A pile of new books to read over the next month or two when not staring down at the beautiful Palm Beach on Waiheke Island.

There, I knew that would make you feel sorry for me.

What a life!

Whatever happened to Agatha Christie?

Let me start with good old fashioned Agatha.

Andrew Wilson creates his version of what happened during the real life disappearance of Agatha Christie for ten days in 1926. Theories abounded making headlines in national newspapers.

Fears that she had been murdered, or had left her rather dour husband, or was simply hiding in order to write her next success after The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Perhaps she had committed suicide. Thousands of volunteers searched different areas of England.

A Talent For MurderWilson, in his absolutely compelling story A Talent for Murder, has her blackmailed into committing murder herself, perhaps.

Reading this dastardly tale, with a serial killer ever lurking, takes you right back to all the Christie epics of yesteryear, a tribute to Wilson’s skill and his form of homage. He has written another where Christie is sailing off to the Canary Islands.

I cannot wait to get on the boat!

Irishman Steve Cavanagh in great form

Two new books by Irish crime writer Steve Cavanagh are well worthy of your attention, if you are not sick to death of serial killers in your reading.

ThirteenThirteen throws together a defendant, the defense lawyer, a prosecutor and, you guessed it, a serial killer. The plot is breathtaking, clever and totally entertaining.

So much that I went straight out to buy his latest Twisted and was introduced to the “author” J T Lebeau who is writing a serial killer novel called….Twisted! And by now you may have guessed that the plot is full of….twists!

Both highly recommended.

Brilliance and wisdom from John Boyne

And now for something entirely different – even though this young adult novel is by another Irish writer, John Boyne. He rose to prominence about fifteen years ago with The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, a huge hit.

The narrator cannot understand why there are so many young boys of his age wandering on the other side of a fence in the countryside and dressed so oddly.

We are in Germany.

My Brother's Name is JessicaNow Boyne has his latest hit, I predict, with My Brother’s Name is Jessica. The title tells you almost all, except that this is not Jessica’s story, but his younger brother Sam’s.

Bewilderment and anger surface as Jason tells his family of his intentions and Sam cannot cope. He is bullied at school and the school does little.

Equally dumbfounded are his parents. Mother is in the Cabinet, father her private secretary, they offer all the clichéd responses like “it’s a phase, it can be cured.”

But most important, to them, how will it affect the polls if it got out that they had a transgender son, as they aspire to the greasy pole of prime ministership.

This is a wonderfully humane, funny and richly helpful story for all, not just young adults.

Embrace the differences in our society. Does that sound familiar in these present times?
Read it and be grateful that people like Boyne continue to share his brilliance with us.

And he is in Auckland and Dunedin next month for writers’ weeks.

Next article I promise nothing but sweetness and light. Maybe!

(First published in Kapiti and Coast Independent.)