Lethal White by Robert Galbraith review – Strike at the London Olympics

There’s sharp social comedy to be found in JK Rowling’s latest Cormoran Strike book – if you can navigate a complex murder mystery

There’s a lot going on in Lethal White, Robert Galbraith’s fourth outing, so, first, let’s tackle the thriller part of the plot. It is London in 2012; there is “a tinge of excitement and nervousness about the capital”, and “complaints about non-availability of Olympics tickets [are] a dominant theme in conversation”.

Private detective Cormoran Strike – ex-military police; lost a leg in Afghanistan; now running his own agency in London and trying hard to make ends meet – is visited by an “ill and desperate” man, Billy Knight, who tells him that he saw a child being strangled, years earlier, wrapped in a pink blanket. Billy then flees. Strike is subsequently asked by the minister for culture, Jasper Chiswell, to get dirt on the two men ...

Children’s authors welcome Ofsted’s move to lighten stress on testing

Writers including Frank Cottrell Boyce and Piers Torday cheer announcement that the schools inspectorate will now reward a broader style of education

Children’s writers including Frank Cottrell Boyce and Piers Torday have hailed Ofsted’s plans to judge schools on the broad range of their education as “great news”.

“Anything that moves away from making humans fit the demands of algorithms instead of the other way round is great news,” said the Carnegie medal-winning Cottrell Boyce, one of a chorus of authors to welcome the proposed changes.

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PEN America sues Trump for violating first amendment rights

Lawsuit argues ‘threats and retaliatory actions’ against the president’s critics in the media are unconstitutional

Donald Trump has “hung a sword of Damocles” over journalists by using his powers to retaliate against press coverage he finds objectionable, according to the writers’ organisation PEN America, which has filed a lawsuit against him for violating the US constitution’s first amendment.

Led by the Pulitzer prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan, PEN America claims that while Trump is free to express critical views of journalists and writers, it is unconstitutional to use the regulatory powers of government to punish the press for its criticism.

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Anthea Bell, ‘magnificent’ translator of Asterix and Kafka, dies aged 82

She opened up a world of literature to English readers, translating writers from Sigmund Freud to Cornelia Funke

Anthea Bell, the translator who brought classics from Asterix to WG Sebald to an English readership, has died at the age of 82.

Her son, Oliver Kamm, a writer for the Times, announced the news on Thursday morning, describing Bell as “a literary giant and, in all respects, a brilliant person”. Kamm had written in December that his mother had fallen ill a year earlier, and was in a nursing home. “Her great mind has now departed and she no longer knows who I am,” he wrote. “Though her career is over, she remains a literary giant and no one has taught me more about language and languages.”

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TS Eliot prize announces ‘intensely political’ shortlist

Prestigious £25,000 award selects 10 collections showcasing ‘poetry’s ability to engage with language when it is being debased’

A sequence of sonnets written during the first 200 days of Donald Trump’s presidency is just one of the “intensely political” poetry collections shortlisted for the most valuable award in British poetry, the £25,000 TS Eliot prize.

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin, in which the award-winning US poet Terrance Hayes tackles the fast-moving news cycle of American politics, is one of 10 collections contending for the award. Alongside it, US poet laureate Tracy K Smith considers the country’s past in Wade in the Water, named after a spiritual sung on the Underground Railroad, former winner Sean O’Brien considers England’s relationship with its continental neighbours in Europa, and Nick Laird takes on topics from Grenfell Tower to the refugee crisis in Feel Free.

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Anna Burns wins Man Booker prize for ‘incredibly original’ Milkman

Judges unanimous in choice of Northern Irish winner for ‘utterly distinctive’ Troubles-era novel

Anna Burns has become the first Northern Irish author to win the Man Booker prize, taking the £50,000 award for Milkman, her timely, Troubles-set novel about a young woman being sexually harassed by a powerful man.

Related: Milkman by Anna Burns review – creepy invention at heart of an original, funny novel

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British writers scoring highly in huge US poll to find ‘Great American Read’

Nationwide contest that has drawn millions of votes enters closing stages, with Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë and JK Rowling ranking high

From Jane Eyre to Pride and Prejudice, a clutch of very British books have emerged as frontrunners for the title of the US’s best-loved novel, as a public poll that has seen millions cast their votes draws to a close.

US public service broadcaster PBS launched the nationwide vote in April, laying out 100 novels chosen through a combination of YouGov poll and expert opinion. Ranging from EL James’s erotic romance Fifty Shades of Grey to Mario Puzo’s thriller The Godfather, and from JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye to Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the list of 100 books was then opened up to the American public. More than 3.8m votes have been cast to date.

