From Alison Moore’s darkly comic mystery to The City Of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, a revenge tale from Julia Dahl and Hilma Wolitzer’s latest, this week’s best new fiction
Alison Moore Salt £9.99
Moore, previously shortlisted for the Booker Prize, specialises in quietly unsettling short novels about shut-in lives full of longing.
Her new book follows Sandra, a middle-aged receptionist and would-be painter who visits an artists’ retreat only for her ambitions to wilt under the backbiting of fellow residents.
While narrative tension comes mainly from her social discomfort, there’s mystery, too, thanks to a secondary thread about an aspiring novelist in search of creative solitude. Poignant and darkly comic.
The City Of Mist
Carlos Ruiz Zafón W&N £14.99
Ruiz Zafón will always be remembered for his magnificent The Cemetery Of Forgotten Books tetralogy.
This posthumously published collection of 11 stories revisits many of the concerns of that series, as well as featuring some of the same characters.
Inevitably, it lacks the imaginative heft of his longer works, but two standout stories – about a visit by Gaudí to New York and a reimagining of Cervantes’s creative life – make it worth the price of admission alone.
The Missing Hours
Julia Dahl Faber £12.99
Claudia Castro is a contemporary It-girl: barely out of school, she has good looks and famous parents, plenty of money and the inevitable horde of Instagram followers.
But one drunken night in Manhattan she discovers that none of this protects her from sexual violence, with subsequent social-media shaming.
What follows is a compulsively readable, morally complex tale in which our modern concerns with consent and justice are trumped by Claudia’s primal need for revenge.
Today A Woman Went Mad In The Supermarket
Hilma Wolitzer Bloomsbury £14.99
Written over more than half a century, these 13 stories circle themes such as love, insomnia and motherhood.
Many feature the same New York couple, among them The Great Escape, set in 2020 and anchored in 91-year-old Wolitzer’s experience of losing her husband to Covid.
It’s a powerful close to a collection that’s beady-eyed and often humorous, its pages packed with details that reveal as much as entire novels.