by Stanley Donwood
Faber & Faber
Stanley Donwood proves the adage that artists are more often seen than heard, or at least heard of. If you have ever picked up a record by Radiohead or Atoms for Peace, you will be familiar with his entrancing visual collages. Donwood has, for some years now, written stories, although "snippets" is a better description of the short works collected in Humor. The title refers to the ancient concept of the "humour": the four sections are titled Sanguine, Phlegm, Choler and Melancholy. Head and Shoulders is a creepy joke. A narrator hears dead people every time he puts his head under the water. When his landlord refuses to put in a shower, our narrator growls: "It's all right for him. He hasn't got f****** dead people talking to him every time he washes his hair." Most of the tales ( Sky Sports, Scent, Here be Dragons) shift along this line - grimly comic, or strangely amusing. By the end, I felt quite unusual, which I suppose is a recommendation. Donwood has real, if unsettling talent.
Extras: some new Donwood illustrations.
by Anne Rice
(read by Simon Vance)
The premise of Anne Rice's 11th instalment in her bestselling "Vampire Chronicles" is that the vampire world is in crisis. Given the apparent omnipresence of the fanged undead in recent years, this feels frankly ludicrous. Things proceed along Twilight-ish lines. The new bloodsuckers fight back, not only with cool violence and pitiless ruthlessness, but they, like totally, socially network. Social networking is kind of a speciality of their new enemy known as the Voice, which is commanding Ancient Ones to dust Dracula wannabes everywhere from Hong Kong to Paris. In Anne Rice, this is the sort of challenge that her glamorous anti-hero Lestat cannot turn down. It is all supremely silly, all the more so for being removed from Rice's original setting in 18th-century Europe. Still, audiobook prince Simon Vance gives it his best shot, adopting a range of exotic accents to beguile us into enjoying the tale. Rice knows how to spin a yarn, but the suspicion remains that others have claimed her crown.
by Anthony Horowitz
(read by Julian Rhind-Tutt, Derek Jacobi)
The literary update must be publishing's genre of the year: Ian Fleming's James Bond, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Jane Austen's bunch are just a few of those to have undergone a 21st-century resurrection. This has been happening to Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes for years now. Anthony Horowitz, best known for teenage hero Alex Rider, is the official Holmes Rebooter. After the respectable House of Silk comes Moriarty. Set not long after Holmes and his arch nemesis plunged over the Reichenbach Falls, the novel comes with three major plot holes: namely, Holmes, Dr Watson and Moriarty (or does it?). In their stead is Pinkerton detective Frederick Chase, who pursues a new but shadowy criminal mastermind. Assisting is the gruff Welsh detective inspector Athelney Jones. Whether you will be fooled by the twist remains to be seen.
Extras: a new Holmes short story, The Three Monarchs, read by Sir Derek Jacobi. Queen Victoria stands in for Napoleon in this recasting of The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.