The grisly taste of her screams

SCREAM
BY NIGEL MCCRERY
Quercus, £20

A more gruesome beginning to a book you couldn’t ask for. A woman is bound, with her kneecaps exposed, as a ruthless killer tells her how he’s going to carve through her knee bones, one after the other, before moving onto other parts. Her screams are immense but pointless. Meanwhile, DCI Mark Lapslie – who suffers from synaesthesia, a condition in which senses are confused so that he tastes sound – is in Pakistan attending a terrorism conference. He almost doesn’t check the message whose subject heading reads: “You Need to Listen To This” but then on a whim he does. The sound file fills his mouth with a sickening taste of beetroot and salt: 27 screams before a death rattle.

Lapslie goes home early to investigate and is even more concerned to learn that the message is sent from the hospital where he’s being treated for synaesthesia – also the same place his girlfriend works. As he and his colleague Emma Bradbury uncover a string of torture and murder victims, Lapslie realises the killer is getting closer to home – his home. McCrery delivers a horrifying, immaculately structured gripper with this one.

LUKA AND THE FIRE OF LIFE
BY JONATHAN CAPE
£12.99

Rushdie, like Martin Amis and Phillip Roth, suffers from the “not as good as he used to be” syndrome. Yet having previously proved himself adept at writing for children with Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Rushdie is back on a firmish footing here. Would you buy it for your own wee one? Depends how bohemian you are and precocious they are. Either way, it’s lyrical and surreal, laced with Rushdie’s trademark verbal musicality. The story – as in Haroun – is about a son, Luka, who must save his father. Here it is Rashid, who suddenly falls into a sleep so deep he cannot be roused. To save him from slipping away entirely, Luka must journey through the Magic World, encountering a parade of fantastical objects along the way, to finally steal the Fire of Life. It’s a highly dangerous journey and seemingly endless. But the rewards are too great to be lost. A classic quest story if you fancy it, and a lovely bit of bed-time writing.

EMPIRE OF SILVER
BY CONN IGGULDEN
Harper Collins, £18.99

THOSE hankering for a bit of historical skulduggery should go for this finely hewn work – the hotly tipped fourth novel in the bestselling Conqueror series about the life and adventures of the Khan dynasty.

Genghis Khan is dead, but his legend and his legacy live on. Now the armies have gathered to see which of Genghis’ sons has the strength to be Khan. One son in particular seems the best option.

The great leader Tsubodai sweeps into the west: through Russia, over the Carpathian mountains and into Hungary. The Templar knights have been broken and there is no king or army to stop him reaching France.

But at the moment of Tsubodai's greatest triumph, as his furthest scouts reach the northern mountains of Italy, Tsubodai must make a decision that will change the course of history forever. This is an account of Europe’s birth pangs and a riproaring read.