Every so often a novel comes along that spins your imaginative wheels, rearranges your mental marbles and makes you smile. A lot. That Theatre of the Gods does this makes it a special book. That it's a debut makes it even more special. Part sci-fi fantasy romp, part steampunk odyssey and part philosophical entertainment, it follows the odd life and times of M. Francisco Fabrigas, who journeys with a band of reprobates to discover alternate universes that are the mirror image of his own with one exception: they don't contain him. Matt Suddain throws in the kitchen sink: parodies of songs (Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit), sudden shifts in time, winding parentheses about the cast, eerie children and lots of jokes. Theatre of the Gods is ambitious, vivid, strange, fun and oddly familiar in the way all really fine books are. Stop what you are doing and give it a go.
Extras: an ingenious fictional publishing house that can be reached by clicking blacklistpublishing.com in the e-book edition.
Hardly a week goes by without Alexander McCall Smith publishing something from one of his many long-running series. While his detective novels starring Mma Ramotswe are his most famous, his Scotland Street novels are every bit as genially comic and readable. Set in the pleasant town houses of Edinburgh, they feature a mildly eccentric assortment of characters. At the centre here is the wedding of Angus Lordie to his fiancée Dominica, a social anthropologist. Angus being Angus, his wedding day is both uneventful and constantly on the brink of disaster. Life will never be the same - not least for Angus' dog, Cyril. McCall Smith seems aware of the growing fame of his hometown comedy. A Danish documentary film director decides to film Angus' best man, Matthew, who has become a father to triplets. But plans go horribly awry and local café owner Big Lou becomes an unlikely viral hit. This really is a little slice of summer sunshine. I can't wait for the next one.
The one writer who could give the ultra-prolific McCall Smith a run for his money is James Patterson, whether writing solo or in tandem with his assembly line of collaborators. Second Honeymoon sees Patterson working with Howard Roughan for a tall tale of murder, thwarted love and the shortest sentences known to humanity: "There it was. The key. Just as he'd found it weeks before." The sequel to the now eight-year-old Honeymoon, the premise is devilishly simple. A pair of happy newlyweds are found murdered in the sauna of their honeymoon hotel in the supposedly idyllic Caribbean. The hero of part one, FBI agent John O'Hara, is hired to investigate by the male victim's wealthy father. Then things get really weird, as a serial killer criss-crosses America with all his victims sharing one fatal flaw: their name is John O'Hara. Patterson and Roughan bring the two cases together, uniting our hero O'Hara with new agent Sarah Brubaker. Sparks, and more besides, fly. Good fun.