THE DREAM WEAVERS By Barbara Erskine (HarperCollins £14.99, 512 pp)


By Barbara Erskine (HarperCollins £14.99, 512 pp)

Sequestered away in a secluded cottage on the Welsh/English border, Simon Armstrong is attempting to work on a history of the ruthlessly ambitious Anglo-Saxon ruler Offa, but he’s continually interrupted by doors banging and an eerie voice calling out the name Elisedd.

He enlists the help of Bea Dalloway, a sensitive soul who’s adept at dealing with ghosts, to banish the bothersome visions. 

But Simon finds himself enmeshed in a web of the ancient past, as his teenage daughter is haunted by scenes from the life of vengeful, murderous Eadburh, Offa’s youngest daughter.

Eadburh is still grieving the loss of her lover, Elisedd, and is determined to settle old scores. 

Erskine unspools a spooky, sinuous tale of poisoning and witchery, romance and revenge, as the long-held secrets of the past dangerously seep into the present, in this gripping time-slip novel.


By K J Maitland (Headline £16.99, 448 pp)

It’s 1606 and enigmatic Daniel Pursglove is chained to the wall in a rat-infested cell in Newgate prison, running out of hope and options. 

Deliverance comes from an unexpected quarter — FitzAlan, an adviser to James I, wants the intrepid Daniel to head to Bristol to ferret out a seditious Jesuit priest, Spero Pettingar, who, it’s believed, has links to the Gunpowder Plot.

Bristol is underwater, deluged by a freak tidal wave, bodies lie rotting in the streets and taverns are full of rumour and roguery, as people speculate on the cause of the flood and attempt to survive in the mud.

Pursglove, with the King’s gold in his pocket and his own neck to save, heads to the Salt Cat tavern to begin his investigations, and encounters murder, menace and murky deeds in this devilishly good thriller.

THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS By Pip Williams (Chatto £14.99, 432 pp)


By Pip Williams (Chatto £14.99, 432 pp)

Motherless Esme Nicoll, aged five, is sitting under a table in a garden shed in the heart of Oxford in May 1887. 

Seated around the table are the people, mostly men, who are compiling the first ever edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

It is the start of a life-long fascination with language for curious Esme who, throughout the course of this poignant, perfectly paced novel, learns that the words that are discarded or rejected are often ones important to women’s experiences and emotions.

Determined to redress the balance, she creates a dictionary of lost words, a beautifully nuanced work which describes the milestones in her life, as she grows from a bullied boarding school pupil to a passionate young feminist and the grieving adult whose life is defined by loss in World War I.

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