Andrew Michael Hurley, Neil Hegarty and Alice Hoffman: This week’s best new fiction reviews

Andrew Michael Hurley’s creepy Starve Acre, The Jewel by Neil Hegarty and a ‘spellbinding’ novel from Alice Hoffman, this week’s best new fiction

Starve Acre

Andrew Michael Hurley                                                          John Murray £12.99

Historian Richard and his wife Juliette are mourning their young son – a boy given to inexplicable acts of violence prompted, so he claimed, by a mysterious voice. 

While Juliette refuses to leave their lonely house in the Yorkshire Dales, Richard excavates a nearby field where a tree used for hanging criminals once stood. 

Things take a turn for the better when a group of spiritualists persuade Juliette to put the past behind her – only for the couple to find themselves haunted by a hare with demonic properties. Hurley’s horror is beautifully written and triumphantly creepy.

Anthony Gardner


The Jewel

Neil Hegarty                                                                               Head Of Zeus £18.99

This slow-burner of a novel revolves around the theft of a Victorian masterpiece from a Dublin gallery. 

Three flawed individuals come under the microscope: Roisin, the gallery curator, a lonely obsessive; John, the thief, a disillusioned cynic with a tragic past; and Ward, the investigating detective, who is trapped in an abusive gay relationship. 

All grow and develop in the course of the novel and, though Hegarty offers quiet insights rather than heart-stopping drama, he has a knack for navigating complex emotional territory with skill and sensitivity.

Max Davidson


The World That We Knew

Alice Hoffman                                                                                          Scribner £20 

Berlin, 1941, and Hanni, a Jewish woman who’s already lost her husband must now try to save her only child, 12-year-old Lea. With help from a rabbi’s daughter, she conjures up a golem, a mythical protector that looks human but has no soul. 

The golem is named Ava and charged with getting Lea across Holocaust-ravaged Europe to Paris. This fable of love and sacrifice blends magic realism with brutal history to devastating effect. 

While some of Hoffman’s research could have been more deftly woven in, it remains a spellbinding testament to resilience in the face of evil. 

Hephzibah Anderson