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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The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry review – pastiche Victoriana

An anaesthetist’s assistant and a plucky housemaid team up in a historical crime caper from husband-and-wife team Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman

“Ambrose Parry” is the crime novelist Chris Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman, an anaesthetist. So it is unsurprising that James Simpson, who pioneered the use of chloroform in 19th-century Edinburgh, has a role in the book, and that it has a grand guignol thriller plot. Though it will carry you perfectly through a lazy afternoon, it suffers from many of the defining characteristics of pastiche Victoriana: it has to have something old, something new, something borrowed and something in 50 shades of blue. “No decent story ought to begin with a dead prostitute,” declares chapter one – and yet, behold, it does.

Will Raven, an apprentice to Simpson, has a dark secret – and not only that he fled the scene where he found his lover dead. ...

The Piranhas by Roberto Saviano review – teenage mafiosi in Naples

The author of Gomorrah channels his mafia knowledge into a lurid story about a boy’s quest for power

There is no shortage of novels about organised crime in Italy, but this is perhaps the first in which the main characters are all in their teens. Nicolas Fiorillo, son of mild middle-class parents in the notorious Forcella area of central Naples, offers no resistance to an invitation to deal drugs for the camorra, the Neapolitan mafia. Obsessed by manifestations of wealth and luxury, in particular the glamorous New Maharaja, a white-walled restaurant overlooking the Bay of Naples, Nicolas is nicknamed Maraja by his friends and concentrates all his adolescent attention on joining the ranks of the privileged who can drink champagne on plush sofas and dance all night on the restaurant’s sea terrace.

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The best recent crime novels – review roundup

The Corset by Laura Purcell, Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar, All This I Will Give to You by Dolores Redondo, Half Moon Bay by Alice LaPlante, Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves

Inspired by the case of milliner Sarah Metyard and her daughter Sally, who were hanged in 1762 for mistreating one of their young apprentices so badly that she died, Laura Purcell’s second novel, The Corset (Raven, £12.99), is a compelling slice of early Victorian gothic. Ruth Butterham, a 16-year-old seamstress, stands accused of murdering her abusive mistress and is visited in prison by earnest Dorothea Truelove, a wealthy young heiress who combines good works with the study of phrenology. Ruth, who believes that supernatural powers flow through her needle and thread, tells her story to Dorothea, who, in defiance of the father who wishes her to move in fashionable society and marry well, has secretly become engaged ...

The best recent crime novels – review roundup

The Corset by Laura Purcell, Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar, All This I Will Give to You by Dolores Redondo, Half Moon Bay by Alice LaPlante, Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves

Inspired by the case of milliner Sarah Metyard and her daughter Sally, who were hanged in 1762 for mistreating one of their young apprentices so badly that she died, Laura Purcell’s second novel, The Corset (Raven, £12.99), is a compelling slice of early Victorian gothic. Ruth Butterham, a 16-year-old seamstress, stands accused of murdering her abusive mistress and is visited in prison by earnest Dorothea Truelove, a wealthy young heiress who combines good works with the study of phrenology. Ruth, who believes that supernatural powers flow through her needle and thread, tells her story to Dorothea, who, in defiance of the father who wishes her to move in fashionable society and marry well, has secretly become engaged ...

Not the Booker: The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan review – thriller lost in plot

Opening with a powerful, sensitively drawn portrait of two bereaved children, this book’s drama soon becomes mechanical

Dervla McTiernan’s path to publication has been unusually smooth. That’s not the same as easy. She clearly had to put in plenty of hard yards, writing at nights after finishing up at her day job and putting her children to bed. But still. She says she started writing in earnest in 2014, having given herself five years to make a go of it – but that within just two years (by early December 2016) she found herself the subject of publishing auction and signed up for a two-book deal.

“It helped,” she has said, “that I had a story, or at least the beginning of one. It was a single image, really. A girl, 15-year-old Maude Blake, sits on the stairs in a ...

How novelist Dominick Donald followed killer John Christie into London’s Great Smog

The debut author explains how some very dark history provided him with the seeds for his gripping thriller Breathe

The serial killer John Christie, who murdered at least seven women, was hanged in 1953. But when Dominick Donald was growing up in in Notting Dale, west London in the 1970s, there were traces of Christie everywhere.

“He’d been executed for 20-odd years,” Donald says, “but everybody had their Christie story: ‘My mum worked with him in the ticket office,’ or ‘We used to see him in church,’ or, ‘My dad drank with him in the pub.’”

