Facts blur in terrific tales

'The Offering' by Grace McCleen
'The Offering' by Grace McCleen

Madeline is a teenage girl whose life is torn apart on her 14th birthday.

Having moved to live on an island with her overbearing God-fearing father and submissive mother, Madeline spends her days searching for something elusive and playing with her pet dog.

She confuses the normal development of a teenage girl with her own search for God, mixing up what is real and what is imagined. Events come to a head on her birthday, celebrations laid waste by events so cataclysmic to her family that things will never be the same again.

Having taken refuge in a mental infirmary, Madeline is presented with an enigmatic young psychiatrist who attempts to unravel the mystery buried in the layers of her mind.
Little does he know the shattering effects his gentle probings will have.

With praise from Hilary Mantel and AS Byatt, there’s every reason to believe McCleen will remain a favourite of the literary intelligentsia.

‘The Offering’ by Grace McCleen is published in hardback by Sceptre, priced £17.99 (ebook £9.98).

Stories are king in this darkly delightful tale from journalist David Whitehouse.

His second novel starts at the end. Nearly-teenager Bobby Nusku and single mother Val and her daugher Rosa are surrounded by police on a cliff edge in a stolen mobile library. Misfit Bobby is struggling to come to terms with his mother’s absence. Val provides a comforting mother figure. Hiding from the police, the trio meet a tall and mysterious traveller called Joe, who has a wild temper, but who completes their makeshift family. As they travel north in search of a crumbling Scottish mansion with a private zoo that Joe remembers from his childhood, Bobby and Rosa read their way through the library’s collection of books and fantasy starts to blur with fiction. Whitehouse eloquently evokes Bobby’s adolescent angst, but his obvious fascination with stories is laboured. And the book’s more violent scenes sit uncomfortably against the saccharin love-fest between the four main characters. Still, a tale that will haunt right up until it’s clever conclusion.

‘Mobile Library’ by David Whitehouse is published in hardback by Picador, £14.99 (ebook £5.99).