Rules of Civility, Queen of Kings, Spartan, The Submission and America Pacifica
Debut novels round-up
Described by David Nicholls as ‘a smart, witty, charming Dry Martini of a novel’, Rules of Civility (Sceptre) veers from a photographic exhibit in 1966 to a jazz bar on the last night of 1937. In this fizzing debut by Amor Towles (pictured), both places and periods are connected through the splendidly named Katey Kontent, who will eventually realise that some chance encounters shouldn’t be left to the fates. A very different kind of debut comes from Maria Dahvana Headley, whose Queen of Kings (Bantam) heads yet further back in time, to 30BC, as Rome invades Egypt. Cleopatra lies with a snakebite having punctured her flesh, but the book asks this question: what if Cleopatra hadn’t died? Neil Gaiman is a big fan.
The tagline for Matthew Dunn’s Spartan (Swordfish) reads ‘a new breed of spy is born’. Will Cochrane is said ‘ultra-secret super-spy’, an agent whose task is to prevent an Iranian intelligence officer from launching a devastating 9/11-style attack on the West. Dunn spent five years in MI6, so should certainly know what’s he talking about. Meanwhile, Amy Waldman’s The Submission (Heinemann) takes another angle on the post-9/11 world with a novel about controversial plans for a memorial at Ground Zero.
In Anna North’s America Pacifica (Virago), a new ice age has gripped the world, leaving an island off the coast of California as the only warm place left on Earth. There, a 17-year-old girl tries to track down her missing mother, but stumbles upon another mystery: the origins of America Pacifica itself.