8 top-rated reads for the upcoming Easter holidays

Posted on 10 March 2018

From Barcelona and Sweden to Botswana and even space, these books will take you places.

1. Cult mystery

(Bantam Press, R320)

It’s been nearly 15 years since Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code hit the shelves and his newest work will certainly please fans. Again, Prof Robert Langdon works his way through famous artworks, poetry, odd codes, symbols and religious texts to find the bad guy. This time the setting is delightful Barcelona and there’s a rush to get a new scientific discovery out to the world amid a murder. The story delves into Artificial Intelligence, taking the reader on a decent adventure combining history and science. It’s easy reading and the pace of the story will make any flight or journey whizz by. Plus, it’s sure to inspire a trip to Spain to see Gaudí’s works.
Reviewed by Melanie van Zyl.


2. Sci-fi thriller

(Penguin Random House, R295)

Anna Francis lives in a dystopian Stockholm, post-Second Cold War, 20 years from now. The totalitarian government has an apparent love for mind games, and it’s into one such challenge that the PTSD-riddled Anna is thrust. Her assignment: join a small group on the isolated island of Isola, fake her own death, observe the ensuing dynamics and report back on who would be the best person for the top-secret RAN project to hire. Plans unravel when a storm cuts off communication and the death toll starts rising. It’s a different read that would appeal to those interested in the darker twists of the mind. But Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None it’s not.
Reviewed by Teagan Cunniffe.


3. Quirky trivia

(Tafelberg, R250)

‘Why do cats lie in the sun and why doesn’t a woodpecker suffer brain damage as a result of the concussive force of it pecking?’ These are some of the questions that John Maytham provides fascinating and illuminating answers to in Rapid Fire. The book’s compiled from questions posed by listeners phoning in to his afternoon drive-time show on CapeTalk radio. Subjects range from animals and body parts to sport and science. This is a great book to whip out on holidays to spark entertaining and educational conversation with family and friends. It’s elegantly written but don’t be put off by the sometimes complex language.
Reviewed by Michelle Hardie


4. Family drama

(Century, R365)

If you like this genre, the latest offering by Susan Lewis is bound to have you turning the pages late into the night. It’s the story of a family who, after losing their daughter Penny when she ran away as a teenager decades before, now have to deal with her suddenly deciding to re-establish contact. Penny is still very much a troubled soul; like a cat playing with its prey, she taunts family members through cryptic text messages and strange encounters. Now wealthy and successful, she will stop at nothing to get what she wants. But what is it she wants? And why torment her family when they tried everything in their power to find her? Or did they?
Reviewed by Leigh Taylor.


5. Action adventure

(Penguin Random House, R290)

Join wealthy husband-and-wife duo Sam and Remi Fargo as they jet from country to country in dramatic chase of Russian Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna’s lost fortune. Years ago, Maria ransomed the royal inheritance for the safety of her kidnapped family – an exchange that did not go according to plan. The priceless ransom, including three jewelled Royal Danish Eggs, was subsequently stolen by the Nazis and disappeared into myth. Until now, that is, and it’s not just the Fargos on the trail. This book reads like an action film, with barely a chapter passing unscathed by gunfire, and covers half the globe in an intrepid search. It’s an entertaining, easy read (part James Bond, part Dan Brown historical mystery)
that will probably leave you grateful for the calm of your beach chair.
Reviewed by Teagan Cunniffe.


6. African detectives

(Orenda Books, R195)

Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswana-based books will devour this new murder mystery. Set against the backdrop of a wild Kalahari, it delivers the same endearing charm of the Tswana people but with more cloak-and-dagger thrills thrown in. Fitting a new literary niche called ‘sunshine noir’ (a backlash to all that crime action set in Scandinavia), in this novel, local police detectives Kubu and Sam try to solve the murders of a Bushman, a professor and a traditional healer who claimed to have the secret to eternal life. It’s topical, too, weaving rhino poaching and greedy corporations into the plot. What I loved most was the very human characters of the two lead detectives – they are loving people with happy family lives (a stark contrast to many other investigators in the crime genre).
Reviewed by Melanie van Zyl.


7. True life story

(Knopf, R340)

Ever wondered what a year in space might be like? In his memoir, astronaut Scott Kelly holds your hand through the intriguing details of his record-breaking journey into space, recounting anecdotes from his life and the personal challenges he has overcome. It’s a captivating and informative story that doesn’t bog you down with astronaut-speak. Kelly’s year in space was part of the largest long-term research project on the effects of living there on the human mind and body. In the book, we learn how his reading of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff made him realise that he wanted to be an astronaut. He describes what the journey looked like, the sounds he heard, the smell of space and coming back to Earth, having to readjust to gravity. His journey will get you thinking about your own, more daringly.
Reviewed by Welcome Lishivha.


8. Romantic drama

(Penguin Random House, R290)

This story has all the snot en trane of a break-up when Amy’s husband of 17 years announces he wants time out from their marriage to go backpacking around South East Asia. There’ll be no contact between them but he still loves her and he’ll be back. Seriously? Amy is stunned by his decision but as the book progresses we learn about her own frustrations (and indiscretions) in the marriage. Keyes manages to keep up the suspense – with Amy having a bit of ‘fun’ herself. Various sub-plots run through the narrative exposing the dynamics between family members and friends when marriages turn rocky. Some scenes were skip-worthy but, overall, Keyes’ writing kept me entertained and asking, ‘Will he come back? Will she take him back?’ It’s no literary masterpiece but engaging enough for a beach read.
Reviewed by Michelle Hardie

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