This week's bookcase includes reviews of Macbeth by Jo Nesbo, Never Greener by Ruth Jones and The Hunger by Alma Katsu.


Never Greener by Ruth Jones is published by Bantam Press, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99). Available now

The debut novel of scriptwriter and actress Ruth Jones, star of Stella and Gavin & Stacey, is about second chances in relationships and whether you can really put the past behind you. At 22 Kate has a passionate affair with the happily married Callum - which ends in heartbreak. A successful actress, married to gallery owner Matt and with a young daughter, she meets Callum again 17 years later and decides to pursue the love of her life. Jones writes a very human portrait of messy marriages and the heart wanting what the heart wants. The impact the collision of lives has on friends and family, the blinkered failing to understand the real nature of what you already have, reveals how imperfect people don't see clearly that the grass isn't always greener.


(Review by Bridie Pritchard)

Macbeth by Jo Nesbo is published in hardback by Hogarth, priced £20 (ebook £9.99). Available now

Theatre director Sir Peter Hall once said Macbeth concerned what was released by murder - "the way evil breeds evil, blood breeds blood, badness breeds badness". Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbo steeps his Shakespearean thriller in blood. The setting is a version of 1970s Scotland, with Macbeth the honoured general turned into a policeman who murders his way to the top. He is helped by casino owner Lady, the unstable, sleepwalking love of his life, and by quantities of brew, local drug of choice. Nesbo was apparently attracted to Macbeth because the story was short, allowing the spinning of his own plot. Sadly, he spins too much and it's a very long read, thrilling in parts, curiously unengaging in others. Fans of his addictive thrillers may be confused: paradoxically, it's a racy read and yet a bit of a slog, too.


(Review by Julian Cole)

The Hunger by Alma Katsu is published in hardback by Bantam Press, priced £12.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

This historical horror is inspired by real events - the journey made by a wagon train of settlers known as the Donner Party in 1846, moving west from Illinois to the new American frontier along the California Trail. The route was already well-estabished, but at Wyoming, the party took the advice of a self-appointed expert, Lansford Hastings, and opted for a supposed shortcut. The new route proved virtually impassable, there were massive delays, and by the time the group reached the Sierra Nevada, winter had set in hard. Snowed in and out of supplies, the survivors turned to cannibalism. So far, so factual. But in Katsu's version, the cannibalism appears to have a supernatural cause. Children start to go missing, and bodies are found hideously multilated. The woods are filled with strange whispers at night, and tales of Native American sacrifice haunt the campfires. Slowly the party starts to feel it is being stalked across plain and forest by evil spirits, or possibly demented humans. The Hunger has already bagged a film deal, and the story does indeed have a strong cinematic quality. The setting and atmosphere are scrupulously researched, though the period detail is never overdone. Katsu creates some believable and compelling characters, though in a creepy story like this, it's not wise to get too attached to any of them. And she is especially good on the dynamics of group psychology under terrible pressure - the alliances, faultlines and conflicts that animate the group once adversity really starts to set in. But for me, the creepiness was the one area where the story fell down. The tale itself has enough horror and mystery, and the introduction of evil spirits had a slightly contrived, formulaic air. I believed fully in the history, but didn't buy the horror.


(Review by Dan Brotzel)


First, Catch by Thom Eagle is published in hardback by Quadrille, priced £16.99 (ebook £10.21). Available now

A chef at restaurant Little Duck The Picklery, in London, Thom Eagle also blogs at In Search Of Lost Thyme, where he shares his thoughts and musings on ingredients and the season. First, Catch - his debut book - is an extension of this style. It takes a spring meal - featuring sea trout, celery and rabbit - and breaks it down into its component parts, but don't expect a recipe. Instead, this book on food (not a cookbook per se) deals less in specific temperatures, chopping techniques and measurements, and more in the weight of thought and time you apply to each ingredient and process, as you set about curating and cooking a dish. Eagle potters between giving direction (he tells us there's much joy to be had I watching every form boiling water can take), to waxing lyrical (you can't miss his devotion to salt) and sliding into the past (his discussion of the ancient herb silphium, now extinct, is quite beautiful). At times the language strays into twee-ness, and Eagle has a habit of talking directly to the reader which can feel a little patronising at times. However, the gentle, meandering tone, short dip-in chapters and beguiling historical asides make it rather an intriguing, and appetite inducing, read.


(Review by Ella Walker)


Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman is published in paperback by Ink Road, priced £7.99 (ebook £3.47). Available now

This heart-wrenching debut novel follows Kiko, an American-Japanese teenager who struggles with crippling social anxiety and a mother who makes her feel ugly and unloved. When she fails to make it into her favourite art school, Kiko decides to leave everything behind and embarks on a trip to California with her childhood friend Jamie. Here she finally learns to confront her fears and starts to forge her own path - until a tragedy leads her back home. Tackling issues such as sexual abuse, suicide and racism, Akemi Dawn Bowman's debut YA novel is a tough read at times, but one that will speak to many teenagers, especially those with mixed-race backgrounds. It also asks clever questions about the meaning of family and relationships, and shows that it can be a good thing if life doesn't always turn out the way it was planned.


(Review by Verena Vogt)