police informant. The third strand of the title – embodied in temples, elaborate cathedrals, or simple piles of rock – is the fervent adherence to religious institutions built in stone. Father Xavier Albo, a Jesuit priest living in La Paz, Bolivia, who has worked for 40 years to keep Roman Catholicism alive among the Quechua and Aymara peoples of the Andes, who would rather believe, preserve and revive what their ancestors believed and did. Marie Arana (www.mariearana.net) is a former literary editor of the Washington Post newspaper and the author of five books including the novel Lima Nights, which we featured previously.

Four novels moving into small paperback format cover the limited field of Spain-interest books this month.

Michelle Davies’ thriller Dead Guilty (p) harks back to the murder of teenager Katy Pope while on a family holiday in Majorca. Despite her mother’s high rank in the Metropolitan Police (London, UK), and a joint major investigation between the UK and Spanish police, Katy’s killer was never caught. Ten years later, her family return to the island to launch a fresh appeal for information. They bring with them the rump of the UK investigating team, and newly seconded Maggie as the family liaison officer. But Maggie’s first international investigation rapidly escalates from being just a press conference as another UK holidaymaker goes missing.

From Murcian author and screenwriter Agustín Martínez comes Village Of The Lost Girls (p). Five years after the disappearance of two friends who left school one afternoon and were never seen again, the village of Monteperdido still mourns the loss of Ana and Lucia. When Ana reappears unexpectedly inside a crashed car, wounded but alive, the case reopens and a race against time begins to discover who was behind the kidnapping. Where is Lucía, and is she still alive? Five years ago, fatal mistakes were made in the investigation and this must not happen again.

The Irish author Patricia Scanlan’s novel With All My Love (p) launches on a crystal-clear day beside the Mediterranean. Briony McAllister is playing with her four-year-old daughter, Katie, while she waits for her mother, Valerie, to join them. Valerie has recently moved to a picturesque town in southern Spain to finally leave behind her turbulent past and find a peace that has always eluded her. Briony has no idea that in a few moments’ time her relationship with her mother will change irrevocably. As Katie plays, Briony pulls from her bag an old photo album, found in a box in her mother’s new home.A As she begins to study the faded photos, a letter falls to the ground. It is addressed to her.

The Bird King (l), by G Willow Wilson, tells the tale of Fatima, a concubine in the royal court of Granada, the last kingdom of Muslim Spain, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. Hassan has a secret: he can draw maps of places he has never seen, and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate Granada’ surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realising that the Spaniard will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth Of The Faun (l) made for an unforgettable film written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, but was not based on a pre-existing book. Now though, Del Toro and Cornelia Funke, the German author best known for the Inkheart Trilogy, have written a novel inspired by that captivating 2006 film. Beautiful, haunting, visceral, gutsy, the book is a vastly inventive, grown-up modern fairy tale, pulsing with the power of stories to shape lives, hearts and minds. Ofelia has been sent to stay with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. For him, the dark and eerie forest in which they live is a cage, serving only to hide resistance fighters in the drawn-out and bloody civil war.

The Spanish Promise (p), by Karen Swan, is a novel of intrigue, romance and escapism set in the cobbled streets of Madrid and Andalucía. One of Spain’s richest men is dying. But as he prepares his estate, his family is shocked to discover he is making plans to give away his wealth to a young woman they have never even heard of. Who is she and what hold does she have over him? Charlotte Fairfax is asked to travel to the troubled family’s home in Spain to get to the bottom of the mysterious bequest. Looking for clues, she digs into the family’s history and unearths a dark and shocking past.