I've had a good season for books lately. The following won't compare with Nobel Prize tip Murakami but they are more interesting than the usual paperback crap:
1. The Day of the Owl by Leonardo Sciascia (Granta) is an English translation of a vintage Italian mafia tale told by a writer who lived under the firsthand oppression of these untouchable Sicilian dons. A courageous effort as well as the most evocative prose I've read in some time.
2. Someone To Watch Over Me by Paul Wilson (Granta) is a haunting detective story about an insurance investigator assigned to disprove claims of the miraculous when appearance of several 'Letters From God' written in Hebrew suddenly appear in a small village after a madman massacres schoolchildren with a machine gun. Works as both a whodunnit and am ambitious attempt at uncovering the hidden soul of a community.
3. The Biographer's Tale by A. S. Byatt (Vintage) is intimidatingly clever (as is most of Byatt's work) and probably exciting only if you are into literary theory, but there is so much here in terms of richness of tone, intricate structure and sheer verve that anyone can enjoy it, even if it means reading it over before really getting it. It's about a failed postgrad escaping the ethereal world of ideas for a subtantial world of 'things' by embarking on a biography of a biographer.
4. Grimm's Last Fairytale by Haydn Middleton (Abacus/Little Brown) is a thrilling adventure into the history and hidden cultural psychology of Grimm's fairytales. Plotted around the last days of Jacob Grimm, the elder half of the Brothers Grimm, and drawing on a background of serious historical and interpretive scholarship (Middleton is an Oxford scholar as well as a novelist) it paints an engrossingly detailed picture of two worlds, that of fantasy and of 19th Century Germany, while suggesting that the lessons we learn about good and evil as children never really leave us.
I hope people try and hunt these books out and enjoy them as much as I have.