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Lethal White by Robert Galbraith review – twists, turns and tangled emotions

JK Rowling’s wonderfully complex detective confronts devious politicians and the perils of unwanted fame, but his fourth outing could have done with some editing

Lethal White, the fourth in JK Rowling’s crime series featuring the disabled war veteran turned private investigator Cormoran Strike and his partner in the agency Robin Ellacott, arrives with the customary fanfare, declaring itself “the most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet”. At nearly 650 pages, it’s a big book and it certainly doesn’t lack ambition.

It’s set amid the 2012 London Olympics, that last precarious moment of national unity. There are whispers of blackmail and double-dealing in the corridors of power and something suitably nasty and gothic that happened in the country seat of a Conservative MP. Strike and Ellacott must walk the line between corrupt Tories, devious coalition Liberals and brutish proto-Momentum activists. Each chapter is headed with a quote from Ibsen’s state of ...

Extract: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (the pseudonym of JK Rowling)

Following the success of the TV series Strike, the Harry Potter author’s latest Cormoran Strike novel is more eagerly anticipated than ever. Read an exclusive extract here

Panting, his right knee aching, Strike used the handrail to pull himself up the last few steps of the metal staircase leading to his office. Two raised voices were reverberating through the glass door, one male, the other shrill, frightened and female. When Strike burst into the room, Denise, who was backed against the wall, gasped, “Oh, thank God!”

Strike judged the man in the middle of the room to be in his mid-twenties. Dark hair fell in straggly wisps around a thin and dirty face that was dominated by burning, sunken eyes. His T-shirt, jeans and hoodie were all torn and filthy, the sole of one of his trainers peeling away from the leather. An unwashed animal stench hit the detective’s ...

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas review – a dazzling genre-defying debut

Era-hopping sex, trauma and therapy … four scientists make a world-changing discovery in a novel that breaks the rules of detective fiction, space and time

A door bolted from the inside, blood, bullets and and unidentifiable corpse. These are the classic ingredients of the locked-room mystery, but when Kate Mascarenhas deploys them in her genre-defying debut, she doesn’t play by the rules of detective fiction, or even the rules of space and time. As the novel opens, we learn that time travel was invented in 1967 by a four-strong group known as the Pioneers. There’s aristocratic cosmologist Margaret; Lucille, who has “come from the Toxteth slums to make radio waves travel faster than light”; enigmatic Grace, “an expert in the behaviour of matter”; and Barbara, a specialist in nuclear fission.

Their discovery is, of course, world-changing, but only some of them will get to share in it. Time travel throws ...

After American Animals: the literary robberies Hollywood is yet to snatch up

With Bart Layton’s new true-crime film, literary robbery stories have finally found Hollywood’s spotlight. There are others lurking in the library

In contrast to the slew of movies devoted to art thieves (Entrapment, Ocean’s Twelve, The Thomas Crown Affair, etc), purloining books has had a poor showing on screen – just the obscure Canadian film The Art of the Steal, and a Mr Bean sketch in which the klutz cuts up a codex, if you leave out the The Book Thief’s benign “borrowings”. Is this because most textual treasures are not beautiful objects – just print behind covers - or because Hollywood is in denial about its dependency on books and so undervalues them?

Related: American Animals review – audacious stupidity and teeth-clenching thrills

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After American Animals: the literary robberies Hollywood is yet to snatch up

With Bart Layton’s new true-crime film, literary robbery stories have finally found Hollywood’s spotlight. There are others lurking in the library

In contrast to the slew of movies devoted to art thieves (Entrapment, Ocean’s Twelve, The Thomas Crown Affair, etc), purloining books has had a poor showing on screen – just the obscure Canadian film The Art of the Steal, and a Mr Bean sketch in which the klutz cuts up a codex, if you leave out the The Book Thief’s benign “borrowings”. Is this because most textual treasures are not beautiful objects – just print behind covers - or because Hollywood is in denial about its dependency on books and so undervalues them?

Related: American Animals review – audacious stupidity and teeth-clenching thrills

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Atwood? Shakespeare? Harry Potter? Top 10 false identities in fiction

Characters in disguise are almost as frequent in books as in real life. From the boy wizard to the bard, here are some of the best

We all wear masks. In the various parts of our lives, we present different faces to the world. Often it is a form of self-preservation. We want to be liked, valued, respected, feared. Sometimes it is because we desire something we are afraid that our real self would be unable to get: a new contract with a client, for example; a date with John/Joan from next door. Occasionally, it is because we have something we wish to hide. Something dark, perhaps. Something deadly.

In my new thriller, The Liar’s Room, identity is at the heart of the mystery. Or mysteries, I should say, because although almost all of the action takes place in a single room, involving just two main characters, nobody ...

