20 good fiction books for the beach and beyond

1. The Amusements, Aingeala Flannery

Before the advent of cheap flights and the invention of the word staycation, Irish people holidayed in places like Tramore, Co Waterford, which had the added lure of fairground rides, known locally as ‘the amusements’. In this series of linked stories set in the seaside resort, Flannery draws on her own childhood experiences de ella, capturing the idiosyncrasies of life in small-town Ireland and the relationships and resentments that underpin it. A great choice of book for a summer read.

2. Lessons in Chemistry, Bonnie Garmus

Already the word-of-mouth hit of the summer, this debut novel by the 64-year-old former copywriter is currently being adapted into an Apple TV series. It follows the trials and tribulations of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist working in a male-dominated field in 1960s America, who becomes an accidental celebrity. Funny and moving, it is full of perceptive insights about the challenges faced by women in their attempts to achieve equality. One that will appeal to fans of Katherine Heiny and Curtis Sittenfeld.

3. Book Lovers, Emily Henry

Henry’s neon-bright book covers scream sunshine and escapism. The author of breakout BookTok rom-com You and Me on Vacation has quickly built up a fanbase with her whip-smart take on modern relationships. Her de ella latest de ella, a ‘rivals to lovers’ romance set in a North Carolina town, is executed with aplomb.

4. What Eden Did Next, Sheila Flanagan

Flanagan’s books are a staple of the Irish summer—in the latest book by the doyenne of commercial fiction, the titular protagonist faces resistance from her in-laws when she attempts to move on five years after the death of her firefighter husband.

5. Murder Before Evensong: A Canon Clement Mystery, Richard Coles

We have Richard Osman and the phenomenal success of his Thursday Murder Club to thank for the new genre of ‘cosy crime’ which is doing a roaring trade. The latest proponent is pop star turned vicar, Richard Coles, whose crime-fighting Canon, Daniel Clement uncovers some long-buried secrets in his parish from him.

6. Take My Hand, Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Inspired by real events, this compelling novel tells the story of a nurse at a family planning clinic in 1970s Alabama who pays the price when she takes a stand against a racist eugenics health policy. A gut-punch of a book, heartrending and suspenseful in turn.

LR: The cover of the new John Grisham; Ardal O’Hanlon

7. Sparring Partners, John Grisham

Grisham pioneered the tense legal thriller with classics such as The Firm and The Pelican Brief. His latest by him encompasses three different novellas, the first of which, Homecoming, features the return of Jake Brigance who is called on when a disgraced friend disappears. In the second, Strawberry Moon, a young death row inmate is up against the clock, with execution only hours away. In the title story, lawyer brothers Kirk and Rusty Malloy must overcome their differences to save their father’s firm.

8. Life Before Us, Róisín Meaney

The Limerick-based author has built up a devoted fan-base with her charming novels. in her her latest her, George and Alice are both holding out for love, now all they need to do is find each other. The perfect companion for a day on the sun-lounger.

9. The Art of Losing, Alice Zeniter, translated by Frank Wynne

Originally released in France in 2017, this translation by Irishman Frank Wynne nabbed the prestigious Dublin Literary Award, which is chosen from books nominated by libraries around the world. Spanning the 1950s to the present day, it follows three generations of an Algerian family whose lives are haunted by war.

10. Yell Sam, While You Still Can, by Maylis Besserie, translated by Clíona Ní Ríordáin

Another book by a French writer brought to a wider audience by an Irish translator, this debut was awarded the Prix Goncourt. The first installation of a planned “Irish trilogy”, it is a hugely impressive blend of fact and fiction which reimagines Samuel Beckett’s last months in a Paris nursing home.

11. Brouhaha, Ardal O’Hanlon

Almost 25 years after his first novel Talk of the Town, the comedian and actor is back with a quirky murder mystery set in a Border county, taking inspiration from his own upbringing in the Monaghan town of Carrickmacross.

12. Life Ceremony, Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Out next month, this is a collection of 12 short stories from the Japanese author of the gloriously weird Convenience Store Woman. Published in English for the first time, it includes ‘A Clean Marriage’, the story that first brought Murata to international attention, as well as her trademark tales of feminist revenge and human oddity.

L-R: Factory Girls;  Richard Coles
L-R: Factory Girls; Richard Coles

13. The Whalebone Theatre, Joanna Quinn

There’s nothing like a posh family saga to keep you glued to your deckchair while sipping on a cool sundowner. Here debut author Quinn fulfills the brief to a tee, with a tale chronicling the lives and loves of a family across two World Wars and two countries, Britain and France.

14. The Accomplice, Steve Cavanagh

The Belfast-born lawyer turns writer returns with another twisty and entertaining thriller featuring legal eagle hero Eddie Flynn, out next month. Serial killer the Sandman, who has been revealed as a wealthy hedge fund manager, is still on the loose; his wife of him, facing trial as his accomplice of him turns to Flynn for help.

15. Factory Girls, Michelle Gallen

The perfect pick for those missing their dose of Derry Girls. Set in a small town on the Irish border in 1994, it follows Maeve and her two friends de ella who are working in a local shirt factory for the summer jobs. As marching season begins, however, tensions rise and Maeve’s plan to escape is under threat.

Agatha Christie, poses in March 1946 for a photographer holding a notebook, in her home, Greenway House, in Devonshire.
Agatha Christie, poses in March 1946 for a photographer holding a notebook, in her home, Greenway House, in Devonshire.

Summer Mysteries: Five Timeless Tales from Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is the ultimate beach read and her popularity continues to endure, 102 years after the publication of her first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Here are five of our favourites.

1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: Fans may consider this an obvious pick because of its unprecedented and innovative narrative twist but it remains a landmark of detective fiction. The inimitable Hercule Poirot comes up against a formidable foe.

2. After the Funeral: Where there’s a will, there’s a murder….as the deaths continue to mount in the Abernethie family, Poirot must weave his way through a maze of family secrets—and an ingenious disguise—to solve the case. Interesting fact: the story was adapted for an episode of the long-running series Agatha Christie’s Poirot in 2006, starring pre-stardom Michael Fassbender.

3. Endless Night: The lazy Christie trope is that she wrote to a formula, but the contrary is true, as is evident in this story of a working-class drifter who marries an American heiress. Miss Marple stars in a triumph of psychological suspense which showcased Christie’s creative breadth of hers.

4. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side: An American actress brings a touch of glamor to St Mary Mead when she moves into an estate on the edge of the village. Tragedy dreams and Miss Marple is on hand to figure out why. A fiendishly clever plot device makes this a memorable read.

5. Five Little Pigs: Poirot looks into a cold case of poisoning to absolve a woman who has died in prison. Christie’s storytelling skills are to the fore as Poirot hears five different versions of the same event.

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