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Man Booker prize: Daisy Johnson tipped to be youngest ever winner

Ladbrokes makes 27-year-old author of Everything Under 9/4 favourite to take the £50,000 award on Tuesday evening

Daisy Johnson, the youngest author ever to make the Man Booker prize shortlist, is proving the most popular with readers with just hours to go before the judges unveil the winner of this year’s £50,000 prize on Tuesday evening.

As the judging panel, chaired by Kwame Anthony Appiah, settle in to find a winner from the six titles they picked for their shortlist, 27-year-old British author Johnson’s first novel Everything Under also overtook former favourite Richard Powers at the bookies. Jessica Bridge of Ladbrokes said that while the American literary heavyweight had been the long-term favourite to win this year’s Booker with his environmental novel The Overstory, “money is coming for Daisy Johnson in the 11th hour to cause an upset”. Johnson was given odds by Ladbrokes of 9/4 to win, while Powers ...

PG Wodehouse fans delighted at plans for Westminster Abbey tribute

Ben Schott, author of a new Jeeves and Wooster novel, reported ‘a ripple of joy’ at the Wodehouse Society dinner when the tribute was announced

Westminster Abbey’s plans to dedicate a memorial to PG Wodehouse 43 years after his death have been welcomed by the Wodehouse Society and by Ben Schott, who described the Jeeves and Wooster creator as the “personification of a very specific breed of English writing”.

Schott is author of the bestselling trivia collection Schott’s Original Miscellany, and his officially sanctioned “Wodehouse” novel Jeeves and the King of Clubs will be published next month. He said that when the news was announced to the Wodehouse Society dinner that the Dean of Westminster had given permission for a memorial to Wodehouse in the abbey, “there was a ripple of joy that it was happening, but also puzzlement that it hadn’t happened before”.

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‘Up-lit’ gives hope to publishers at Frankfurt book fair

‘Hopeful’ novel about an elderly woman who adopts a dog leads the charge from feelgood fiction

A debut novel about a lonely old woman who has fallen through the cracks of society has wowed publishers at this week’s Frankfurt book fair, with 10 presses fighting to win a book that is being compared to the smash hit Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

The television producer Beth Morrey’s first novel, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael, has emerged as one of the biggest titles among a deluge of fiction following the trend for uplifting literature, or “up-lit”. Selling to HarperCollins for a six-figure sum after a 10-way auction, the novel finds elderly Missy Carmichael living alone with her husband gone, her daughter not speaking to her and her son in Australia – until she adopts a dog.

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Alternative Nobel literature prize goes to Maryse Condé

The New Academy prize, organised to fill the gap left by the cancellation of 2018’s official award, goes to Guadeloupean novelist

Guadeloupean novelist Maryse Condé has been announced as the winner of the New Academy prize in literature, a one-off award intended to fill the void left by the cancellation of this year’s scandal-dogged Nobel prize for literature.

Speaking on a video played at a ceremony in Stockholm, Condé said she was “very happy and proud” to win the award. “But please allow me to share it with my family, my friends and above all the people of Guadeloupe, who will be thrilled and touched seeing me receive this prize,” she said. “We are such a small country, only mentioned when there are hurricanes or earthquakes and things like that. Now we are so happy to be recognised for something else.”

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Jesse Ball’s ‘strange and beautiful’ Census wins Gordon Burn prize

Judges praise fable inspired by the author’s late brother as perfect match for prize’s ambition to reward writing ‘that dares to enter history’

A fable inspired by the author Jesse Ball’s late brother, who had Down’s syndrome, has won the Gordon Burn prize.

The American author’s Census, which follows a terminally ill father and his son as they conduct a survey of a nameless country, beat works including Guy Gunaratne’s Booker-longlisted novel In Our Mad and Furious City to the £5,000 award at the Durham book festival on Thursday evening. The prize is for work that follows in the footsteps of Burn – “novels which dare to enter history and interrogate the past; non-fiction adventurous enough to inhabit characters and events in order to create new and vivid realities” – and has been won in the past by writers including Paul Kingsnorth and Benjamin Myers.

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James Patterson says saving libraries is down to readers

Speaking during Libraries Week, the thriller writer, who has donated large sums to fund reading in schools, says ‘it really starts with the people’

Spending is plummeting and visits are on the decline, but James Patterson’s prescription for embattled libraries is a marketing campaign.

“Free books!” Patterson tells the Guardian. “Imagine in the mall if there was a free store. You wouldn’t be able to get in the place.”

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‘Textbook terror’: How The Haunting of Hill House rewrote horror’s rules

Authors from Joe Hill to Andrew Michael Hurley consider why this 1959 novel, poised for a Netflix adaptation, holds such enduring power to chill

As Shirley Jackson told it, the inspiration for The Haunting of Hill House came after she read about a group of 19th-century psychic researchers who moved into a supposedly haunted house in order to study it. “They thought that they were being terribly scientific and proving all kinds of things,” she said, “and yet the story that kept coming through their dry reports was not at all the story of a haunted house, it was the story of several earnest, I believe misguided, certainly determined people, with their differing motivations and backgrounds.”

