In brief: Ghosts from the Library; How to Live When You Could Be Dead; Between the Covers – review | Books

Edited by Tony Medawar
Collins Crime Club, £14.99, pp288

Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Margery Allingham: despite being best known as writers of detective fiction, a genre premised on explanation, all feature here among tales that deliver the exact opposite. As the book’s editor promises, you’ll find within “some things that will not – cannot – be explained, and when the sunlight hits the room, a little darkness always remains.” Along with ghosts and haunted houses, you can expect witches and haunted dresses; Dorothy L Sayers delivers a coda to a classic story by MR James, and Q Patrick spins a tale that will leave you feeling altogether differently about red balloons. Despite being hitherto “lost”, there are few duds here.

Deborah James
Vermilion, £14.99, pp240

Before her cancer diagnosis, Deborah James, who died in June, was a teacher – and it shows. The voice she brings to this generous book is the same candid, irrepressible one that landed her so many followers as co-host of the podcast You, Me and the Big C, but it also echoes her life’s vocation. To quote from her introduction: “Every single thing that happens to you has a lesson in it if you’re willing to look for it.” Central to these teachings is the idea that by reframing your thoughts, you can change the way you respond to challenges. While the fact that this advice is posthumous puts most problems into humbling perspective, it also highlights the bravery required to follow credos that are essential even if they seem well worn.

Jilly Cooper
Bantam, £8.99, pp240 (paperback)

“Was this really me, so up myself and so utterly obsessed with sex? Did I really dare write that?” So asks Cooper as she looks back on the newspaper columns she wrote from the late 1960s to the early 80s. The answer is yes on two of those three counts, though; as this zesty collection of her favourites reveals, some of the content that’s most eyebrow-raising now would doubtless have been deemed unproblematic then. Cooper really isn’t up herself, incidentally. In fact, Between the Covers provides a masterclass in self-deprecation.

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