MOLLY & THE CAPTAIN by Anthony Quinn (Abacus Books £16.99, 432pp)


by Anthony Quinn (Abacus Books £16.99, 432pp) 

There is a delicious mystery at the heart of this novel, which spans three centuries. It opens in the glamorous hustle and bustle of Georgian Bath and London, as society painter William Merrymount and his two daughters — smart Laura and wild, headstrong Molly — attend parties and painting sessions, process the fallout of an illicit affair and create two wonderful pictures: the titular Molly & the Captain, and the beautiful Portrait of A Young Man. 

The enigmatic pictures disappear and reappear, captivating 19th-century artist Paul Stransom and his ambitious, disappointed sister Maggie, and solving a riddle in 1980s London as painter Nell Cantrip heads to an auction to bid on an 18th-century picture of a curiously familiar young man.


by Georgina Clarke (Verve £9.99, 256pp) 

There’s a diamond-hard glint to the central character in this cinematic tale of the criminal underworld in 1920s London. 

Ruby Mills can pick a pocket in a second, effortlessly lift silk scarves from luxurious department stores and steal expensive baubles from jewellery shops with an insouciance that makes her invaluable to the legendary Forties, a gang of women criminals. 

It’s a far cry from the cosseted life of ­Harriet Littlemore, who’s engaged to up-and-coming Tory politician Ralph Christie, and hoping to make a name for herself on the Kensington Gazette. Fascinated by robber Ruby, Harriet writes about her exploits, and finds herself unwittingly drawn into Ruby’s corrupt and corrupting world. 

THE PICTURE BRIDE by Lee Geum-yi (Scribe £14.99, 320pp)


by Lee Geum-yi (Scribe £14.99, 320pp)

Korea 1918, and 18-year-old Willow is longing for a different life from her mother’s hardscrabble existence. Dreaming of escaping, and desperate to study, she is persuaded by a match-maker to marry a man she’s never met, who oversees a sugar cane plantation in Hawaii. 

Accompanying her are best friend Hongju, a young widow unwanted by her family, and Song-hwa, the granddaughter of a shaman and an outsider in her local community. 

It’s a compelling story and Lee Geum-yi movingly describes the women’s journeys — both geographically as they undertake the arduous sea voyage to their new home, and emotionally as they attempt to negotiate the complicated realities of marriage to a stranger, financial uncertainty, family schisms, dissembling husbands and thwarted dreams. 

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