Published in 1959, Jackson’s resulting novel has defined the haunted house story ever since. Stephen King, in his history of the horror genre, Danse Macabre, said The Haunting of Hill House is ...

Growing up in a house full of books is major boost to literacy and numeracy, study finds

Research data from 160,000 adults in 31 countries concludes that a sizeable home library gave teen school leavers skills equivalent to university graduates who didn’t read

Growing up in a home packed with books has a large effect on literacy in later life – but a home library needs to contain at least 80 books to be effective, according to new research.

Led by Dr Joanna Sikora of Australian National University, academics analysed data from more than 160,000 adults, from 31 different countries, who took part in the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies between 2011 and 2015. All participants were asked how many books there were in their homes when they were 16 – they were told that one metre of shelving was equivalent to around 40 books – and went through literacy, numeracy and information communication technology (ICT) tests to gauge their abilities.

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‘Forgotten’ female poet of first world war to be honoured at armistice centenary

Mary Borden’s passionate sonnet was addressed to a British soldier with whom she had an affair while running a field hospital at the battle of the Somme

A love poem written from the frontline of the Somme by the “great forgotten voice of the first world war”, the American author, heiress, suffragette and nurse Mary Borden, will form the heart of an event at the Tower of London to mark the centenary of Armistice Day.

Borden’s poem, the third in a sequence entitled Sonnets to a Soldier, was written for a young British officer with whom she had an affair while running a field hospital during the first world war. It will be the basis for a choral work by the artist and composer Mira Calix, accompanying a light show that will fill the Tower of London moat from 4-11 November with thousands of individual flames, in the build-up to ...

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie accepts PEN Pinter prize with call to speak out

Arguing that authors have a duty to ‘call a lie a lie’, novelist also names human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair as the 2018 International Writer of Courage

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has spoken out about the responsibility of authors to engage with politics and “call a lie a lie”, as she accepted the PEN Pinter prize on Tuesday evening.

Awarded to an outstanding writer who shows “the real truth of our lives and our societies” with their work, the prize went this year to the Nigerian novelist who judges described as “sophisticated beyond measure in her understanding of gender, race, and global inequality”.

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Tamora Pierce: ‘Everybody thinks fantasy is so safe. Are you kidding?’

Her tales of female knights have made her a favourite for girl readers since the 80s. She talks about bringing ‘the rawness of reality’ to her fiction

Tamora Pierce faced a conundrum when she began writing her latest young adult novel, Tempests and Slaughter. Ever since she published the groundbreaking quartet of novels The Song of the Lioness in the 1980s, she has been renowned for making her characters seem real. Yes, her girls might be able to talk to animals, fight gods and lead armies, but they also get their periods, raise children, worry about their bodies and have their hearts broken.

Tempests and Slaughter, though, focuses on a young boy. For years, Pierce has been asked to write a male hero and here he is: Arram Draper, the child who will grow up into Numair, the powerful mage from her previous Immortals series, and a fan favourite. But ...

The best recent thrillers – review roundup

Tenacious detectives in Victorian London and strangers with secrets in a health resort

It’s London, 1893, and “scullery maids and match girls [are] disappearing left and right”. The gutter press blames “the shadowy malefactors known only as the Spiriters”, but Octavia Hillingdon of the Mayfair Gazette (she writes for the society pages but is desperate to sink her teeth into something meatier) is unconvinced. “‘Shadowy malefactors,’ indeed. It is like something from a bad novel,” she scoffs, before finding herself drawn into the deliciously dark mystery at the heart of Paraic O’Donnell’s The House on Vesper Sands (Orion, £13.99).

Octavia is not the only sleuth on the trail of the missing girls. Enter Gideon Bliss, a verbose, impoverished Cambridge student who comes across a dying girl in a Soho church, and teams up with Inspector Cutter of Scotland Yard in an attempt to save her.

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A giant called Labour, a villain called Tory: Keir Hardie’s forgotten fairytales republished

The Labour party founder’s socialist children’s story is being reprinted with almost 50 others written for turn-of-the-century workers’ magazines

A 19th-century fairytale by Labour party founder Keir Hardie, which sees a gnarled, good-natured giant called Labour pitted against a king who was “much given to scheming and had a perfect hatred of work”, is to see the light of day for what is believed to be the first time in more than a century.

The History of a Giant: Being a Study in Politics for Very Young Boys, was published in the socialist newspaper Labour Leader on 8 April 1893, but has lain forgotten since. One of dozens of tales in a new collection of socialist children’s stories, Hardie’s story follows the life of Labour as he comes to the realisation that he needs to rid himself of the king and his offspring, Liberal and Tory.

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