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3 books you should take to read on your next holiday
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3 books you should take to read on your next holiday

The secrets of strangers, The girl in the mirror, Down south

Paging anyone looking for an unputdownable summer read – Amy Prebble has a trio of treats you can really bury your head in.

The Girl in the Mirror by Rose Carlyle on white background

The Girl in the Mirror

Pop Kiwi writer Rose Carlyle’s first novel The Girl in the Mirror in your beach bag and it’ll keep you enthralled on the sand this summer. (Make sure you’re wearing sunscreen – I didn’t stop reading until 3am!) This new thriller is an addictive mix of deadly plots, deception, gorgeous girls and greed.

It follows beautiful identical twins Iris and Summer, who are so alike physically even their mother struggles to tell them apart. But their similarities are only skin deep – Summer is sunny and confident, whereas Iris is insecure, pessimistic, and desperately covets her sister’s happiness and handsome husband.

There’s one shadow in Summer’s shiny existence, though – both she and Iris, along with their brother and stepsisters, are subject to their father’s loopy will, which leaves his riches to the first child to marry and have a baby. Iris’s luck changes when she’s roped in to help sail the family yacht to the Seychelles. In the middle of the Indian Ocean, she unexpectedly gets the opportunity to swap her miserable situation for Summer’s idyllic life, but just how far will she go to get it?

I’ve read almost all of Agatha Christie’s books, so I’m quite good at guessing a plot twist, but I didn’t see the final turn in this compelling tale coming. And I’m not the only one who enjoyed it – it spent six weeks at the top of the New Zealand bestsellers list (a record for a debut novel) and the film rights were bought by Hollywood producers before it was even published.

Allen & Unwin, $32.99

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman on white background

The Secrets of Strangers

Charity Norman’s latest offering is another absolute cracker of a book. It’s centred around why a crazed gunman has shot the seemingly amiable owner of a London café and is now holding a group of strangers hostage.

Of course, the situation is far more complicated than meets the eye, and even the captives have their fair share of demons, which may jeopardise their release. There’s Abi, a world-weary lawyer on her fifth round of IVF; Mutesi, a nurse haunted by what she experienced in Rwanda’s genocide; and Neil, a former teacher who gambled away his home and marriage. All three made the grave mistake of picking the Tuckbox café for the morning coffee, and now they’re putting their faith in police negotiator Eliza to talk down Sam, the Ritalin- popping gunman.

The Secrets of Strangers is tautly written and Charity (who has worked as a barrister specialising in crime and family law, a mediator and a crisis-line listener) does an excellent job of balancing suspense and credibility, and giving us an understanding of Sam’s motives without condoning them. My only gripe is that I could have done with a bit more of Abi, Mutesi and Neil.

Allen & Unwin, $32.99

Down South by Bruce Ansley on white background

Down South

It may surprise some North Islanders to learn that the South Island was once home to most of New Zealand’s population and just about all of the money. In Down South, proud South Islander Bruce Ansley goes on a journey of rediscovery to find out why the Mainland was eventually eclipsed by the north terms of wealth and power.

The book is both a lively history and a vast expedition across Te Waipounamu (the name Bruce favours because South Island is “a dismal name” for such an exciting place). Bruce switches between each town or city’s past and his own experiences – from Dunedin at the height of its gold-rush magnificence to his coverage of the Bain trial in the mid-1990s.

Bruce is well qualified to write about the South Island – he was raised in Christchurch, and has lived in Dunedin, the Marlborough Sounds and Golden Bay. His CV includes picking tobacco in Motueka, fishing in Fiordland and deer farming on Banks Peninsula, and he was also the Christchurch-based writer for the NZ Listener for quarter of a century. Down South is crammed with laugh-out-loud tales that are upbeat and obviously penned by someone with a deep love of his topic.

HarperCollins, $50

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