Our top twelve fiction picks for Christmas 2020

There’s no escape quite like the embrace of the pages of a really good book. 2020 has seen some amazing titles released, from both at home and abroad, so there’s no shortage of amazing fiction to immerse yourself and your friends in this Christmas. From the latest stormy and mysterious crime thriller from Louise O’Neill to the hilarious and touching observations of Dolly Alderton, there’s truly something for everyone on your local bookshop’s shelves this year. To make it that little bit easier, we’ve selected a list of some of our favourites from this year’s releases. Have a browse and meet your next read!

‘The Book of Two Ways’ by Jodi Picoult (Hodder & Stoughton)

Who would you be, if you hadn't turned out to be the person you are now?

Dawn is a death doula, and spends her life helping people make the final transition peacefully. But when the plane she's on plummets, she finds herself thinking of the life she was forced to abandon fifteen years ago - when she left behind a career in Egyptology, and a man she loved.

Against the odds, she survives, and the airline offers her a ticket to wherever she needs to get to – but the answer to that question suddenly seems uncertain.

As the path of her life forks in two very different directions, Dawn must confront questions she's never truly asked: What does a well-lived life look like? What do we leave behind when we go? And do we make our choices, or do our choices make us?

Two possible futures. One impossible choice.

‘The Perfect Sister’ by Zoe Miller (Hachette Ireland)

Once inseparable, years of resentment and jealousy have driven Alice and Holly apart. And though they barely speak these days, Alice knows her sister is hiding something.

When she hears that a discovery at a soon-to-be-demolished apartment building has led police to re-open an 'accidental death' case, Alice thinks nothing of it, distracted by her chance encounter with the intriguing Damien. Until someone knocks at her door, with questions about Holly.

Alice doesn't believe her sister is capable of involvement in anything so sinister. But when she tries to contact Holly, she can't be reached...

Forced to dig through the past in order to uncover the truth, Alice starts to uncover years of Holly's secrets. As the evidence mounts up, Alice has a choice to make: does she want to help her sister clear her name, even if the price is her own future with Damien?

‘It’s That Time of Year’ by Roisin Meaney (Hachette Ireland)

It's the weekend before Christmas. Julia, Eddie and Steph are making separate journeys to Ireland to attend the wedding of their beloved Annie, the woman who fostered each of them in their childhoods and gave them all shelter when they needed it most.

All three are now adults -- Julia, a world famous singer living in luxury in Paris; Eddie, a chef in London; and Steph who spends her days on a remote Greek island, running a writers' retreat with her older lover -- but as the wedding celebrations get underway, certain truths come to light which show that past hurts have yet to heal.

As Annie says 'I do', the three make some discoveries about themselves - but will the guests of the wedding party get their happy-ever-after in time for Christmas day?

‘The Gospel of Eve’ by Rachel Mann (Darton, Longman and Todd)

Set in Oxfordshire, The Gospel of Eve is a brilliantly dark, powerful and seductive debut novel, which explores the passions of sex, death, obsession and religion.

It is the 1990s and women are training for the priesthood for the very first time. Passions are running high at Littlemore College when Catherine Bolton arrives with her freshly-minted doctorate on Chaucer and the Church.

Medievalist Dr Loewe and his secretive group of students represent an irresistible challenge to her and her new friend Evie Kirkland. But just as Evie is not quite the friend she seems to be, so too the medieval passions of Dr Loewe’s group are more far reaching and intense than she could ever have imagined…

‘Home Stretch’ by Graham Norton (Coronet)

It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for the wedding of two of its young inhabitants. They're barely adults, not so long out of school and still part of the same set of friends they've grown up with.  As the friends reunite before the wedding, there is a car accident. Three survive the crash but three are killed. And the reverberations are felt throughout the small town.

Connor, the young driver of the car, lives. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame, and so he leaves the only place he knows for another life in New York.

 The city provides shelter and possibility for the displaced, somewhere Connor can forge a new life. But the secrets, the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind will not be silenced. And before long, Connor will have to meet his past.

‘Final Betrayal’ by Patricia Gibney Published by Sphere

When Amy Whyte and Penny Brogan leave a local nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning and don't arrive home, their families are beside themselves with worry. Conor Dowling has just been released from prison, a man full of hatred for Amy, the girl who put him behind bars in the first place.

The case is given to Detective Lottie Parker, when the girls' blood-soaked bodies are found, days later, in a derelict squat. Chillingly, both girls are clutching silver coins in their hands - what message is this killer leaving behind? Then Lottie's two daughters, Katie and Chloe suddenly disappear from the town centre. Terrified that the killer has her girls, the stakes have never been higher for Lottie.

 Caught up in what is fast becoming her toughest case yet, Lottie is unaware that somebody is watching her every move.

‘Ghosts’ by Dolly Alderton (Penguin)

Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he's going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan.

A new relationship couldn't have come at a better time - her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone's moving to the suburbs. There's no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who's caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

Dolly Alderton's debut novel is funny and tender, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships, family, memory, and how we live now.

‘A Suitable Marriage’ by Muriel Bolger (Hachette Ireland)

As the youngest daughter of a wealthy landowner from the West of Ireland, Delia is privileged and beautiful. Cossetted by her parents, her older sister Mona and her brother Clement, she lives a sheltered life, her days punctuated by lessons with her governess and horse rides through the wild Irish countryside. 

But then an enigmatic American arrives in Ireland searching for his ancestral roots and, all of a sudden, the path Delia once took as certain, seems less clear to her.

As the family prepare for Mona's debut into London society, Delia has some decisions to make. Will she choose the love of a man she barely knows, risking disgrace and exclusion from her family? Or will she conform and settle for a seemly match?

Only Delia can decide if she has the courage to become the woman she was meant to be.

 A Suitable Marriage is a sweeping tale of love, desire and family loyalty.

‘After the Silence’ by Louise O’Neill (Riverrun)

On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella's wild party at their big house, a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrun, cutting it off from the mainland.

When morning broke Nessa Crowley's lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder.

The killer couldn't have escaped Inisrun, but no-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever. Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, there to lift the lid off the Kinsella's carefully constructed lives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry's guilt and Keelin's complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.

‘Troubled Blood’ by Robert Galbraith (Sphere)

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough - who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one forty years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike…

‘A Time for Mercy’ by John Grisham (Hodder & Stoughton)

Starring the same hero and setting that featured in John Grisham's multi-million selling bestsellers ‘A Time to Kill’, Deputy Stuart Kofer is a protected man.

Though he's turned his drunken rages on his girlfriend, Josie, and her children many times before, the police code of silence has always shielded him. But one night he goes too far, leaving Josie for dead on the floor before passing out. Her son, sixteen-year-old Drew, knows he only has this one chance to save them. He picks up a gun and takes the law into his own hands.

In Clanton, Mississippi, Jake Brigance doesn't want this impossible case but he's the only one with enough experience to defend the boy. As the trial begins, it seems there is only one outcome: the gas chamber for Drew. But, as the town of Clanton discovers once again, when Jake Brigance takes on an impossible case, anything is possible.

‘The Betrayals’ by Bridget Collins (William Morrow)

If everything in your life was based on a lie, would you risk it all to tell the truth?

At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning with his political career in tatters.

Montverre has changed since he studied there, even allowing a woman, Claire Dryden, to serve in the grand jeu’s highest office of Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses an odd connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before.

Both Léo and Claire have built their lives on lies. And as the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, secrets are whispering in the walls…

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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