From Jonathan Lethem’s eerily timely tale to The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey, an inventive novel by Kikuko Tsumura and Michael Connelly’s latest, this week’s best new fiction
Jonathan Lethem Atlantic £14.99
Imagine some murky but world-changing event. Here, it’s called ‘The Arrest’, and starts with the death of television and the internet. There’s no oil, and guns are useless.
One man crosses this new America in a nuclear-powered supercar to find a loose and wary community of survivors by the sea. Lethem’s pithy chapters – some poetic, some sharp, others both – bring this eerily timely tale to a grim, if wry, conclusion.
The Swallowed Man
Edward Carey Gallic Books £14.99
The man of the title is none other than Geppetto, the carpenter who carved Pinocchio. He’s been swallowed by a vast sea beast and this novel – strange, deep and suitably claustrophobic – purports to be his memoir, written using supplies found on a ship that has also been gulped down.
Whimsical though it is, it’s a tale with plenty to say about prickly father-son relationships and the responsibility that comes with creation.
There’s No Such Thing As An Easy Job
Kikuko Tsumura Bloomsbury £12.99
In this Odyssey of job dissatisfaction, the burnt-out narrator embarks on a quest for stress-free work. Flitting from surveillance to copywriting to park warden, she finds meaning and mystery in every role, no matter how menial.
Is she unwittingly looking for them? Tsumura’s portrait of the daily grind is spot-on, her observations wryly tender. Polly Barton’s translation captures the deadpan absurdity and subtle surrealism in this inventive Japanese novel.
The Law Of Innocence
Michael Connelly Orion £20
This is Connelly on top form. LA defence lawyer Mickey Haller is handed the hardest case of his life – defending himself against a murder charge. He’s been cleverly framed and can’t figure out why.
Now he’s trying to fight his corner from a maximum-security prison. Added tension comes via Connelly’s decision to set the action against the arrival of coronavirus. A terrific thriller then, but hardly an escapist one.