Alice Hoffman Chatto, pounds 10.99, 303pp
A WHIFF of witchiness always haunts Hoffman's sunny suburban settings - crooked apple trees fill the skyline, and gilded lilies spring up along the sidewalks. Although the homes and yards of her small New England communities appear tickety-boo, you can be sure that bad luck is lurking in the wings.
Hoffman's latest novel opens on a perfect June morning with a married couple smooching over the breakfast dishes. Even after 13 years of marriage Jorie Ford still has the hots for husband Ethan. They have a designer kitchen, a sweet-natured son, and the respect and envy of their neighbours. But within minutes of this picture perfect opening, the sheriff and his men are tapping on the door with a warrant for Ethan's arrest. Accused of murdering and raping a teenager 15 years ago, Ethan is thrown into jail.
Staking her emotional territory somewhere between Wuthering Heights and a Hallmark greeting card, Hoffman is not really a grownup's writer. Her adolescents, as you might expect, are particularly well drawn, and here, as in much of her previous fiction, it's the fatal attraction of a young girl for a dangerous predator that underpins the novel and its many persuasive sub- plots. Border-line icky, Hoffman's artful confections are hard to put down. EH
Michael Dibdin Faber, pounds 6.99, 179pp
COMPARED TO his Aurelio Zen novels, Dibdin's American-based mystery is a damp squib. Anthony is a British journalist who's just lost his wife in a plane crash. Inconsolable, he becomes obsessed with learning more about her life before he met her. To this end he buys a gun and treks out to the Nevada desert to meet up with Darryl Bob, Lucy's first husband, a burly red-neck with a surprising video collection. …