A round-up of recent novels set in the capital.
Kiss Me First by Lottie Moggach
Lottie Moggach's first novel is an intense one. Tess wants to kill herself, but doesn't want to cause her friends and family much suffering. Leila is her way out: she will take over Tess's online life once Tess "checks out", answering her emails, updating her social media profiles, gradually distancing Tess from everyone she knows until she just fades away. At least, that was the plan.
It's a fascinating notion and one that nudges up against something we're all going to have to deal with at some point. When we die, what happens to our online selves? Are our online selves really us, anyway? Throw in a shadowy internet entrepreneur and the semi-comedic, semi-tragic Leila, who is good with computers but has precious little idea how the real world works, and it becomes a clever concept with a truly human side.
There's also a hilarious (and perhaps cautionary) thread running through the book about the way Leila knows every minute detail of the Canadian island she sends 'Tess' to live on but has no clue what's around the corner from her Rotherhithe flat. And make sure you watch the clever immersive trailer that's not a little creepy. Out 4 July
Ten Things I've Learnt About Love by Sarah Butler
This book has been out for several months, but the fabric of London is so integral to the story we had to include it. Alice has come back to her father's Hampstead bedside for his final days; elsewhere, a man called Daniel wanders the city's streets searching for someone – searching for Alice.
This is a nicely paced tale of how lives get broken and partially mended. It's not one for fans of gripping plot twists, more of a delicate burrowing into the deep dark places that we keep inside. There are some patches of highly literary description to accompany Daniel's synaesthesia and compulsive collecting which can start to grate if you're not in the right frame of mind (we recommend: sofa, no distractions) but generally the words melt in your mouth. Out now
Invitation to Die by Helen Smith
The first two Emily Castles mysteries (Showstoppers and Three Sisters) were novellas; Invitation to Die is Emily's first full-length outing. The 26 year old is offered a couple of days work helping out at a romance writers' conference at the 'Coram Hotel' in Bloomsbury but one of the invited bloggers – yep, the internet plays a starring role in this book, too – is swiftly offed and the whole event is tipped upside down.
It's a fun, easy read with larger than life characters to giggle at (fans of fluffy romance novels may not take kindly to the knowing, raised eyebrow portrayal of their favourite genre. The rest of us can just enjoy it). Currently less than £3.50 on Kindle, this is an excellent read to race through on the way to work. Hotel staff may beg to differ. Out now
Elijah's Mermaid by Essie Fox
While the three others novels in this roundup deal with contemporary London, Essie Fox's latest is firmly planted in the Victorian capital. Orphaned siblings Elijah and Lily Lamb are rescued from Coram's Foundling Hospital, and raised in luxury by a famous author. Meanwhile, a third child, Pearl, is plucked from the Thames, to grow up in a Chelsea brothel. Worlds collide when Pearl and Elijah are brought together, as muse and assistant, by sinister painter Osborne Black. The plot is full of double-turns, vile characters and abusive relationships, like a hardcore Wilkie Collins. But Fox also writes with a pen of Mesmer, and this poisoned tale of hidden identity and bleak fates rattles along like a freshly oiled Hansom. Informative appendices provide notes on the real-world inspirations behind the characters and locations. Those intrigued by the life and work of Richard Dadd will be particularly gratified.
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