Bonded by a guilty secret

To describe a novel as ‘slow’ and ‘lacking in original plot’ would ordinarily be to criticise it. However, in AD Miller’s follow up to the Booker-shortlisted ‘Snowdrops’, this is a compliment of the highest order. Because the book follows a simple structure: two very different men, Adam and Neil, meet on their gap year in the US, and during the course of their travels, egg each other on to seduce a young girl in their group - with Neil ‘winning’, as it were - before realising the next morning quite how young she is. Fifteen, as her furious father lets Neil know, before threatening to call the police. The boys (because that’s what they are, really) escape, and end up travelling back to London together, from where they begin a friendship that we follow throughout their intertwined lives.

This friendship, however, is overshadowed always by this single, morally reprehensible act. Adam, privileged, posh, secure, harbouring guilt that he had known how old she was (her father had told him the night before); and Neil, still getting over his mother’s death from cancer, doting on his nephew, doing his best to ignore the momentous event, initially.

‘The Faithful Couple’ by AD Miller is published in hardback by Little, Brown, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.49).

It can be hard to make any real impact with a first novel, but Kate Hamer’s powerful thriller ‘The Girl in the Red Coat’ will certainly cement her name in the literature world. The author’s story switches between the narratives of eight-year-old Carmel and her mother, Beth. From the very start, Hamer builds the suspense that something terrible is about to happen. Then, when Carmel is suddenly bundled into a car and taken by a man claiming to be her grandfather, the reader is left racing to the end of every page to find out what happens to her. The fact that Carmel’s kidnapping is told through her own innocent and childish eyes makes it all the more chilling. The descriptions can be overly wordy at times, but the themes of fanatical religion, grief and family relationships, make it far more sensitive and interesting than the average thriller.

‘The Girl in the Red Coat’ by Kate Hamer is published in hardback by Faber & Faber, priced £12.99 (ebook £4.19).