From Louise Erdrich’s beguiling latest to English Monsters by James Scudamore and Louise Hare’s timely debut, this week’s best new fiction
The Night Watchman
Louise Erdrich Corsair £20
It’s 1953 and Thomas Wazhushk leaves Turtle Mountain Reservation and travels to Washington, striving to defeat legislation that would abolish native tribes and relocate Native Americans.
Meanwhile, in one of several subplots, Thomas’s feisty niece Pixie searches for her sister in Minneapolis’s nastier precincts.
Erdrich’s restless eye captures moments and years of the North Dakota reservation’s hardscrabble life and rich traditions. Ghosts unnerve, spirits dance, and magic may be why a foiled rapist gets a twisted mouth. A beguiling storyteller.
James Scudamore Jonathan Cape £16.99
Max Denyer is ten years old when he’s torn from the rugged cheerfulness of his grandparents’ home and sent to board at the local prep school.
It’s a place of institutional violence yet it’s only later, as he makes his way in the adult world, that he learns it was also a haven for paedophiles who left some of his friends traumatised for life.
One of the two school masters responsible is sent to prison – but will the other ever be brought to justice? A brave stab at a grim subject.
This Lovely City
Louise Hare HQ £12.99
Brixton, 1950. Lawrie is a young Jamaican who arrived on the Windrush two years previously, hoping for a better life but was instead greeted by daily racism and abuse.
Now employed and in love, things seem to be looking up when he comes across the body of a mixed-race baby in the pond on Clapham Common, and finds himself a prime suspect in a murder investigation.
This is a timely first novel of real promise. Confidently written, compellingly plotted and atmospheric in its portrayal of post-war London’s austerity, it shines a light on the prejudice and fear at its heart.