Lisa Ko (Dialogue Books, £8.99)

A decade ago, the mother of Deming Guo, a Chinese-born boy living in the Bronx, disappeared without warning or explanation. Since then, Deming has renamed himself Daniel and clashed continually with his adoptive parents, Peter and Kay Wilkinson, over his future. But now news of his mother has Daniel heading off to China, where he will learn the truth from her about her past. Inspired by a 2009 New York Times article about an undocumented Chinese immigrant, Lisa Ko has chosen to criticise government policies in the most effective way, which is by focusing on their effects on a single family. Daniel is a complex character, with his penchant for self-destruction and his ability to slip between identities, but he pales next to his mother, Polly (or Peilan), an indomitable woman who insists on living the kind of life she wants to live, and the sections told from her point of view are the highlights of this engaging, well-told novel.


Adam Kay (Picador, £8.99)

Junior doctors have become the benchmark by which long hours, overworked staff and overstretched resources are measured. In this “secret diary”, kept between 2004 and 2010, Adam Kay lifts the lid on their day-to-day life, partly to get back at Jeremy Hunt for the accusations of “greed” he levelled against the profession. Kay’s field was obstetrics and gynaecology, so there are squirm-inducing anecdotes aplenty, both hilarious and shocking. Alongside these tales, though, he makes sure to give his readers a thorough understanding of the workplace culture, in which staff have to make life-or-death decisions in a fog of exhaustion. The book culminates in an incident that prompted Kay to leave the field of medicine. The conditions described here can’t help but prompt serious questions about the mental welfare of the men and women we trust with our health.


Jonathan Falla (Stupor Mundi, £5.99)

Good News from Riga is another novel with migration as its theme, but takes place in an unnamed city of Falla’s creation. It was built on jute, but its currency is crowns and there’s a desert to the north, so who knows? It hosts a community of Exiles, forced to wear sashes identifying them as undocumented immigrants. Erik, a middle-aged plastic surgeon, is drawn into their world when he becomes obsessed with a teenage flower-seller, and although their homeland is never named they are unmistakably Scots. Forced to leave 23 years earlier by the accession of a Monarchist government, they await the fax which will signal their return to the homeland, although the younger generation has little time for their sentimentalised version of the old country’s culture. And then the murders begin. Rather than trying to decipher whatever allegorical points Falla’s making about immigrant communities and Scottish identity, it’s best approached as a satirical thriller and really quite creepy love story.