Under the Reader’s Radar – celebrating the quiet novel

There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Only a small percentage of those make it to the best-seller list. That doesn’t mean that the rest aren’t worthy of reading. It may be that they are written by self-published authors who don’t have the marketing knowledge or a small independent publisher who doesn’t have the marketing budget to spread the word. Even the larger publishing houses have a limited marketing and publicity budget so can’t promote all the novels they publish to an equal degree.

So in each post I’ll aim to highlight a couple of titles that may have been missed from your reading awareness. Hopefully you’ll discover a treat or two. And please do let me know if you have any books you’d like to suggest.

The first choice is from Lucie Whitehouse. Her latest novel, Critical Incidents, was published by 4th Estate on 26 December 2019. She has chosen Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott, published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

The son of a reclusive historian finds his mother’s drowned body in the tributary of the River Cam that runs through her garden. She is clutching a glass prism. Elizabeth Vogelsang’s magnum opus, a book on Isaac Newton’s alchemy, is incomplete. Lydia Brooke, a writer friend of the dead historian, returns to Cambridge to the funeral. It is five years since she has seen Elizabeth’s son, Cameron Brown, with whom she has had an intermittent love affair that began years earlier.

Cambridge, she discovers, is in the midst of an upsurge of attacks by animal rights extremists. Cameron, who, as a neuroscientist uses animal experimentation, has been targeted. Cameron asks Lydia to act as a paid ghostwriter in the completion of his mother’s book, Alchemist. Lydia agrees to the proposal and moves into Elizabeth’s strange house, a triangular shaped studio on the banks of the Cam. Soon Lydia finds herself entangled, not only with Cameron, but also with a four-hundred year-old murder mystery, a network of 17th century alchemists and a ghostly figure intent on disrupting her work.

Here’s what she had to say:

“The book I recommend most often and always get wildly enthusiastic feedback about is Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott. Published in 2008, it did really well in the US but I think more Brits need to know about it.

The heroine is Lydia Brooke who returns to Cambridge for the funeral of the historian Elizabeth Vogelsang and is persuaded by Elizabeth’s son and her own former lover, Cameron, to finish the book his mother was working on when she died, a history of alchemy.

Running through it – and increasingly entangled with the present-day storyline – is the history of a real-life set of murders that happened in the time of Isaac Newton, himself an alchemist and a subject of Elizabeth’s book. Ghostwalk has it all – murder, the history of science, beautiful, clear writing and, memorably, a passionate, complicated, devastating affair”

The second book this time is chosen by Sadie Pearse. Her novel, This Child of Ours, was published by Sphere on 10 January 2019.  She has chosen The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James, published by HQ Stories.


Governess Alice Miller loves Winterbourne the moment she sees it. Towering over the Cornish cliffs, its dark corners and tall turrets promise that, if Alice can hide from her ghosts anywhere, it’s here.

And who better to play hide and seek with than twins Constance and Edmund? Angelic and motherless, they are perfect little companions.


Adopted at birth, Rachel’s roots are a mystery. So, when a letter brings news of the death of an unknown relative, Constance de Grey, Rachel travels to Cornwall, vowing to uncover her past.

With each new arrival, something in Winterbourne stirs. It’s hiding in the paintings. It’s sitting on the stairs.

It’s waiting in a mirror, behind a locked door.

Here’s what she had to say:

“The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James is a brilliantly written story with gothic elements and really memorable characters – I highly recommend it.”

So there we have it. Two books that are certainly new to me. Have you read either of them? Do you have a quiet book you’d like to shout about? Do let me know.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. I remember enjoying Ghostwalk very much. Thanks for reminding me of it, Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thanks Susan. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Ghostwalk.


  2. These sounds fab. My favourite quiet novel is Rachel Malik’s Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves. It’s just beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      That is a lovely book. Good choice!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Carol Lovekin says:

    Great you are featuring books that fly under the radar, Janet. So many do! Both these books look right up my street & I shall look them out! xXx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. janetemson says:

      Thank you Carol. I hope you like the books when you get to them 🙂


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