Silent Land by Billy Cowie (idiolect, £9.99)

Undercover operative Costello (she prefers to go only by her surname) is assigned to a suspicious Californian clinic which treats amnesia sufferers. After a mission that went explosively wrong, Costello has genuine gaps in her memory, making it less likely her cover will be blown. The drugs she is given there are said to have the side-effect of causing hallucinations, but they are in fact memories of past lives, as Costello realises when she finds she can speak fluent Xhosa. Keenly aware that this drug could literally change the world, Costello is stuck between a US government that wants full control over secret tests and the drug’s creators, who threaten to make the formula public if they don’t get their way. This is high-concept speculative fiction driven by a just-the-facts-ma’am pulpy energy, which quite reasonably assumes that eavesdropping on the Oval Office and dangling a thought-provoking concept in front of its readers is more fun than ornate prose and lengthy character analysis.

Faithful by Alice Hoffman (Scribner, £8.99)

Shelby Richmond rarely leaves her parents’ Long Island basement following her suicide attempt and a spell in a mental hospital, blaming herself for a car accident which put her best friend in a coma. Her only contact is her pot dealer, Ben, who persuades her to move with him to New York and begin the process of healing a life dominated by survivor guilt. Once in NYC, Shelby gets a job in a pet shop and fills her apartment with rescue dogs, and she continues to receive anonymous postcards with cryptic instructions which set her just the goals and challenges she appears to need. With the exception of some disturbing material near the beginning, it’s an amiable and positive enough read, but Hoffman’s readiness to fall into platitudes, and her fondness for magical realism (admittedly employed more subtly here than in previous novels), tend to work against her, making Shelby’s situation less relatable, for all the feelgood vibe.

Inglorious Empire by Shashi Tharoor (Penguin, £9.99)

Even after all this time, the debate over whether the British Empire did more harm than good continues to rage. This book, by a former United Nations diplomat, now an MP for the Indian Congress Party, is an expanded version of an argument he made at the Oxford Union in 2015 about the British legacy in India. To his credit, he doesn’t claim to present a balanced assessment of imperialism, but to discuss the ways in which India was devastated by the Raj. If his facts and figures didn’t speak for themselves, quotes by Brits from Churchill to Robert Clive would make his case for him in their undisguised racism and rapaciousness. Tharoor’s researchers don’t turn up anything particularly new, but the fact that so little of what he presents here has found its way into British public discourse means that it will still be a far more controversial and divisive book than it should be in the 21st century.