From Daisy Johnson’s eerie novel to Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi, a dark and heartfelt novel by Denise Mina and D. B. C. Pierre’s latest, this week’s best new fiction
Daisy Johnson Jonathan Cape £14.99
Just ten months apart, teen sisters September and July share an unusually intense bond, with one dominating the other. At the start of this eerie novel, they’ve moved from Oxford to an isolated house on the North York Moors with their mum, a children’s writer still haunted by the cruelty of their dead father.
The slow revelation of the unmentionable episode that led to their flight drives a lushly written, psychologically suspenseful narrative that’s not easily forgotten.
Meanwhile In Dopamine City
D. B. C. Pierre Faber £18.99
It is easy to sympathise with Lonnie, the hero of Pierre’s dystopian fantasy. He is an unemployed widower, at loggerheads with his teenage daughter, and new technologies designed to bridge the generation gap are having the opposite effect.
Apps go haywire. Gibberish floods the screen. Alas, Pierre gets so carried away with his conceit that the novel becomes as incoherent as the technological gobbledegook it is trying to satirise.
Only the hardiest readers will last the course.
Avni Doshi Hamish Hamilton £14.99
Antara endures a sordid, traumatic upbringing in an Indian city. Her mother takes her to live in an ashram, neglecting her to serve as the guru’s lover; her father remarries and emigrates; she’s sent to a boarding school run by a sadistic nun.
As she begins a family of her own, she finds herself responsible for her mother, now in the grip of dementia. Can she forgive her? Doshi’s Booker-longlisted novel is sometimes overwritten, but the plot is absorbing.
The Less Dead
Denise Mina Harvill Secker £14.99
Mina is the most compassionate of crime novelists. The title of her latest refers to the murder victims no one cares about: the prostitutes and druggies. It features Margo, a Glasgow GP who decides to find her birth mother, only to discover that she was murdered 30 years earlier.
Soon Margo is quite literally stalked by her mother’s awful past. This is a dark and heartfelt novel, full of sadness and anger at the undeserved harshness of too many lives.