This week: domestic noir, and solving your own murder!

This week there’s a mixed bag of domestic noir and there’s murder (your own!), there’s a beautiful nature book, a charming picture book for the very young and a book for couples facing the pain of divorce, advising that there’s an easier way than dragging each other on a he-said/she-said battle in the courts.

The Wrong Sister, Claire Douglas, Michael Joseph, €16.99

Tasha and her husband get the opportunity to stay in Tasha’s wealthy sister’s apartment in Venice, for a much-needed break. Not only have sister Alice and her husband Kyle agreed to house-sit in Tasha’s Bristol home, they’ve also agreed to look after their four-year-old twins. Things go terribly wrong, however, when Alice is seriously injured and Kyle is killed, during what looks like a burglary, in Bristol. But afterwards Tasha receives a note, saying ‘It was supposed to by you.’ This sinister attack wasn’t targeted at Alice and Kyle at all; it was a case of mistaken identity.

Why? Well, that’s how this clever plot spools out. Plenty of unwelcome family history emerged, and secrets that were never meant to be discovered. This is dark, suspenseful noir from the bestselling Douglas, author of two previous Sunday Times bestsellers.

How to Solve Your Own Murder, Kristen Perrin, Quercus, €19.95

This is another novel in the rapidly developing ‘cozy crime’ genre that is enjoying huge success at the moment. Whether it’s Midsomer Murders novels, or Agatha Christie or Richard Osman, the hallmark of this genre is that the reader is spared the gory details. Do we really need to know what precisely happened to the spleen, or the aorta, and the track of the blood spatters? Or is it enough to know that a murder has been committed? It seems a lot of people prefer the latter. And a murder has indeed been committed. A very wealthy elderly lady called Frances Adams is the victim and she always knew she’d be murdered, ever since she was informed of it by a fortune teller in 1965.

Her estranged great-niece Annie, a struggling writer, is called to the reading of her will. Frances’s vast estate will be left to the person who can solve her murder within a week. With stakes so high and several individuals just as keen as Annie to crack the case, the clock is ticking. If it’s not solved within the week, the entire estate goes to a local property developer. It’s an amusing mystery, full of vivid characters and lots of suspense.

Birds of Ireland, Jim Wilson, Gill, €16.99

This is an exquisite book, beautifully photographed by Mark Carmody and packed with colour, while just the right size for a decent coat pocket. As the author says in his introduction, the habit of birdwatching can be developed by anyone with a curious eye and ear, in any situation, including being housebound. Birds are everywhere and the more we strive to know about them, the more curious we become about the natural world around us, city slickers and country bumpkins alike.

For those who want to take it seriously, there’s a section on what you need to get started, on the importance of a simple pencil and notebook, and a detailed, illustrated glossary of terms (I said terms, not terns…) that helps with identification from plumage to ‘bare parts’. It’s an absolute charmer and since we’re all trying to reconnect to nature in whatever way we can, it’s a great way to start. And this book is all you need.

Scars of Divorce, Michelle Browne, Orpen Press, €18

Michelle Browne, a mediator from County Kildare, knows a thing or two about divorce. She’s been through it herself and she writes about her personal experiences candidly in this book, described as part-memoir and part-manual. Besides the pain of separation and the even worse pain for the children involved, we all know stories, if not our own, those of friends or relatives, of court cases that bleed both parties of every penny and leave ex-spouses and families not only financially decimated but marked – or scarred, as she puts it – for life.

The introduction of the Mediation Act of 2017 offers a far more humane and sensible approach to ending a marriage, providing that both parties are grown up enough to consider it. Browne takes the reader through it, what it entails, possible pressure points, and sums up what can be achieved – rather than what can be lost and destroyed – for partners who are agreeable to engage in the mediation process.

Since it can lead to far less trauma for all involved, it’s the obvious solution. For those who want to know more, and for those who can’t bear the thought of dragging their dirty laundry through the courts, only for most of their life’s work to end up in solicitors’ bank accounts, it’s definitely worth a studious read. Apart from being vastly informative, it’s a book written with heart and empathy.

Dexter Lost his Boo-Woo, Shane Hegarty/ Ben Mantle, Hachette, €12.99

Shane Hegarty needs no introduction as a much-loved author for kids aged 7+ but here he’s produced a picture book, along with illustrator Ben Mantle, for much younger children. Dexter’s favourite toy – his Boo-Woo – is missing. The Boo-Woo is a fierce creature with 20 teeth, but also with soft floppy ears, and poor Dexter is beside himself. Are you brave enough to join in the search for Boo-Woo? Because this is Hegarty, it’s a funny adventure, but considering the target age group (still wearing very, very bulky pants at night!) it’s of a much gentler nature than his older kids’ books. Still, it will have the ankle biters enthralled.


Fancy a trip to ‘the real capital of Ireland’ as the locals there call it? The Cork World Book Fest runs this year from Tuesday April 23 to Sunday April 28 and there’s an impressive line-up of guests, and plenty happening for the kids, too, most of which are free to attend. See for details.

Birr Festival of Music runs over the May bank holiday weekend, 2nd to 6th, and has some unmissable events, with something for everyone. See for details.