With the start of a new year, I like to look ahead at what the year will bring, particularly in terms of the excellent books that will be published. I have a huge list of books that I’m looking forward to, but here are my top ten most eagerly awaited reads. Covers and publication dates correct as at the time of writing!
The Shape of Darkness by Laura Purcell
Wicked deeds require the cover of darkness…
A struggling silhouette artist in Victorian Bath seeks out a renowned child spirit medium in order to speak to the dead – and to try and identify their killers – in this beguiling new tale from Laura Purcell.
Silhouette artist Agnes is struggling to keep her business afloat. Still recovering from a serious illness herself, making enough money to support her elderly mother and her orphaned nephew Cedric has never been easy, but then one of her clients is murdered shortly after sitting for Agnes, and then another, and another…
Desperately seeking an answer, Agnes approaches Pearl, a child spirit medium lodging in Bath with her older half-sister and her ailing father, hoping that if Pearl can make contact with those who died, they might reveal who killed them. But Agnes and Pearl quickly discover that instead they may have opened the door to something that they can never put back…
What secrets lie hidden in the darkness?
I’ve really enjoyed Purcell’s previous novels, and The Corset in particular. I think that The Shape of Darkness sounds fantastic, and I can’t wait to read it. The Shape of Darkness will be published by Raven Books on 21 January.
The Source by Sarah Sultoon
1196. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…
1997. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier…
As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth … and justice.
A riveting, searing and devastatingly dark thriller, The Source is also a story about survival, about hopes and dreams, about power, abuse and resilience… an immense, tense and thought-provoking debut that you will never, ever forget.
I loved the sound of this as soon as I heard of it, and coming from Orenda Books, I have high expectations. The Source will be published as an eBook on 15 February, and in paperback on 15 April.
The Edge by James Smythe
Years ago, a vast and mysterious object known as the Anomaly was discovered in deep space. All missions to explore and explain it failed.
Now, the Anomaly has almost reached Earth, threatening to swallow the planet whole. On an orbital research station, a team of scientists desperately search for a way to stop it or destroy it.
One of the crew, Ali, has lost faith in the mission. Following the death of a close friend, her only interest is returning to the ground – to her young son. But strange events, both inside the station and in the void beyond, force Ali to pursue a new mystery. And as the truth starts to make itself clear, as deadly secrets are uncovered, Ali is forced to ask if she can trust anybody: her crewmates, her friends … even herself.
I love this series, and I’m so excited about the third instalment. The Edge is published on 18 February by Harper Voyager.
The Whole Truth by Cara Hunter
An attractive student. An older professor.
Think you know the story? Think again.
THE NEW UP-ALL-NIGHT THRILLER FROM THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER CARA HUNTER
She has everything at stake; he has everything to lose. But one of them is lying, all the same.
When an Oxford student accuses one of the university’s professors of sexual assault, DI Adam Fawley’s team think they’ve heard it all before. But they couldn’t be more wrong.
Because this time, the predator is a woman and the shining star of the department, and the student a six-foot male rugby player.
Soon DI Fawley and his team are up against the clock to figure out the truth. What they don’t realise is that someone is watching.
And they have a plan to put Fawley out of action for good…
Another series that I love, I can’t wait for the next D. I. Adam Fawley novel! Published by Penguin on 18 March.
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter Lauren and his cat Olivia in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.
All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.
You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think…
I loved Little Eve and can’t wait to read this. It’s generating a lot of noise even this far ahead of its publication, and I could not be more excited. Published by Viper Books on 18 March.
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur – Minos’s greatest shame and Ariadne’s brother – demands blood every year.
When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods – drawing their attention can cost you everything.
In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition?
Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel.
I love a retelling of a Greek myth, and this one ticks a lot of boxes for me. Also – that cover! 😍 Published by Wildfire on 29 April.
Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal
1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.
But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.
In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?
Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.
I loved 2019’s The Doll Factory and I can’t wait to read this. Published by Picador on 13 May.
The Maidens by Alex Michaelides
From the author of the global #1 bestselling debut The Silent Patient comes a spellbinding literary thriller which weaves together Greek mythology, psychology, and murder…
Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike. Particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.
Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated when one of The Maidens, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered.
Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?
When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything – including her own life.
One of the most highly anticipated books of the year, The Maidens is sure to become your new obsession…
Another second novel, this time from the author of The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides. I think that The Maidens sounds fantastic. Published by Orion on 1 June.
I Know What I Saw by Imran Mahmood
I saw it. He smothered her, pressing his hands on her face. The police don’t believe me, they say it’s impossible – but I know what I saw.
This is Xander Shute: once a wealthy banker, now living on the streets.
As he shelters for the night in an empty Mayfair flat, he hears its occupants returning home, and scrambles to hide as the couple argue. Trapped in his hiding place, he soon finds himself witnessing a vicious murder.
But who was the dead woman, who the police later tell him can’t have been there? And why is the man Xander saw her with evading justice?
As Xander searches for answers, his memory of the crime comes under scrutiny, forcing him to confront his long-buried past and the stories he’s told about himself.
How much he is willing to risk to understand the brutal truth?
Yet another second novel, this time from the author of 2017’s You Don’t Know Me. Published by Raven Books on 10 June.
Dog Rose Dirt by Jen Williams
For fans of Kathleen Barber and Julia Heaberlin comes a chilling psychological suspense from award-winning author Jen Williams about a woman who discovers her late mother had a decades-long secret correspondence with a serial killer, begging the question: how well do we know our own family and even ourselves?
When prodigal daughter Heather Evans returns to her family home after her mother’s baffling suicide, she makes an alarming discovery – stacks and stacks of carefully preserved letters from notorious serial killer Michael Reave. The “Red Wolf,” as he was dubbed by the press, has been in prison for over twenty years, serving a life sentence for the gruesome and ritualistic murders of several women across the country, although he has always protested his innocence. The police have had no reason to listen, yet Heather isn’t the only one to have cause to re-examine the murders. The body of a young woman has just been found, dismembered and placed inside a tree, the corpse planted with flowers. Just as the Red Wolf once did.
What did Heather’s mother know? Why did she kill herself? And with the monstrous Red Wolf safely locked inside a maximum-security prison, who is stalking young women now? Teaming up with DI Ben Parker, Heather hopes to get some answers for herself and for the newest victims of this depraved murderer. Yet to do that, she must speak to Michael Reave herself, and expose herself to truths she may not be ready to face. Something dark is walking in the woods, and it knows her all too well.
I’m so excited for Williams’ first thriller – I think this sounds excellent, and having first heard about it in 2019, I’m REALLY looking forward to it. Published by Harper Collins on 22 July.
And there you have it – my top ten books to look out for in 2021. What books are you most looking forward to this year? Do let me know in the comments!