(Renard Press, £10)
At a party in Glasgow in the 1980s, artist Susan Alison first catches sight of handsome six-footer Douglas, a meeting that will be fateful for them both. She decides there and then that he would be the perfect model for her crucifixion painting. It will be another 14 years before she completes it, over which time the painting will have taken on an overpowering significance for both artist and model. Nineteen-eighties Glasgow is evoked well, with namechecks for the Transmission Gallery, Howson and Wiszniewski among others, though neither Douglas nor Susan Alison is especially likeable and attention wanders whenever they begin to discuss art or religion. But the realisation of where the duo’s commitment to their art is taking them is genuinely chilling, and a sub-plot involving Mogwai and Susan Alison’s epileptic fits is creepy, if perplexing. Even if it doesn’t all fully gel, Hood’s debut has a dark, compelling urgency.
FOR ANY OTHER TRUTH
A plane crash-lands at a rural airport carrying two passengers, dressed identically and both, somehow, dead before it even took off. As usual, the ninth of Meyrick’s DCI Jim Daley novels is set in Kinloch in the Mull of Kintyre, but the plot has a far wider reach. A scheme comes to light hatched between climate activists and the Provisional IRA, and as MI5 gets in on the action a prominent local resident disappears after witnessing something he shouldn’t. Meanwhile, an atmosphere of suspicion thickens as DI Brian Scott’s son starts acting strangely, the hotel manager grows wary of the new owner and Chief Superintendent Carrie Symington’s past comes back to haunt her. It’s a complex story, Meyrick’s longest so far, with numerous strands and many continuing characters’ stories to develop. At times, it can feel a little too busy, but Meyrick is skilled and experienced enough by now to pull it together.
WILDGOOSE: A TALE OF TWO POETS
(Postbox Press, £8.99)
The first novel from the Callander-based poet, editor and bookseller is, not altogether surprisingly, the story of a woman steeped in poetry. Growing up in the north of England in the 1950s, cousins Maeve Cartier and Eric Grysewood are connected by a love of poetry that forges a lifelong bond but also a deep rivalry. From her teenage years on, Maeve is surrounded by poets and thinks of little else but writing, but, being a woman, finds it hard to make her mark. Evans vividly conjures up Maeve’s lifelong negotiation between “the hidden magic and the ordinary life” as she juggles motherhood with a job as a librarian and working on the magnum opus she’s struggling to write. Drawing on a deep well of experience of making a living on the poetry circuit, Wildgoose is a poignant, immersive portrait of a woman enraptured by the transformative power of words.