Summer fiction special 2004

Want a holiday read that's a bit different? Here's a selection of the books which have most impressed our critics in recent months, from big names you mustn't miss to intriguing newcomers you may not have discovered yet...

HARDBACKS

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (SCEPTRE £16.99)

Interlocking narratives spiralling from the past far into the future make this a challenging, yet deeply rewarding read. Mitchell turns you upside down and inside out. Dazzling!

Us by Richard Mason (VIKING £12.99)

The lives of three Oxford students are changed forever by the death of friend/lover/sister Maggie. You'll find it hard not to be thoroughly moved by this utterly gripping account of damaged souls.

Small Island by Andrea Levy (REVIEW £14.99)

Hortense and Gilbert travel from Jamaica in 1948 to a cold, unwelcoming London boarding house. This won the Orange Prize for its insight, compassion, wealth of historical detail and its cracking plot.

Transmission by Hari Kunzru (HAMISH HAMILTON £12.99)

A truly global novel that mixes Bollywood babes and computer viruses to brilliant satiric effect. Kunzru's ear for dialogue is unrivalled and there's a warm heart under the laughter.

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax by Liz Jensen (BLOOMSBURY £16.99)

Young Louis is in a coma, his dad's gone missing and his doctor is falling for his fragile, needy mother. Louis and the doctor narrate, but what's going on between the lines? Superbly strange.

Song of Susannah by Stephen King (HODDER £20)

The latest episode in the Dark Tower sequence, this features the author himself in flight from his own characters. Metafictional fun and not as baggy as its predecessors.

Port Mungo by Patrick McGrath (BLOOMSBURY £16.99)

An intoxicating brew of colourful characters, mysterious deaths and sexual misconduct as an English painter goes wild in the Honduran swamps in search of inspiration.

Shade by Neil Jordan (JOHN MURRAY £16.99)

This brooding ghost story set in an Irish version of Manderley is a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit as it opens with a woman being decapitated. However, she decides to linger...

Lighthouse keeping by Jeanette Winterson (FOURTH ESTATE £15)

Feisty Silver learns the art of storytelling from a lighthouse keeper, Blind Pew, in an enjoyable homage to that great teller of tales, R L Stevenson.

Monday Morning by Kathy Reichs (HEINEMANN £17.99)

Down in the cellar of a pizzeria a forensic anthropologist finds three female skeletons - old burial site or something more sinister? Reichs always delivers.

PAPERBACKS

Going Loco by Lynne Truss (PROFILE £7.99)

Before she became the punctuation expert, Truss wrote marvellous comic novels, including this madcap farce about a reclusive writer whose cleaner takes over her identity.

Wormwood by G P Taylor (FABER £6.99)

More supernatural shenanigans from the Shadowmancer man - this is even better with its cast of 18th-century Cabalists, scientists and book-collectors seeking sway over London.

The Laws of Evening by Mary Yukari Waters (SCRIBNER £6.99)

Gorgeous, note-perfect short stories about the lives of Japanese women after WWII. A bitter-sweet read that transports you into another time.

Snow by Orhan Pamuk (FABER £12.99)

The Turkish magician is back with another dazzling, complex novel of ideas. Headscarf politics, artistic ambition and fundamentalism clash in a brilliant entertainment.

The Syme Papers by Benjamin Markovits (FABER £12.99)

An academic romance in the fine tradition of A S Byatt's Possession, layered with 19th-century pastiche, heralds a first-rate new talent.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (BLOOMSBURY £6.99)

Set in Afghanistan in the 1970s, this tale of childhood friends Amir and Hassan, with its timeless themes of sacrifice and atonement, is soaringly lyrical and morally acute.

The Soho Leopard by Ruth Padel (CHATTO £8.99)

We're cheating a bit by including a book of verse, but Padel's weird, clever, playful poems about urban animals (sly foxes, sexy beasts - we've all met them) are terrific.

Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer (FABER £10.99)

True love never dies in this tragic and moving tale of a man who ages backwards and is forced to act the age that his soul-mate thinks he is.

An Evening of Long Goodbyes by Paul Murray (PENGUIN £6.99)

Two eccentric siblings inherit a stately pile in Ireland but their father's hopes for posterity look to be foiled by their fecklessness. A formidably funny debut.

The Light of Day by Graham Swift (PENGUIN £7.99)

A brooding and unconventional detective novel, with penetrating insights into human relationships. A private investigator gets involved with a client. Very bad idea...

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