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Books: The best local books to read now

In search of your next good read? From short literary stories to page-turning thrillers, Velvet editor Alice Ryan has got recommendations for you - all of them the work of local authors

Local books to read now: Velvet's September 2021 reading list (50867023)
Local books to read now: Velvet's September 2021 reading list (50867023)

The Mays 29: Famous for launching the career of Zadie Smith - she won her first publishing deal on the strength of a short story in the 1997 edition - The Mays Anthology has been showcasing the best student prose, poetry and art to come out of Cambridge and Oxford for 29 years. This year’s edit is a gem.

Pulpit Rock, Kate Rhodes: The fourth instalment of the Ben Kitto locked-island mysteries, which see our hero hunt down killers on the Scilly Isles, this is Cambridge’s Kate Rhodes at her best. Cleaving a cosy small community with a spine-chilling crime, the Kitto plots are always pleasingly clever - look out for book five, coming soon.

The Language of Birds, Jill Dawson: Often drawing on real-world people and events - war poet Rupert Brooke, the Soham murders - here Ely author Jill Dawson reimagines the life and death of Mandy River, the murdered nanny at the core of the Lord Lucan case. A brilliant story, it’s also beautifully told; scattered with sentences so arrestingly lovely, they demand to be read over again. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

The Mystery of the Night Watchers, AM Howell: Yes, Bury St Edmunds’ AM Howell is an award-winning children’s writer, but her books aren’t only for little ones. This latest, set in May 1910, tells the story of Nancy, a little girl living hidden in Bury’s iconic Cupola House. From the building’s rooftop observatory, Nancy spies strange comings and goings - and begins to unravel a mystery. Clever, atmospheric and totally absorbing.

Real Cambridge, Grahame Davis: If you’re not in a fiction frame of mind, this behind-the-scenes history of our fair Fenland city is packed with diverting information. Accompanied by fascinating characters, both living and dead, writer Graeme Davis takes the reader on a virtual tour of the town, from the hallowed halls of the University Colleges out to Arbury, East Road and beyond.

The Widower, Christobel Kent: The Observer compared Cambridge’s Christobel Kent to Daphne du Maurier on publication of this book; the very definition of a page-turner, I defy you to read it at anything less than break-neck speed. When her sweet, sensible sister Kate dies out of the blue, free-spirited Rose moves back from Rome to help her seemingly devastated brother-in-law look after the baby. . . and so begins a story of univalled twists and turns.

Anatomy of a Scandal, Sarah Vaughan: This isn’t the latest book from Sarah Vaughan, but with a star-studded adaptation poised to hit Netflix - Rupert Friend, Sienna Miller and Michelle Dockery play the leads - it’s a timely read. A former political correspondent, the Cambridge author draws on her professional past for the plot, which centres on a handsome rising-star MP standing trial for rape. His wife believes him innocent; the prosecuting barrister believes him guilty. But who is right? Compelling stuff.

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