Not the Booker: Dark Pines by Will Dean review – icy thriller does the job

The body and cliche count clock up in a tiny Swedish town – but a complex protagonist elevates this debut above other Nordic noir

This second novel on our Not the Booker 2018 shortlist is about a serial killer in rural Scandinavia. If you’re like me, that knowledge may make you feel slightly cynical. I’ve no way of verifying this, but I have a hunch that, in the decade or so since Stieg Larsson popularised Nordic noir, more people have been murdered in novels about Sweden than in the whole history of that famously safe country.

With dozens of post-Larsson Nordic noir novels out (and even a couple post-Larsson-Larsson novels out), the cliches of the genre are becoming tedious. At first glance, Dark Pines doesn’t escape them. There’s blood, snow, long dark nights, deep empty forests, people with wholesome exteriors covering ...

The best recent crime novels – review roundup

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew, Resin by Ane Riel, A Double Life by Flynn Berry, Memo from Turner by Tim Willocks and Yellowhammer by James Henry

Poet Claire Askew’s splendid debut, All the Hidden Truths (Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99), focuses on the aftermath of an Edinburgh college massacre: 20-year-old Ryan Summers lethally modified three starting pistols that had belonged to his dead athletics coach father and used them to gun down 13 fellow students before killing himself. The culprit cannot be brought to justice, but the victims’ parents and public want answers to the unanswerable – what went wrong, and when? As so often with this type of crime, it’s assumed the fault must lie with the shooter’s mother. Surely Moira must have known there was something grievously wrong with her son? The frenzy of blame is fomented by an unscrupulous tabloid journalist, who starts ...

When Nicci French met Ambrose Parry: couples who write together share secrets

Nicci Gerrard and her husband, Sean French, who write as Nicci French, share tips with new pseudonym on the block, Ambrose Parry – Chris Brookmyre and his wife, Dr Marisa Haetzman

Joyce Carol Oates once said that when writers meet and interrogate each other about their writing methods (how many hours a day, how many words a day, how much planning and how much editing, how many drafts, what magical-thinking rituals, computer or freehand, music or silence?), they are really just asking: are you as crazy as I am? For writing, solitary and obsessive, can often feel like going a bit mad. Philip Roth once described his methods: “I’m like a doctor and it’s an emergency room. And I’m the emergency.’”

There’s a small literary sub-genre of hybrid creatures who write together. And when they meet, the conversation isn’t just “how?” (how do you do it, how ...

Belinda Bauer, the crime author up for the Booker: ‘If it’s tokenism, I don’t care’

She hadn’t read a crime novel before writing her debut at 45. Now, the author of The Snap talks risk-taking, genre snobbery and not needing to know whodunnit

Belinda Bauer heard the news that she’d been longlisted for this year’s Man Booker prize for her thriller Snap from her agent and editor, who called her together from the Harrogate crime writing festival, giggling so hard she could hardly tell what they were saying. Sworn to secrecy, she kept thinking she must have heard them wrong – she couldn’t quite believe it.

A few days later, it was official: Snap, which is inspired by the murder of a pregnant woman, Marie Wilks, on the M50 in 1988 (the real-life crime remains unsolved), had become one of the very few crime-genre novels ever to be considered for the prize. The judges described it as “an acute, stylish, intelligent novel about how ...

James Patterson remains UK libraries’ most borrowed author for 11th year

While readers in east England prefer romance, and those in the south-west want their books to be by Roald Dahl, figures show the US thriller king has kept his throne

While library users in London and the north cannot get enough of tales of blood and violence, it has emerged that borrowers in the south and east prefer the thrills supplied by romantic novels.

According to data released by the Public Lending Right (PLR), thrillers – and in particular thrillers by James Patterson – continue to exert an inexorable pull for the majority of the UK’s library users. The US powerhouse, who publishes multiple titles every year, has been named the most borrowed author from UK libraries for the 11th year in a row.

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Jessica Mann obituary

Crime novelist and broadcaster who appeared on Radio 4’s Round Britain Quiz and TV’s Question Time

The writer and broadcaster Jessica Mann, who has died aged 80, was outgoing, witty and sociable. At the same time, she was self-questioning and restless, always looking for the next challenge.

Every couple of years, from A Charitable End (1971) to The Stroke of Death (2016), she produced a crime novel – 22 in all. Without being autobiographical, they reflect places she had lived in and people she had known. They do not have a consistent sleuthing protagonist, though the secret agent and archaeologist Tamara Hoyland appears in six of them.

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