From our reviewers: General fiction

Last updated 23:01 23/12/2013

Fiction novels available now:

The Never List
By Koethi Zan (Harvill Secker, RRP $30)

Reviewed by Amanda Watson

Most of us have to-do lists, some of us have bucket lists, but Koethi Zan's 12-year old heroines Jennifer and Caroline instead came up with The Never List - a stringent set of rules to keep themselves safe from natural disasters, accidents, crime or just unkind twists of fate.

Of course, such careful planning is but grist to the mill for unkind twists of fate - which pounced in the form of a serial sadist when the girls were 18.

Trapped in a basement lair and routinely tortured, it is three years before Caroline and two other captive women manage to escape.

Ten years on, their tormenter is in jail and the three survivors have rebuilt their shattered lives with varying degrees of success and psychosis, when they come together again to try to discover what really happened to Jennifer.

And maybe, just maybe, it's better to let sleeping dogs lie.

This is a great first novel from Zan that will have fans of the thriller genre turning pages into the night.

Where the Dead Men Go
By Liam McIlvanney (Allen & Unwin, RRP $30)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

Gerry Conway is a political reporter for the Glasgow Tribune but is put back on its crime desk when its previous occupant, Martin Moir, commits suicide. Moir's death seems to be an open and shut case. However, Gerry is persuaded by the man's widow to investigate the death as a potential murder.

Gangland bosses, corruption, killings, sectarianism: Glasgow's dark reputation comes out of the shadows as Gerry starts trying to follow up on articles that may have literally been the death of Moir. Suicide or not, Gerry's investigations starts to step on too many of the wrong sort of toes for his own safety.

Living now in Dunedin, the author has brought to life a believable thriller loaded with vivid characters and menace, all in a setting that feels lovingly doused in whisky fumes.

Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase
By Jonathan Stroud (Random House, RRP $28)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

In an alternative Britain, the country has been suffering for 50 years from a plague of hauntings. The problem has proved deadly. A whole manner of defences have been devised, indeed a whole industry including "antihaunting" agencies. Being the most sensitive to other worldly things, it is children who are on the front line working for these agencies.

Lockwood and Co - Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins and new recruit Lucy Carlyle - are a small independent company. It is through their eyes that we see what life is like on the front line combating ghosts as they move toward the case of the Screaming Staircase.

It's produced as a children's book but a strong warning should be obvious from the cover - it is not for the nervous. In fact it is so well written that in places you will need braces as well as a belt in case it scares the pants off you.

This is the first in a proposed series for Lockwood and Co. Hopefully they keep up the quality of this first outing.

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